GOP targets key seat in Rio Rancho in bid to take control of Senate

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.

Four GOP candidates get attention from national GOP group

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.

Gov to decide if 17 year olds should vote in primaries

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.

Driver’s license compromise sails through Senate

Just one day after hammering out a compromise in a key committee, the full Senate overwhelmingly passed the compromise bill, sending it to the House. The legislation is now just one vote from the House away from heading to the governor’s desk. The original sponsors of the bill from the House indicated Friday night the House would support the legislation and Gov. Susana Martinez said that she would support and sign the bill “as is.”

Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, and Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, presented the legislation on the Senate floor late Saturday afternoon as a hard-fought compromise. “We’ve gone five straight years of doing the same thing and people trying to get different results,” Smith said. Ingle said he understands everybody may not be happy with the bill.

NM GOP chair highlights four Senate targets

Republican Party of New Mexico chair Debbie Maestas outlined four Democratic targets in the party’s quest to take control of the state Senate. Included is the largest thorn in the side of Gov. Susana Martinez, herself a Republican, Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez of Belen. The Roswell Daily Record reported on comments Maestas made to the Chaves County Republican Women. Maestas said Republicans are targeting the seats of Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto of Albuquerque, Sen. John Sapien of Corrales, Sen. William Soules of Las Cruces and Sen. Michael Sanchez of Belen. Sapien has already received a challenger, Diego Espinoza.

Republican to challenge Sapien for state Senate seat

A politically connected Republican announced on Wednesday that he will be challenging a state senator in a key swing district next year. Diego Espinoza announced that he will seek the District 9 seat currently held by Democrat John Sapien. Espinoza, a program director for CSI Aviation, has experience in running campaigns, if not his own. Espinoza was the campaign manager for Allen Weh’s unsuccessful campaigns for U.S. Senate in 2014 and governor in 2010. Weh owns CSI Aviation and Weh is the father of current Republican Party of New Mexico chairwoman Debbie Maestas.

Lobbyists and organizations spend half million dollars on pols this year

By Sandra Fish | New Mexico In Depth
Lobbyists and organizations feted New Mexico legislators and other officials with more than $519,000 worth of food, drink and gifts from Jan. 15 through the end of April. Of the 600 lobbyists registered with the Secretary of State’s office to represent more than 750 clients, only 116 spent money during the session. Those individual lobbyists spent $334,419 on events such as the 100th Bill Party, electric toothbrushes, teddy bears, gift certificates and, in one instance, ammunition for concealed carry training. And 14 companies spent $184,685.