THURS: President Biden to visit New Mexico amid tight governor's race, + More
President Biden to visit New Mexico amid tight governor's race - By Nash Jones, KUNM
The White House announced Thursday that President Biden will visit New Mexico next week to attend events with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham who's running in a tight race for reelection against former meteorologist Mark Ronchetti.
The President is expected to stop in the Land of Enchantment on Thursday. He'll also be meeting with other state and local officials, according to the White House.
The announcement follows quick on the heels of a visit by Vice President Kamala Harris, who fundraised for the governor and appeared alongside her for a discussion about reproductive rights at UNM on Tuesday. Additionally, former President Obama appeared in a video Thursday urging voters to support the incumbent Democrat.
No further details were given about Biden's visit, though spokesperson for the Lujan Grisham campaign Delaney Corcoran said in an email that the governor plans to discuss "growing the economy, investing in schools, and protecting healthcare and abortion access." These were the same topics touched on by Obama.
Republican challenger Mark Ronchetti, who out-raised the governor for the first time in the last reporting period, has welcomed former Vice President Mike Pence, along with prominent governors like Florida's Ron DeSantis on the campaign trail.
Over 17,000 New Mexicans barred from voting in the midterms, report shows - Austin Fisher, Source New Mexico
The New Mexico prison system took 18 years of Kelly Garcia’s life.
Along with all the other inhumane conditions on the inside, Garcia includes the fact that people in prison here cannot vote in elections.
“My voice was muted for so many years,” she said. “I couldn’t vote at that time.”
When she was still behind the walls, she would use the prison telephone to convince her friends, parents and siblings on the outside to vote.
You’re weird, she said they would tell her, asking: Why are you all into politics when you’re in there?
“It’s because these people are the ones that are affecting me and you,” Garcia recalled saying.
A report released Tuesday shows that thousands of New Mexicans are still being silenced by state law, which doesn’t allow people convicted of a felony to vote if they are out on parole or probation, or incarcerated past their release dates. And the state’s top election official will not commit to supporting extending the right to vote beyond the prison gates.
SOME PEOPLE WITH FELONY CONVICTIONS CAN VOTE IN NEW MEXICO
People who’ve left jail or prison after their sentence is up — and who’ve completed their probation and parole — can re-register to vote in New Mexico, though this is widely misunderstood and often isn’t made clear during the process.
Researchers at The Sentencing Project found that 17,572 New Mexicans will be barred from voting in the midterm elections because of a past felony conviction. For context, if all of those people lived in one place, it would be the 10th most populous town in New Mexico.
The researchers found 6,262 people in New Mexico who are incarcerated for a felony conviction in a prison or jail and are ineligible to vote, and another 11,311 who are ineligible to vote because they are on felony probation or parole. They reached these estimates using census data and their own modeling of prison releases and recidivism in every state in the U.S.
“It’s awful. It’s inhumane to not give people a voice,” Garcia said. “That’s another way of keeping people oppressed.”
Other states have found ways to restore voting rights for previously incarcerated individuals. New Mexico should follow suit.
Black, Brown and Indigenous people are incarcerated at higher rates and therefore losing their right to vote more often, said Cathryn McGill, executive director and co-founder of New Mexico Black Leadership Council.
The Sentencing Project found that Black and Hispanic people are disproportionately impacted by disenfranchisement, in New Mexico and around the country.
A little over 1,000 — or 5.7% — of those disenfranchised in New Mexico are Black in a state that is 2.7% Black.
Nearly 10,000 — or 56.6% — of those disenfranchised are Hispanic in a state that is 50.1% Hispanic.
This equates to roughly 3% of the voting eligible Black population and 2% of the voting eligible Hispanic population being ineligible to vote in New Mexico during the midterm elections.
“It is disheartening that once again, New Mexico finds itself in the minority and on the wrong side of equity,” McGill said. “While we never condone violence and criminal activity, once an individual has completed their sentencing, rights should be restored. Other states have found ways to restore voting rights for previously incarcerated individuals. New Mexico should follow suit.”
WHAT IS AN ‘INALIENABLE’ RIGHT?
A high-profile package in the most recent New Mexico legislative session known as the Voting Rights Act would have made it easier for formerly incarcerated people to participate in elections. It reached the state Senate but died thanks in part to a filibuster by a Republican lawmaker.
New Mexico law already allows restoration of voting rights for people convicted of felonies who complete their sentences, but it does not always happen.
When people are about to get processed out of prison, the state Motor Vehicle Division is on-hand to restore their driver’s licenses, and the bill would have required state officials to also register people to vote at the same time.
The bill would have required prison officials to give people the opportunity to register to vote or update their registration, either through a transaction with MVD or an online portal hosted by the Secretary of State’s Office.
As a member of Organizers in the Land of Enchantment, Garcia wrote part of an earlier proposal in 2019 that would have restored voting rights to all people convicted of felonies, including those still in prison — not just people who get out and complete their sentences.
That bill would have brought New Mexico’s voting rights laws in line with Maine, Vermont, the District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Lawmakers watered it down and eventually killed it.
Maggie Toulouse Oliver is running for reelection as New Mexico Secretary of State. In a written statement Wednesday, her campaign spokesperson said she supports automatically restoring voting rights for people who have completed their probation and parole, and those convicted of felonies but who have completed their time in prison.
However, Toulouse Oliver’s campaign said she does not support legislation that would restore voting rights to all people convicted of felonies, including those still in prison.
“Not at this time, but she is open to productive conversations on the matter going forward,” spokesperson Dylan McArthur wrote.
As of Wednesday afternoon, campaign spokespeople for Republican candidate Audrey Trujillo and Libertarian candidate Mayna Erika Myers had not responded to requests for comment.
“It should be a nonpartisan issue to say that people have inalienable rights,” McGill said. “We have to figure out what our definition of that is in New Mexico, as others in other states have figured out. What does ‘inalienable’ mean to us?”
IT’S ONLY FAIR
If lawmakers would allow people with felony convictions to vote, Garcia said she believes the conversation and politics about and inside prisons would change, and perhaps politicians would care about what happens to people on the inside.
Some of them have a seat because part of the population in their district is people held in prisons within the district boundaries, Garcia said.
New Mexico In Depth found that counting imprisoned people as residents of the places they are incarcerated, a practice called “prison gerrymandering,” results in an unfair transfer of political power away from those imprisoned peoples’ home communities.
It’s only fair to let everyone vote, Garcia said.
“If they’re counting their heads in this Census, now why not let them vote?” she said.
When Garcia left the state women’s prison in Grants in 2012, she told herself that if that system is the last thing she changes in life, that’s what she will do, she said. After regaining her freedom, the first election Garcia participated in was in 2014. She said it felt like a relief.
“It was exciting because I finally got to participate,” she said.
The fight won’t be over until everybody gets a voice, Garcia said.
“Every single person in New Mexico deserves a voice,” she said. “Every single person in the world deserves a voice.”
Obama video boosts incumbent governor in New Mexico - Associated Press
Former President Barack Obama is urging voters to support incumbent Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in her campaign for reelection against former television broadcaster Mark Ronchetti.
The one-minute video endorsement from Obama praises Lujan Grisham for increased public investments in schools, economic policy and expanded access to subsidized health care.
Obama also says Lujan Grisham took action to protect the rights of women. The governor last year signed a bill to overturn a state ban on abortion in time to ensure access after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe vs. Wade.
"You can build on this progress, or take New Mexico backwards," Obama says.
Ronchetti and allied groups are hammering the incumbent governor in ads that highlight high crime rates, as the GOP nominee urges voters to hold Lujan Grisham accountable for economic turmoil and lagging school performance in the aftermath of pandemic lockdowns.
Several Republican governors and former Vice President Mike Pence have campaigned for Ronchetti in a state that Donald Trump lost in 2020 and Obama won twice.
Lujan Grisham campaign spokeswoman Delaney Corcoran said the Obama video is being circulated by email and on social media.
The pitch highlights recently added New Mexico voting provisions that allow registration on Election Day and at early voting locations.
Obama, who led an expansion of health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act, also mentions a new state "health care affordability fund" in New Mexico that may provide crucial insurance subsidies when Medicaid coverage expires for as many as 100,000 under special federal pandemic provisions.
The health care affordability fund comes from a new 2.75% surtax on health insurance premiums, the upfront payments made on behalf of an individual or family to keep insurance active.
County Commission spars over deadline to name NM senate replacement - By Patrick Lohmann,Source New Mexico
Westside Albuquerque residents might have only a few days to toss their names in the hat to become the area’s next state senator, and the tight deadline is drawing angry opposition from some Bernalillo County commissioners, who will have to make the selection.
Sen. Jacob Candelaria, a Democrat-turned-independent, announced Oct. 19 that he would be resigning that day, which was two years before his term was up. The announcement spurred frantic planning at the Bernalillo County Commission. Because District 26, which Candelaria represented, sits entirely in the county, the commission is tasked with naming his replacement.
Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, a Westside Democrat, announced quickly that he had eyes on Candelaria’s seat and would soon apply. He told Source New Mexico that he hoped the commission would act quickly.
But in the days since Candelaria resigned, commissioners said they’ve gotten a flurry of emails from politicians and residents with opinions on when would be best to replace the 10-year senator.
The debate happens two weeks before an election, so a new commission would not be seated in time to name Candelaria’s replacement. The 60-day legislative session begins Jan. 17.
The commission met Tuesday for nearly three hours, though Candelaria’s seat was not on the agenda. At the end of the meeting, commissioners discussed when the meeting date would be set. Three of them announced support for an Oct. 31 meeting, though they did not reach a decision.
County spokesperson Tia Bland clarified on Wednesday that the commission still has not set a date to appoint Candelaria’s replacement. It’s not clear exactly when that date will be decided.
During the Tuesday meeting, Commission Chair Adriann Barboa proposed Nov. 18, a date she said was a compromise between competing voices seeking a speedy replacement while also drawing as many applicants as possible.
Instead, three of five commissioners — Charlene Pyskoty, Walt Benson and Steven Michael Quezada — supported a Halloween meeting. Psykoty said Candelaria’s resignation was expected and widely publicized, and it’s important to act quickly.
“I know that people did know this resignation was coming down the pipeline, and a few people have reached out to us wanting to apply for this position,” she said. “So I don’t see a reason to delay.”
But Debbie O’Malley, a Westside commissioner, said she fears the appointment is being rushed in a way that favors political insiders. Would-be senators now have only (four) days to apply. She agreed with Barboa that Nov. 18 would be a better appointment date.
“I think it’s important to be able to accept applications and give people time to apply,” O’Malley said. “Clearly, there are some folks that have the advantage, because they already knew that this was going to happen. But a lot of people did not.”
O’Malley said it was “rude,” “inconsiderate” and “disrespectful” that the commission would overrule her and Barboa. She said there’s no need to rush, given that the Legislature won’t meet for several months.
Maestas, in a text message, told Source New Mexico that the commission needs to establish written rules for filling legislative openings to avoid all this mess.
“It’s sad that after five appointments in the past four years, the county still has no written procedures to deal with legislative vacancies,” he said. “This gives rise to petty politics and Mitch McConnell-style shenanigans. The application process should’ve started the very next day.”
If Maestas is appointed to the New Mexico Senate, the commission will also name his replacement in the state House, likely at a later date.
Biotech and pharma contractor Curia to increase footprint and jobs in Albuquerque - By Nash Jones, KUNM
The biotechnology and pharmaceutical contractor Curia has begun expanding its Albuquerque campus with the support of state development funds focused on job creation.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham helped company officials break ground at an event Thursday, calling New Mexico a “sophisticated biosciences hub.” Her office says the state is chipping in $5 million for the project from the Local Economic Development Act job creation fund.
Curia, for its part, is expected to invest more than $100 million into the expansion — including a filling line for vials and syringes — according to the Governor’s Office.
The company works with biotech and pharmaceutical companies on researching, developing and manufacturing drugs. It’s promising as many as 274 new jobs paying an average yearly salary of $50,000.
The Governor's Office says Curia’s larger footprint in Albuquerque could infuse over $1 billion into the local economy over the next ten years.
Curia CEO John Ratliff said in a statement that, in addition to the project bringing more well-paying jobs to New Mexico, the new facilities will enable the company to “make a greater contribution to the production of vaccines and treatments, potentially saving millions of lives.”
Sentence handed down for slaying of New Mexico girl - Associated Press
A man convicted of child abuse and other charges stemming from the 2016 death and dismemberment of an Albuquerque girl was sentenced to 37 1/2 years in prison Thursday.
Prosecutors had sought a maximum sentence of 40 years for Fabian Gonzales. State District Judge Cindy Leos combined two of the tampering with evidence counts that related to the removal of the victim's body parts, thus resulting in a slightly shorter prison term.
During trial earlier this year, prosecutors said that although Gonzales didn't kill Victoria Martens, he set in motion events that created a dangerous environment that led to the girl's death.
Martens' death — on her 10th birthday — sent shockwaves through the community.
The girl's mother, Michelle Martens, will be sentenced for her role in the coming weeks. Gonzales was dating the woman and had moved into the apartment where she was living with her daughter.
According to investigators, Gonzales had allowed his cousin, Jessica Kelley, to stay at the apartment shortly after Kelley was released from prison. Investigators determined that Martens and Gonzales were not at the home when Victoria was killed but that Kelley was there.
Prosecutors said Victoria was killed either by an unknown man or by Kelley, who was using methamphetamine and acting paranoid that day. Gonzales' attorneys had argued that Kelley killed the girl and then tried to cover it up.
The case remains open and authorities are looking for an unidentified man based on DNA evidence that was found.
Kelley, who earlier pleaded guilty to child abuse and other charges, was sentenced to 44 years in prison and will be eligible for parole in half that time. Michelle Martens pleaded guilty to a child abuse charge in an agreement that calls for her to be sentenced to 12 to 15 years in prison. Her sentencing has been postponed to Nov. 10.
Navajo Nation planning to investigate missing tribal members - Associated Press
Navajo Nation officials have issued an executive order to investigate and locate missing tribal members in a manner that is empathetic to victims and their families.
Tribal President Jonathan Nez met Monday with Navajo Nation police, the FBI and prosecutors in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah for the plan's signing ceremony.
The crisis of missing and slain Native Americans has been getting more attention from elected officials and policymakers across the U.S.
In July, the FBI in Albuquerque released a list of more than 170 Native Americans it had verified as missing throughout New Mexico and the Navajo Nation that stretches into Arizona and Utah and covers nearly 27,500 square miles.
FBI officials said many records of missing Indigenous persons were incomplete or outdated because the record was not updated once additional details were made available or when the person was located.
"Multiple jurisdiction systems have historically failed the victims and their families," Nez said in a statement. "Reporting, collecting and sharing missing persons data among various jurisdictions characterizes this problem's true scope. The executive order will set a new tone of hope on this issue that impacts our nation."
More than 9 million voters already have cast their ballots in November elections - States Newsroom, Source New Mexico, KUNM News
Roughly 9.4 million Americans have already voted in the midterm elections, casting a combination of in-person early votes and mail-in ballots, according to data compiled by the United States Elections Project.
States Newsroom reports Florida, Georgia, Michigan and Pennsylvania are among the top states in terms of early voting so far.
The initiative shows that, within states releasing the data, 2.6 million people have voted in person while 6.8 million have returned mail-in ballots.
The 17 states reporting party affiliation show that of the roughly 5-point-1 million people who voted early in those states, 50% are Democrats, 30% are Republicans and 20% are not part of either party.
Source New Mexico reports that in New Mexico, over 137-thousand people have voted early so far, with nearly 73% doing so by mailing in or dropping off an absentee ballot, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.
More than 76,400 registered Democrats have cast a ballot so far in New Mexico, which is more than the other parties and categories - including decline to state and ‘other’ - combined.
As of last month, over 44% of New Mexico voters were registered as Democrats, with about 31% Republican. That said, according to numbers released by the Secretary of State’s Office Wednesday, more than 16-hundred people have used same-day registration since early voting began earlier this month.
Mexico scraps daylight savings time except along border - Associated Press
Mexico's Senate approved a bill Wednesday to eliminate daylight saving time, putting an end to the practice of changing clocks twice a year.
Some cities and towns along the U.S. border can retain daylight saving time, presumably because they are so linked to U.S. cities.
The Senate approved the measure on a 59-25 vote, with 12 abstentions. Those who opposed the measure said that less daylight in the afternoon could affect opportunities for children and adults to get exercise.
The bill already passed the lower house of Congress and now goes President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to be signed into law.
The law would go into effect Sunday, when Mexico is scheduled to turn clocks back for the last time.
Previously, Health Secretary Jorge Alcocer had said Mexico should return to "God's clock," or standard time, arguing that setting clocks back or forward damages people's health.
The measure would mean darkness falling an hour earlier on summer afternoons.
Economists argue that, while the energy savings are minimal, going back to standard time might cause trouble for financial markets in Mexico by putting U.S. East Coast markets so far ahead.
And businesses like restaurants that have become accustomed to staying open later may have to close earlier as many crime-wary Mexicans often try to be off the streets after dark.