While Democrats and Republicans in New Mexico began casting ballots weeks ago with early and absentee voting, today is election day where tens of thousands more are expected to cast their ballots. While much of the attention will be focused on Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders duking it out in the presidential primary, there will be a number of down-ballot races with big implications going forward. We took a look at the thirteen races you need to watch tonight when polls close at 7:00 p.m.
Senate District 17
Democratic incumbent Sen. Mimi Stewart’s runs to retain the senate seat in SD17. In 2014, the Bernalillo County Commission appointed her to fill the vacancy left by Tim Keller when he became State Auditor. Former State Senator Shannon Robinson, who held the SD17 spot for 20 years before losing to Keller in 2008, will face Stewart and try to reclaim his old Senate seat.
A New Mexico commission that promotes the philosophies of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. vacated two staff positions on Tuesday and attempted to address recent controversies regarding an open investigation with the state’s Attorney General’s office. The New Mexico Martin Luther King, Jr. State Commission, in a public meeting voted to vacate the paid staff positions of Executive Director and Program Director, held by Kimberly Greene and Rosalind Jones, respectively. Greene, who was not present at the meeting, is currently under investigation by the Attorney General’s Office. The commission itself and a contractor is also under investigation. Search warrants provided by the AG’s office cite computers, records and email accounts as just some of the things they are looking into.
Ken is a self-proclaimed “night owl” who spends many weekends driving around the streets of Albuquerque waiting for someone who needs a ride. A realtor by day, he can make up to $700 in three days pulling double duty driving for Lyft and Uber, two ridesharing services currently operating in Albuquerque. He usually starts his nights driving at 8:00 p.m. and calls it quits around 4:00 a.m. He asked not to reveal his last name out of concern that his personal insurance company would increase his rates for driving for a ridesharing company. Last week Ken, along with other drivers who contract with Lyft, received an email from the company stating the service will no longer be available in Albuquerque. Ken, who has been driving with Lyft for a month, said he is disappointed to see the service go, but the money he makes driving is purely supplemental.
The ridesharing company Uber filed a motion on Monday requesting the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission to reconsider an action to regulate the company. In the motion, a local subsidiary of Uber argued that the PRC unfairly grouped Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) into the same category as taxi and limousine companies. Hinter-NM, LLC, in the motion, said if the commission creates more regulation for companies like Uber and Lyft, the should recognize a TNC operates differently than other transportation services. From the motion:
The Transportation Network Company (“TNC”) regulations adopted by the Public Regulation (“Commission”) are fundamentally flawed. The Commission should reconsider rules because they are “unlawful, unjust, [and] unreasonable.”
The full motion is available at the bottom of the post.
On Wednesday morning, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas sent a hand-delivered letter to the state’s Public Regulation Commission urging members to update regulations for ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft. The commission’s chair says that the issues have already been addressed, though another commissioner who was critical of the rules adopted said otherwise. The companies, also known as Transportation Network Companies, or TNCs, were added by the PRC to the list of transportation companies that are subject to state regulation last week. In his letter to the commission, Balderas said he supported the commission’s action in adding regulations, but that he was concerned with two areas of the new regulation. From the letter:
While I applaud reasonable oversight generally, I have concerns about two areas that may be problematic.
In a meeting on Wednesday, the state Public Regulation Commission voted to regulate ride-sharing companies like Lyft and Uber. The PRC voted that the services can be regulated under the state Motor Carrier Act like taxi companies, towing companies and other commercial entitties. The regulations refer to the services as Transportation Network Companies, or TNCs. However, the PRC did not say that ride-sharing services are the same as taxi companies and instead, created a new set of rules for the ride-sharing companies. The companies have spread throughout the country and currently operate in Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Cruces.