COVID-19 cases along Texas border continue to increase in Doña Ana County

The numbers of additional COVID-19 test positive cases rose in Doña Ana County from 509 last Thursday to 632 this Thursday but Mayor Ken Miyagishima said the majority of cases are still in the areas that border Texas. Texas hit all-time highs this week with hospitalizations and single-day increases of COVID-19 test positive cases. The New Mexico Department of Health map shows that zip code 88021, which includes Anthony, has 88 cases. Zip code 88063, which includes Santa Teresa, has 92 cases. By contrast, zip code 88046, which includes Mesilla, has one case, according to the map.

COVID-19 cases exceed 7,600, number of deaths crosses 350

The state announced 134 additional test positive COVID-19 cases and seven additional related deaths on Saturday. The largest number of new cases were again in the northwest region of the state, with 58 new cases in McKinley County and 23 in San Juan County. All seven of the deaths were residents from McKinley and San Juan county residents. The new cases bring the total number of new cases to 7,624. The total number of related deaths is now 351 in the state, according to the state Department of Health.

Senator aims to exclude public job applicants from open records law

A southern New Mexico state senator Thursday filed a bill that would exclude job applications for public positions from the state’s open records law. Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, filed SB 93, which would exclude “records that would reveal the identity of an applicant for public employment” from the state’s Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA). Papen told NM Political Report the bill is aimed at protecting job applicants’ privacy. “People should be able to apply for a job without having their name on the front page of the newspaper if they’re not a finalist,” Papen said. The bill specifies that finalists’ names and applications would be made public “no fewer than seven days prior to the final decision to hire the individual.” But the bill does not provide a definition for what a finalist is.

No vote changes, as recount confirms Las Cruces results

A recount of some ballots in two Las Cruces city council districts confirmed the original results: Jack Eakman and Kasandra Gandara won their close races earlier this month.*

NM Political Report first reported earlier this month that those who lost wanted a recount. The recount found no changes to the official results that were confirmed days after the election. Eli Guzman, who lost in District 1, and Richard Hall, who lost to Eakman in District 4, sought a recall of five of the nine voting locations. Guzman and Hall asked for a recount of four voting convenience centers for election day voting and a fifth location that included early and absentee ballots. Las Cruces, like other cities throughout the state, uses voting convenience centers to allow voters to cast ballots at any of the locations throughout the city.

Big PAC spending in Las Cruces elections gets national attention

The big spending by a political action committee in the recent Las Cruces elections is receiving national attention. USA Today cited the spending by GOAL WestPAC in trying to defeat incumbent mayor Ken Miyagishima as one way that money is increasingly flooding into local elections. In New Mexico, the focus of the Goal WestPAC is “the economic and business climate” in the state, said Mark Murphy, the PAC’s chairman and president of Strata Production, an oil-and-gas exploration company in Roswell, N.M., about 180 miles northeast of Las Cruces. Murphy and his company also have donated $35,000 to the super PAC, records show. PAC officials decided to target Miyagishima and city politicians over what Murphy called a “history of overregulation and taxation,” including support for a 2013 gross receipts tax.

Miyagishima wins reelection, progressives win close city council races in Las Cruces

Las Cruces mayor Ken Miyagishima won a third term despite an out-of-town PAC pouring in tens of thousands of dollars to defeat him, according to unofficial election results. The progressives in the non-partisan elections also appeared to sweep the elections, with Kasandra Gandara and Jack Eakman pulling out narrow victories in high profile city council races. They joined District 2 incumbent Gregory Z. Smith in winning elections on Tuesday. The big story in the final days and weeks of the election was GOAL West PAC, a federal PAC funded mainly by southeast New Mexico residents with ties to the oil and gas industry, and their advertising blitz in an attempt to turn the race.  

There were 10,224 votes in the mayor’s race.

Mayors press governor to call special session (Updated)

The drumbeat for a special session continues, as nearly 100 mayors from across the state have signed onto letters calling on Gov. Susana Martinez to call legislators back to the Roundhouse. The mayors of cities, towns and villages signed the letters penned by the New Mexico Municipal League. The first stated that a special session is necessary for “a capital outlay bill that is acceptable to both chambers and the executive.” “We are under no illusion this will be easy—but it is vital,” the first letter continued. “We have confidence that this is possible and that the leadership and members of our legislature share the best interests of the communities we all serve.”