NM Democrats praise Biden’s choice of Harris for running mate

While presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden did not choose New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham as his running mate, he followed through on his promise to select a woman as his running mate when he chose California U.S. Senator Kamala Harris on Tuesday. Harris, the daughter of a Jamaican immigrant father and an Indian immigrant mother, is the first woman of color as a running mate for a major political party. Democratic politicians in New Mexico, including Lujan Grisham, praised Biden’s choice. “It’s time to rebuild our country better than ever before. It’s time to take back the White House.

GOP candidates question opponents’ loyalty to Trump

Former T.V. meteorologist and Republican primary candidate for U.S. Senate Mark Ronchetti found himself in hot water with his opponents this week. Already a target for some local conservatives, Ronchetti now has to explain comments he made during a presentation on climate change at the University of New Mexico last year that seemed to be a criticism of President Donald Trump. “I’m a Christain conservative, who used to be a Republican, until the orange one,” Ronchetti said, invoking laughter from the crowd. “I’m afraid that has taken a part of my soul and that’s not coming back.”

Ronchetti did not respond to a request for an interview, but his campaign manager told the Albuquerque Journal that the comments were in jest and that he does indeed support the president. But his opponents, namely the one who said he found the video clip, are not buying it. 

Gavin Clarkson, a former Trump appointee and one of Ronchetti’s opponents, said he thinks “Support for Trump is a baseline qualification for the GOP.”

“If you’re going to say, ‘I support the president,’ prove it,” Clarkson told NM Political Report. 

Clarkson said he found the video while searching online to back up his claim that Ronchetti’s previous public views on climate change differ from Trump’s. 

“He spent the next 45 minutes to an hour talking about policies that this president doesn’t support,” Clarkson added. 

But this week’s claims that Ronchetti wavers in his support for the White House are not the first for him or for other GOP candidates in the state.

NM Republicans push Lujan Grisham to relax restrictions for businesses

Republican Party of New Mexico Chairman Steve Pearce on Monday called for a “healthy dose of common sense and uncommon courage” from the governor’s office in keeping the state’s economy afloat while combating the spread of COVID-19. 

The Democratic Speaker of the House and governor, meanwhile, said it was not in the best interest of public safety to ease restrictions on businesses. “Somebody has got to speak up for the small business people of the country,” Pearce said during an online press briefing. 

Pearce was joined by Republican leaders as well as a handful of small business owners from around the state. All who spoke, argued that Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s statewide public health emergency order is hurting small businesses, while allowing “big box” stores to remain open. 

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New Mexico House Minority Leader Jim Townsend said the state’s economy is facing an emergency of its own. 

“We have two epidemics in New Mexico: the COVID-19 and the financial crisis,” Townsend said. 

Small business owners from around the state joined the online meeting and shared their frustration with the governor’s order to close down all businesses that are not deemed essential. 

Louie Sanchez, the owner of Calibers shooting range in Albuquerque who recently ended his campaign for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination, said he is going to reopen his business despite the state’s order.

GOP opposes mail-in primaries

The Republican Party of New Mexico and members of both the House and Senate Republican caucuses filed a motion on Tuesday to intervene in an attempt to block an effort by county clerks and the Secretary of State to move to a primarily mail-in election for June’s primaries. Update: The state Supreme Court accepted the motion to intervene and set a hearing for April 14, with responses from the governor of New Mexico,t he legislature, Democratic party of New Mexico, Libertarian Party of New Mexico and the League of Women Voters filed by April 8. The motion argues that the current absentee system, which does not require an excuse to request an absentee ballot, would suffice for mail-in elections. The petition from the clerks and Secretary of State says that a mail-in election would be necessary to protect the public, election workers and election administrators from COVID-19, in light of strict measures the state has implemented to slow the spread of the disease that has already caused five deaths in New Mexico and thousands nationwide. The Republicans’ motion to intervene calls the clerks’ effort “one of the most audacious in recent memory” and says it asks the state supreme court “to violate separation of powers by making new law (in conflict with existing statute) in an area that is the acknowledged constitutional ‘providence of the Legislature.’”

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‘Latinos for Trump’ call on supporters to talk to friends and neighbors

The morning after President Donald Trump’s campaign rally in Rio Rancho, a group of about 100 people gathered to encourage Trump supporters to talk to their friends and neighbors about Trump. 

Latinos for Trump held a panel discussion at Casa Rodeña, a winery in the village of Los Ranchos de Albuquerque. Guest speakers included members of Latinos for Trump, the state Republican chairman, a state representative and Trump’s campaign manager. The message:  volunteering and having conversations about Trump’s policies, not social media posts, is the best way to garner support for the president in Hispanic and Latinx communities. 

Trump’s campaign manager Brad Parscale has a background in digital media campaigns and said while the Trump campaign will utilize digital technology to connect supporters, the real effort should be local. 

“Winning elections is not about what I do on my computer or what we do across the country, it’s what you do in your neighborhoods,” Parscale told the crowd. 

Echoing his boss, Parscale said news organizations cannot be trusted to get the story right. Instead, he said, it’s up to friends and neighbors to share Trump’s policies and educate each other. 

“We do not get true information when we watch TV,”Parscale said. “Let me just tell you, from a guy who’s had a lot of fake news written about himself.”

Katrina Pierson, a senior advisor for the 2020 Trump campaign, also spoke and told the crowd that support for Trump goes beyond political affiliations. 

“We’ve transcended red and blue states and I think a lot of people have not figured that out yet, because now we have a decision to to be either pro or against America,” Pierson said. 

State Rep. Alonzo Baldonado, R-Los Lunas, told the crowd person-to-person conversations and contagious energy were part of the reason counties like Colfax, Hidalgo and Valencia flipped to Republican in the presidential race in 2016.   

“If we can multiply that with these people in this room and make that excitement happen in their hometowns and neighborhoods, President Trump will coast to victory in New Mexico,” Baldonado said. 

State Republican Chairman Steve Pearce also spoke at Tuesday’s event and praised the venue’s owner John Calvin for having the “courage” to host a political event. 

Calvin, a self-described life-long Republican and “lover of freedom and of free speech,” said he welcomes anyone who wants to hold an event at his winery. 

“Not everybody who comes here is a Republican.

Steve Bannon scheduled to campaign for Mick Rich in NM

Controversial political figure and former presidential chief strategist Steve Bannon will make an appearance in New Mexico on Thursday in support of the Republican U.S. Senate candidate. UPDATE: Steve Bannon: Mick Rich is a ‘real populist’

Mick Rich’s campaign confirmed that Bannon will speak on behalf of his political group Citizens of the American Republic in Roswell, stumping for the Albuquerque construction contractor and political newcomer. The Rich campaign said the event is sponsored and paid for by Citizens of the American Republic and Rich will appear as a guest. Nick Gerard, a staffer with the Mick Rich campaign, said Bannon’s appearance is notable for both the campaign and the Republican Party. “A lot of people nationally kind of look at New Mexico and just assume it will forever and always be a Democratic state and that’s not the case on the ground,” Gerard said.

Pelosi in New Mexico to support Haaland

U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi appeared at Democratic candidate Deb Haaland’s campaign office Tuesday to  support the candidate and speak about reauthorizing the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). “As we pass laws about domestic violence and violence against women, we must recognize the specific nature of the challenge in Indian Country,” Pelosi told the room of campaign volunteers. Haaland is the Democratic nominee for the 1st Congressional District, a position currently held by U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham. Haaland will face Republican Janice Arnold-Jones and Libertarian Lloyd Princeton in the November general election. Pelosi praised Haaland and her campaign, but added that they are sure to see negative attacks from Republicans.

GOP Secretary of State candidate drops out of race

New Mexico Republican candidate for Secretary of State and Albuquerque lawyer  JoHanna Cox announced Wednesday she’s dropping out of her race. Cox cited the need to take care of her family as why she could not continue running. “Unfortunately, I am unable to continue this campaign because my family requires my full attention at this moment,” Cox wrote in a statement. Cox said she would “give my full support to the candidate who takes my place on the ballot.” The Albuquerque Journal recently reported Cox faced three legal malpractice lawsuits in the past six years.

Herrell, Newman guaranteed ballot spots in CD2 GOP primary

New Mexico state Rep. Yvette Herrell of Alamogordo and former Hobbs Mayor Monty Newman secured their places on the Republican primary election ballot for the state’s 2nd Congressional District race. That spot is currently held by U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, the lone Republican running for governor. At the party’s state pre-primary convention Saturday, Herrell won the votes of 58 percent of delegates in the southern New Mexico district, and Newman won almost 26 percent of the vote. The other three candidates failed to reach the 20 percent threshold for automatic inclusion on the ballot, but can still secure a spot by gathering additional petition signatures within 10 days. Afterwards, Herrell said she’s grateful for the support and will continue “praying” and “working hard” as she’ll still face Newman and likely others in the primary.

Notes from the field: Candidate filing day

SANTA FE—It was a political nerd’s dream. Dozens of people aiming for state office filed through the elevator doors into the New Mexico Secretary of State’s office on Tuesday to navigate the three-stage process of declaring their candidacy. The day offered  a rare early opportunity for candidates and their staff to interact with one another—which included a lot of smiles and polite handshakes, even across party lines. The process was straightforward—there were three stations to verify and confirm paperwork and petition signatures—and took about 20 minutes for most candidates. Here are my notes from the field:
9:05 a.m.
I’m running late, because I’m from New Mexico.