ESTANCIA, N.M. – The migrants were on a days-long hunger strike when guards entered their prison dormitory in full riot gear —gas masks, shields and canisters of pepper spray. The officers corralled the two dozen or so inmates into a huddled mass. Two men fell to their knees, begging them not to attack. “Suddenly, they just started gassing us,” said Yandy Bacallao, a 34-year-old asylum seeker from Cuba. “You could just hear everyone screaming for help.”
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Friday she will not abide lack of enforcement by any sheriff or other local government official who opposes a new law intended to reduce gun violence. Her comments came during a press conference at which she defended her support of Senate Bill 5, which cleared the Legislature on Thursday and which she intends to sign into law, adding New Mexico to the list of states that have passed what are called “red flag” laws. The measure will allow authorities to petition courts to temporarily remove firearms from someone deemed a threat to themselves or others. “If just one life is saved, if one potential [dangerous] situation is averted, then we’re doing our job,” she told reporters. Her comments came after news that Lea County Sheriff Corey Helton told people at a Eunice City Hall meeting Monday he would rather go to jail than enforce the law, which he thinks is unconstitutional.
Democrats swept statewide races on Election Day, and will control not just the governor’s office and all of the executive agencies, but also independent state agencies that oversee everything from state funds to state lands. Democratic incumbent Tim Eichenberg easily won the race for State Treasurer over Republican Arthur Castillo and Democrat Brian Colón defeated Republican Wayne Johnson for State Auditor. In the three-way race for Attorney General, Democratic incumbent Hector Balderas beat Republican Michael Hendricks and Libertarian Blair Dunn. And another Democratic incumbent, Maggie Toulouse Oliver defeated Republican Gavin Clarkson and Libertarian Ginger Grider to hold on to the Secretary of State seat. The closest statewide race on Election Day was for State Land Commissioner.
Campaign finance reports filed Monday showed positives for both gubernatorial candidates, with the Republican showing a lead with money left, but the Democrat raised, and spent, more money. Republican nominee Steve Pearce finished the campaign finance period—which lasted from July 1 to Sept. 3—with nearly $1.9 million cash-on-hand for the final two months of the race. This was well ahead of the $1.2 million cash-on-hand for his opponent, Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham. Lujan Grisham, however, raised $1.9 million in the period and spent almost $1.5 million.
Two of the three candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for governor have over $1.5 million cash on hand for the final stretch before the primary election on June 5. Early voting has already started. State Sen. Joseph Cervantes has now loaned his own campaign over $2 million and raised only about $15,000 from others. He now has $1.65 million cash on hand. U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham raised over $410,000 and spent nearly $640,000 between April 3 and May 7.
Gov. Susana Martinez announced Wayne Johnson will take over as State Auditor through the 2018 election on Friday. Martinez made the appointment a day after Tim Keller resigned from the position. Keller will be sworn in as the mayor of Albuquerque Friday after easily winning in a runoff election last month. Johnson, a Republican, is a Bernalillo County Commissioner and told the Albuquerque Journal he expects to resign from that position at some point. Johnson ran for mayor of Albuquerque as well, but did not receive enough votes to make the runoff election.
The City of Albuquerque Board of Ethics Rules & Regulations unanimously found that Tim Keller violated the city’s elections and ethics codes, but it did not impose any penalty. The board decided the case involving in-kind donations Monday, the day before voters cast ballots in the runoff election. Keller faces Dan Lewis after the two received the most votes in the first round of voting last month. Keller’s campaign received public financing, but his campaign accepted money as “in-kind” donations. Candidates who qualify for public financing are not allowed to accept private donations.
An ethics complaint against Albuquerque mayoral candidate Tim Keller is headed back to a city ethics board after initial disagreement over the correct jurisdiction. Filed by former mayoral candidate and current Bernalillo County Commissioner Wayne Johnson, the complaint alleges illegal coordination between Keller’s campaign and an independent fundraising group. Chief Hearing Officer Stanley Harada ruled that the issue should go to the city’s Board of Ethics, writing that under the city charter, he does not have jurisdiction in the matter. Johnson’s attorney, former Republican National Committeeman Pat Rogers, filed the complaint and insisted it should go to a city hearing officer and not the city’s Board of Ethics. From the start, Keller’s lawyer Molly Schmidt-Nowara said a hearing officer was not the correct jurisdiction.
The hits keep coming towards one Albuquerque mayoral candidate—and at least two formal complaints against him are coming from a former candidate and his lawyer. Since the mayoral election ended earlier this month, Dan Lewis has gone after Tim Keller’s voting record in the New Mexico State Senate through T.V. ads and a website, but his campaign and supporters are also under fire for alleged unethical campaign practices. Bernalillo County Commissioner and former mayoral candidate Wayne Johnson filed two ethics complaints against Keller. Johnson’s lawyer in both cases is former Republican National Committeeman Pat Rogers. One ethics complaint against Keller is already pending with the Albuquerque Board of Ethics concerning in-kind contributions and now, another is headed for a city hearing officer’s jurisdiction.
Albuquerque’s mayoral runoff election is a month away and so far the two campaigns have stayed relatively quiet. But an upcoming ethics hearing and the city’s public finance rules could make the runoff election more complicated or at least open the door for more attack ads, particularly against State Auditor Tim Keller. Originally scheduled for Oct. 12, an ethics hearing for a complaint against Keller was moved to only a few days before the Nov. 14 runoff election—and well after early voting starts.