Three days after Republican Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed funding for the Legislature, lawmakers on Monday approved another measure to pay for the 60-day session and provide emergency cash to pay jurors in the state’s court system. Martinez’s veto demonstrated how even a routine bill that usually passes unanimously at the beginning of each legislative session could become mired in partisan politics this year. Unclear is whether Martinez will sign the latest bill. If she does, it would hearten employees at the Capitol who are expecting a paycheck at the end of this week. But the Senate stripped funding from the bill to pay for the Legislature’s year-round operations, meaning it also unclear whether cuts might still be in store for the offices responsible for analyzing bills, tracking state finances and serving as a watchdog on government.
Recently completed recounts in three state legislative races didn’t result in any changes to the election night winners. In the closest race, Republican state Rep. David Adkins kept his Bernalillo County seat by defeating Democrat Ronnie Martinez by just nine votes. This is the closest legislative race since 2012, when Las Cruces Republican Terry McMillan defeated Joanne Ferrary by eight votes. Ferrary lost again to McMillan in 2014 before defeating him in this November’s election. The other House race close enough for an automatic recount saw Democrat Daymon Ely defeating Republican incumbent Paul Pacheco by 105 votes.
New Mexico’s Commissioner of Public Lands is slated to speak Friday with a group of conservative-minded state lawmakers in Washington D.C. about his proposal to transfer federal mineral rights on private lands to the state. Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn is also planning to meet with members of Congress in order to urge them to approve the transfer, according to spokeswoman Emily Strickler. In an email to NM Political Report, Strickler said Dunn is promoting his Early Childhood Education Land Grant Act to state lawmakers at an American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) policy summit. Related: BLM finalizes rule to limit methane emissions
“The group Commissioner is presenting to at ALEC would not be voting on this legislation, but may be interested in using the legislation as a model for legislation in their states,” Strickler wrote. “Also, Commissioner will be meeting with New Mexico’s congressional delegation while in D.C. to discuss this legislation because it needs congressional approval.”
ALEC members use model legislation to spread laws throughout states, with the most high-profile example perhaps the so-called “Stand Your Ground” laws that are in place in several states.
Hillary Clinton officially won New Mexico and its five electoral votes, after certification of results by the State Canvassing Board Tuesday. The board also certified the need for three recounts in legislative races, one of which heads into the recount with just a nine vote advantage. In the official results, 804,043 voters cast ballots, or 62.4 percent of the 1,289,414 voters who were registered in time to vote in the general election. Hillary Clinton received 48.26 percent of the votes cast in the presidential race, while Republican Donald Trump received 40.04 percent. Trump, however, received the most votes in enough states to win the presidency.
Gov. Susana Martinez took out her major target in Tuesday’s election, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez. But that single victory came at a cost. Republicans lost the state House after two years in control, while Democrats strengthened their margin in the state Senate. The Democrats will control the House by at least a 37-33 margin, with an outside shot at a 39-31 split. Two races are going to recounts.
While it’s clear after election night that Democrats took back control of the state House of Representatives from Republicans and expanded their lead in the state Senate, to what extent won’t be known until recounts take place. The preliminary unofficial results show three races, two for House seats and one for a Senate seat, within 1 percent, which means there will be automatic recounts. These recounts are paid for by the state. If a candidate who lost by more than 1 percent wants a recount, that candidate would need to pay for it themselves. Joey Keefe, a spokesman for the Bernalillo County Clerk’s office, told NM Political Report that the Bernalillo County Board of Commissioners will meet Thursday to convene the canvassing period, where official vote-tallying will take place.
In a disastrous night for Democrats nationwide that saw Republican Donald Trump win the presidency, the state party actually did well, retaking the House of Representatives and expanding the party’s majority in the state Senate. The scope of the advantage in both chambers isn’t yet known, as there could be up to four automatic recounts, two in each chamber. Democrats also won back the Secretary of State seat when Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver easily defeated Republican Nora Espinoza. “What a difference two years makes,” Toulouse Oliver told a crowd of supporters Tuesday night, referring to her 2014 loss to Republican Dianna Duran. Duran resigned last year hours before pleading guilty to counts of misusing campaign funds, for which she spent 30 days in jail.
One of the key districts New Mexico Republicans need to take the state Senate back sits just north of Albuquerque in Rio Rancho, where incumbent Democrat John Sapien faces GOP challenger Diego Espinoza. Sapien, an insurance salesman who is running for his third term, won both the 2008 and 2012 elections on narrow margins—by just 121 votes and 161 votes respectively. Sapien’s latest challenger, Espinoza, has so far outstripped him in fundraising, gathering roughly $153,000 as of press time compared to Sapien’s $126,000. Both speak of job creation as the top priority of their candidacies. But each have different solutions.
A national Republican group highlighted four high priority state races in the upcoming elections. The Republican State Leadership Committee put four New Mexico races in their “16 in ‘16: Races to Watch” list earlier this week, including the high-profile Secretary of State race. Outside of the presidential race, election to replace Dianna Duran as Secretary of State is the lone statewide non-judicial race this fall. That race pits Republican State Representative Nora Espinoza against Democratic Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver. The other three races on the list are legislative races.
The Senate approved a bill that would allow some 17 year olds to participate in primary elections, sending it to the governor’s desk. The proposal passed 24-16. It would only apply to those who turn 18 between the primary elections and the general elections. New Mexico’s primary elections are currently in June, so it would only apply to those who turn 18 in that five month period between June and November. Sen. Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque, co-sponsored the legislation and said it would help create more involvement in politics by young voters.