Rural, Independent N.M. Seat Could Tip U.S. House, UNM Fails To Meet Title IX Requirements

Jun 1, 2018

Rural, Independent New Mexico Seat Could Tip U.S. House - Russell Contreras, Associated Press

A sprawling, New Mexico congressional district that stretches from the U.S.-Mexico border to oil country near Texas is one of the many districts that could swing control of Congress.

The 2nd District's longtime Republican Congressman Steve Pearce is running for governor, giving Democrats their best opportunity to recapture a seat they haven't won since Barack Obama was first elected president in 2008.

It's the most Hispanic congressional district in the nation's most Hispanic state, and registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans.

But the district's conservative-leaning independents have intricate views on immigration, international trade and oil production - and that makes any election outcome difficult to predict.

The district backed President Donald Trump by roughly 10 percentage points in 2016.

Democrats and Republicans will select candidates in Tuesday’s primary elections.

Navajos Commemorate Anniversary Of 1868 Treaty Associated Press

Leaders on the nation's largest American Indian reservation are marking the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Navajo Treaty of 1868.

For the Navajos, the signing of the agreement signaled the end of a difficult chapter that included their forced removal from their homeland in the Four Corners area and years of captivity at Bosque Redondo, part of Fort Sumner in eastern New Mexico.

The treaty is being commemorated Friday in the Nation’s capital, Window Rock, Arizona, with the culmination of a 14-day run that began at Fort Sumner and remarks from tribal leaders and others.

An original copy of the treaty on loan from the National Archives is on public display at the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock for the month of June.

New Mexico Gubernatorial Candidates Spar Over Tax Returns – Associated Press

New Mexico gubernatorial candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham made public her personal tax returns dating back to 2013 that show she shared in profits from state contracts to operate a health insurance program, which — while legal — her Democratic rival condemned as morally repugnant.

Lujan Grisham posted online five years of federal and state tax returns dating back to her first year in Congress, noting that the financial disclosures go beyond those provided by rival Democratic candidates.

Lujan Grisham is competing for the Democratic nomination in a three-way race with former media executive Jeff Apodaca and state Sen. Joseph Cervantes.

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez cannot run for a third consecutive term. U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce is the sole Republican gubernatorial candidate.

New Mexico's primary concludes Tuesday.

Apodaca, the son of a former governor, renewed criticism Thursday of Lujan Grisham for profiting from state contracts through a business partnership with a state lawmaker, asserting that the company administered an unnecessary insurance program at the expense of taxpayers.

"It's time our politicians stop profiting off the backs of New Mexicans," Apodaca said.

Lujan Grisham defended her role as a partner in Delta Consulting, before divesting last year, as way to ensure health care access for severely ill and vulnerable people.

Delta is the administrator of New Mexico's high-risk insurance pool that provides health coverage to about 2,400 people with a variety of sever or complex illnesses and immigrants who are in the country illegally and cannot qualify for federally subsidized health insurance.

Democratic state Rep. Deborah Armstrong, the treasurer of Lujan Grisham's campaign and chairwoman of a legislative committee on health policy, is now sole owner of the business.

In the newly released tax forms, Lujan Grisham reported annual income from her ownership stake in Delta that ranged from just under $50,000 to nearly $138,000.

Apodaca and some state lawmakers from both major parties have questioned the need for New Mexico's high-risk insurance pool in light of subsidized marketplace insurance policies offered under the Affordable Care Act.

Members of an oversight board for the insurance pool say the program still provides a crucial safety net, helps stabilize insurance markets and is funded through an assessment on insurance carriers.

Delta won management contracts in a competitive bidding process that recognized the company's "unmatched expertise in the health policy field, and their experience in management and administration," the New Mexico Medical Insurance Pool board said in a statement Thursday.

Dominic Gabello, campaign manager for Lujan Grisham, described Delta as a small business that has demonstrated Lujan Grisham's commitment to helping the highly vulnerable patients and said that Apodaca has mischaracterized the high risk pool and how it is funded.

Through a campaign manager, Lujan Grisham called on Republican candidate Pearce to follow her example by providing directly to the public at least five years of tax returns. Pearce told a radio show host Wednesday that he would release his tax returns if Lujan Grisham did.

For 2017, Lujan Grisham reported total income of $195,000 including her congressional salary. She paid roughly $36,000 in federal taxes, not including Social Security and Medicare contributions, along with $7,600 in state income taxes.

Apodaca has provided details of his 2016 tax returns to media outlets. Cervantes also has provided his 2016 tax filings upon request, while redacting information about business partners including family members.

New Mexico Man Sent To Federal Prison For Pipeline Protest – Associated Press

A New Mexico man who took part in the Dakota Access oil pipeline protests in North Dakota has been sentenced to serve three years in federal prison.

Authorities say 45-year-old Michael Giron was part of a group that put barricades on a state highway south of Mandan, North Dakota, and set them on fire, then clashed with law officers. The incident happened Oct. 27, 2016.

Giron, who also goes by the name Little Feather, pleaded guilty to civil disorder in February in a plea agreement with prosecutors, who dismissed a more serious charge. He is the first of seven protesters charged with federal crimes to be sentenced.

He received credit for a little more than a year he's already served behind bars.

Judge Dismisses Murder Counts Against Deputy In New Mexico – Associated Press, The Albuquerque Journal

A judge has dismissed first- and second-degree murder charges against a former Santa Fe County sheriff's deputy accused in the 2014 shooting death of a fellow deputy.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that District Court Judge Conrad Perea on Thursday dismissed the murder counts against former deputy Tai Chan.

According to previous testimony, Chan is accused of shooting fellow Deputy Jeremy Martin in the back as Martin fled during an argument at the hotel where they had stopped on a trip to transport a prisoner to Arizona. Chan has claimed self-defense.

Two previous trials against Chan in the killing of another deputy ended when juries couldn't agree on a verdict.

The most serious standing charge is voluntary manslaughter.

Navajo Judge Won't Toss Claims Of Abuse In Mormon Program – Associated Press

A Navajo Nation judge is refusing to dismiss lawsuits claiming Native American children were sexually abused while enrolled in a Mormon church foster program.

Judge Carol Perry said in the ruling released Thursday the cases should be heard in Navajo court.

The allegations were said to have taken place outside the Navajo Nation in Utah or Arizona, but the judge found tribal courts have jurisdiction because the program was based there. Perry also cited a fundamental Navajo belief that children must not be mistreated.

The lawsuits say the church failed to protect children from sexual abuse after they were placed with host families.

Thousands of children participated in the now-defunct that was meant to give children educational opportunities from the late 1940s until around 2000.

A church spokesman declined to comment on the decision. Leaders have said the church works to prevent abuse.

University Of New Mexico Falls Short On Opportunity Mandate – Associated Press

New Mexico's flagship university is falling short of meeting federal requirements aimed at ensuring men and women have equal opportunities when it comes to athletics.

The University of New Mexico on Thursday made public an independent review of the school's compliance with Title IX mandates.

It found that women make up more than 55 percent of the undergraduate student body but less than 44 percent of student athletes. Other shortfalls related to scholarships and facilities were also identified.

The review comes as the University of New Mexico officials weigh drastic cuts in the athletics department in a struggle to get its spending under control.

UNM President Garnett Stokes and Athletics Director Eddy Nunez addressed both concerns in an open letter Thursday and said they hope to have a plan ready to share with the public later this summer

Navajo Presidential Race Draws Crowded Field Of Candidates – Associated Press

The race to become president on the Navajo Nation has drawn a record number of candidates with 19 filing for the office.

The field includes tribal President Russell Begaye, Vice President Jonathan Nez, three women, and others who have previously held or sought the tribe's top two elected positions.

The number is up from 17 four years ago, when a tumultuous election season was extended by nearly five months because of a heated court fight over a candidate's ability to speak fluent Navajo. That qualification loosely remains because it will be up to voters to decide whether that matters to them.

Candidates regularly promise to improve the tribe's economy, increase government transparency, secure water rights and deliver basic services. A new challenge will be dealing with declining revenue as roughly one-third of the tribe's budget is at stake if a coal-fired power plant on the reservation shuts down as planned next year.

The list of candidates won't be finalized until after election officials vet the applications over the next two weeks. 

Lawmaker Questions New Mexico State's Hiring Decision – Associated Press, The Albuquerque Journal

A state legislator is questioning the decision by New Mexico State University regents to hire two new top officials with large salaries to replace one person who is retiring.

Democratic state Sen. John Arthur Smith has been critical of the regents' decision not renew the contract for Garrey Carruthers, who was paid $385,000 a year to serve as both president and chancellor for the university in Las Cruces, the Albuquerque Journal reported. The regents split the job, hiring Dan Arvizu as chancellor and John Floros as president. Arvizu will make $500,000 annually, and Floros will make $450,000.

Smith, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said people in his southern New Mexico district are questioning how the president and chancellor roles will be divided.

"When you approach $1 million in payroll, new payroll . coming on the heels of really austere times for the state of New Mexico, it sort of surprises me," Smith said. "The regents seem to forget where we are financially."

While Carruthers' job was initially posted as one position, the regents had the authority to create a two-person leadership team and the timing was right, Debra Hicks said, the chairwoman of the board of regents.

"We can no longer continue to have a decline like we have for the last six years of 22 percent enrollment, the decrease in research funding in billions of dollars," Hicks said. "We just can't sustain that."

With competition high among universities, large salaries are required to attract the best people to the top jobs, Republican state Rep. Larry Larranaga said.

Commissioners Call On Leader Of Energy Nonprofit To Resign – Associated Press, The Santa Fe New Mexican

Two members of the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission are calling on the executive director of a clean-energy nonprofit to resign, claiming she violated federal law by also heading a political action committee.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports commissioners Sandy Jones and Lynda Lovejoy, who are both running for re-election, claim New Energy Economy Executive Director Mariel Nanasi is leading Responsible Leadership NM, which is supporting the incumbents' opponents in the Democratic primary next month.

Nanasi says she did not violate law. She says she has contributed personally to the PAC but is not a founder or director of it.

Nanasi says the commissioners' efforts for her to resign are an attempt to deflect attention from other issues. Nanasi has been a frequent critic of the commission.

Forest Service: Abandoned Illegal Campfire Started Wildfire – Associated Press

The Forest Service says investigators have determined that an abandoned illegal campfire caused a fire that has burned 34 square miles (88 sq. kilometers) of timber in the Gila National Forest in western New Mexico.

The fire burning east of Reserve, New Mexico, and near the Eagle Point Lookout is contained around about a third of its perimeter.

Approximately 520 firefighters and other personnel are assigned to the fire, which started May 22.

Crews are burning out control lines in several areas to try to halt the fire's spread, but a red flag warning is in effect because dry, warm and windy weather conditions are expected.

Moderate increases of smoke from the fire are expected to toward Albuquerque, Socorro and Truth or Consequences.

New Mexico Closes Sites Adjacent To Santa Fe National Forest – Associated Press

New Mexico is closing State Game Commission properties adjacent to the Santa National Forest to coincide with the forest's full closure that takes effect Friday because of drought and extreme fire danger.

The Department of Game and Fish says the state's closures also take effect Friday and include campgrounds and fishing areas in Pecos Canyon, the Bluebird Wildlife Management Area, and portions of Fenton Lake Wildlife Management Area.

The department says the closure order prohibits all public access and recreational activities on the affected properties, including campgrounds, parking areas, trails and trailheads.

The Santa Fe forest's closure is the first forest closure for New Mexico this season, though portions of national forests in neighboring Arizona already have closed.

Portions of several National Park Service sites will be closed beginning Friday.