Secretary of state pushes for temporary automatic mail election

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver is advocating for legislation during this week’s special session that would extend the deadline for counting absentee ballots in the November general election and allow county clerks to automatically send ballots to all registered voters prior to Election Day, her office said. At the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Toulouse Oliver and a couple of dozen county clerks in the state had pushed for a mail-only primary election to protect poll workers and voters from risks of contracting the viral illness. The state Supreme Court rejected the clerks’ request, however, saying the Legislature would have to approve a change in law to allow mass distribution of ballots by mail to voters who haven’t requested one. Spokesman Alex Curtas said Friday the secretary of state still supports an emergency provision allowing ballots to be sent to voters without an application. She also backs other proposals that could streamline the general election, he added.

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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Pelosi announces House will move forward with articles of impeachment

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced Thursday that the U.S. House of Representatives would start drafting articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump over his withholding of foreign aid to Ukraine in exchange for investigating the son of a political rival. The announcement came after an investigation by the House, which began in late September. At the end of October, all three of New Mexico’s members of the House, all Democrats, voted to support the impeachment inquiry. The investigations included closed door meetings by House committees and more recently public hearings of the House Intelligence Committee and the House Judiciary Committee. Ben Ray Luján, the Assistant Speaker in the U.S. House of Representatives, supported the announcement.

‘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.

Tempests and fisticuffs: The history of NM’s open U.S. Senate races

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall announced last month that he will not seek a third U.S. Senate term. The attention quickly turned to who would be Udall’s replacement. So far, U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan has said he will run, and Attorney General Hector Balderas said he won’t. It’s easy for political reporters to get caught up in the races. But a look back in history can be instructive as well.

House Republicans, pushed further into the minority, feel frustration at lack of input

After a midterm election in which Democrats wrested back control of the Governor’s Office and expanded their majority in the state House of Representatives, Kelly Fajardo feels almost invisible at the Roundhouse this year. Fajardo, you see, is a Republican representative in a Democrat-dominated House, where members of the GOP are now outnumbered by the largest margin in two decades. “It just feels like we don’t matter,” said Fajardo, R-Los Lunas. “Our job is to create good policy, and when you’re going, ‘I don’t need you. I don’t need to listen to you,’ that creates a problem,” she said.

Lujan Grisham is New Mexico’s next governor

U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham will take on a new title in January when she becomes New Mexico’s next governor. Ending the nearly two-year-long campaign for governor, Lujan Grisham and her opponent Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce each addressed their respective supporters Tuesday night. Calling out to the crowd in Albuquerque, Governor-Elect Lujan Grisham pointed out that the state has more opportunities than challenges. “This state is so ready to lead,” she said. “We will lead from today, and on renewable, clean energy we will be known as the clean energy state of America.”

At  the Republican Party of New Mexico watch party, Pearce had similar thoughts about the state’s ability to succeed.

Poll shows Dems lead in most statewide races

A recent poll shows Democrats are poised to clinch most statewide races, while a congressional race remains too close to call and one expensive state race leans towards Republicans. A poll by Research and Polling, Inc. for the Albuquerque Journal shows Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham leads Republican Steve Pearce 53 percent to 43 percent in the race for governor. The ten point lead is an increase from the 7 percent race found in a September poll. The same poll found incumbent U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich, a Democrat, leading in the three-way race against former Gov. Gary Johnson, a Libertarian, and contractor Mick Rich, a Republican. Heinrich is 20 points ahead of Rich and almost 40 ahead of Johnson.

Next governor can lead by example in transparency issues

“It’s public record. Give it to me.”

That was Gov. Susana Martinez talking to a police dispatcher in December 2015 after hotel employees called in a noise complaint. Many of her critics focused on her slurred speech that night. But Martinez’s demand for what she deemed a public record grabbed the attention of journalists and open records advocates because of her administration’s history of delaying or outright denying public records. When she first ran for governor in 2010, Martinez vowed to be more transparent than her predecessor, Bill Richardson.