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WED: Vasquez declares victory in CD2 as Herrell concedes, + More

GABE VASQUEZ.jpg
Alice Fordham
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KUNM

Vasquez declares victory in CD2, Herrell concedes - By Marisa Demarco, Source New Mexico and Alice Fordham, KUNM News

With a narrow lead of only 1,224 votes, Democrat Gabe Vasquez claimed victory over Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell a little after 4 p.m. Wednesday in the race for the 2nd Congressional District. Herrell conceded the race a short while later, blaming recent redistricting for the loss. The Associated Press, which KUNM relies on for race calls, has not yet called the race with an estimated 98% votes counted with Vasquez up by 0.6%.

Source New Mexico’s Marisa Demarco reports Herrell congratulated Vasquez on his victory in a statement released by a campaign spokesperson. She added that her loss is a result of what she called “gerrymandering” by Democrats in Santa Fe that concentrated power “in urban areas at the expense of rural New Mexico voices.”

She said she is confident the Republican Party will recapture the district in the next election cycle.

Before redistricting late last year, Congressional District 2 was solidly Republican and encompassed the southern part of the state. It now also includes parts of Albuquerque’s Westside and the nearby South Valley in Central New Mexico, creating an opening for Democrats.

KUNM’s Alice Fordham reports Vasquez has worked in conservation and been a member of the Las Cruces City Council, as well as working for Democratic U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich.

In his campaign he promised to fight for a humane reform of immigration policy and promised to prioritize climate change while maintaining a pragmatic approach to regulating oil and gas and protecting that industry’s jobs and revenue in the state.

Buu Nygren wins Navajo Nation president, beats incumbent - By Felicia Fonseca Associated Press

Buu Nygren has ousted Jonathan Nez as president of the Navajo Nation, a position that wields influence nationally because of the size of the tribe's reservation in the U.S. Southwest and its huge population.

Nygren defeated Nez in the nonpartisan race with a message of delivering basic needs to Navajos and expressing frustration at the pace of tribal government and infrastructure projects. He acknowledged that hard work lies ahead.

"I've said it time and time again, that we want to do the things that are tough," he said to a rowdy crowd gathered at the fairgrounds in the tribal capital of Window Rock.

Nygren's win, along with his running mate Richelle Montoya, means the Navajo Nation will have a woman in the Office of the President and Vice President for the first time. Navajo voters twice advanced Lynda Lovejoy to the general election for the presidency, but she lost both times.

Unofficial results from the tribe's elections office showed Nygren ahead of Nez by about 3,500 votes with all 110 precincts reporting. Turnout among the roughly 125,000 registered voters surpassed 50%.

Nygren, 35, positioned himself as the candidate for change and as someone who could get the ball rolling on long-awaited projects. He has a background in construction management but has never held political office.

"I'm used to being held accountable in every job," Nygren, a tribal vice presidential candidate in 2018, said ahead of Tuesday's election. "I'm taking that approach. If I don't perform, I have no business being here."

The Navajo Nation's population of 400,000 is second only to the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. It also has the largest land base by far of any tribe at 27,000 square miles (70,000 square kilometers) stretching into parts of New Mexico, Arizona and Utah.

Nygren pledged to work more closely with the Navajo Nation Council that often is seen as more powerful than the tribal presidency. Newly elected leaders take office in January. Nygren is married to Arizona state Rep. Jasmine Blackwater-Nygren.

Nez is a seasoned politician who ascended to the presidency after years as a community leader, Navajo County supervisor, Navajo Nation Council delegate and vice president. He encouraged voters to choose continuity in the race, saying progress takes time.

Nez's spokesman, Jared Touchin, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday night from The Associated Press. Nez and his running mate, Chad Abeyta, gathered in a separate area of the fairgrounds.

Nez said more than $1 billion in federal coronavirus relief funding that the tribe has approved for infrastructure projects would help spur economic development and bring home Navajos who have left the reservation for jobs.

Tens of thousands of Navajos still live without running water, electricity and broadband. The coronavirus pandemic highlighted those inequities and thrust the Navajo Nation into the spotlight when it had one of the highest infection rates in the U.S.

The tribe has long relied on revenue from the coal industry to fund its government, but those revenues have been declining as coal-fired plants and mines shut down. While the Navajo Nation owns a stake in one coal plant and some coal mines, it's been working to develop renewable energy sources.

Tourism also helps fuel the Navajo Nation's economy. Towering rock formations in Shiprock, Monument Valley and Canyon de Chelly are international draws for tourists, as is the story of the famed Navajo Code Talkers who developed a World War II code that the Japanese never cracked.

Conspiracists seeking key state election posts falling short - By Nicholas Riccardi Associated Press

Republicans who backed Donald Trump's failed efforts to overturn the 2020 election lost key races to oversee elections in some competitive states, even as others remained positioned to take those offices in more conservative parts of the country.

Doug Mastriano, the GOP nominee for governor in Pennsylvania who was seen outside the U.S. Capitol on the day of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection and regularly communicated with Trump as the then-president tried to reverse his loss to Joe Biden, lost to Democrat Josh Shapiro on election night. The state's governor appoints the secretary of state, who is the top voting official.

In Minnesota, Republican Kim Crockett, who echoed some of Trump's lies about voting, lost her bid for secretary of state, which in most states is the position that oversees state elections. In Michigan, Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson declared victory over Kristina Karamo, a community college instructor who became one of the most prominent election conspiracists in the country. The Associated Press has not yet called the race.

And in New Mexico, Republican Audrey Trujillo, who cheered on Trump's effort to reverse the voters' will in 2020, lost to Democratic Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver.

Races in Arizona and Nevada, major swing states where election conspiracists were competing for secretary of state positions, remained too early to call. But many democracy advocates and Democrats were cheered by the initial tallies in political battlegrounds.

"Ultimately, some voters likely chose candidates in part because they were committed to telling the truth and protecting election integrity," said Ben LaBolt, a Democratic strategist.

Still, in Republican-leaning states, some election conspiracists did win secretary of state offices.

Alabama voters gave the position to state Rep. Wes Allen, who backed a groundless lawsuit to overturn Biden's victory that was dismissed by the U.S. Supreme Court. In Indiana, Diego Morales, who ousted the Republican incumbent in the party primary by repeating Trump's election lies, won the race for secretary of state by defeating Democrat Destiny Scott Wells.

Wyoming Republican Chuck Gray, a state lawmaker who also endorsed efforts to overturn the 2020 election, was running unopposed for secretary of state.

All told, half of the 22 Republicans vying to be secretaries of states — and overseeing elections in most states — have repeated Trump's election lies. Seven endorsed his attempts to overturn the will of the people and remain in power.

"If they win, we're going to have someone who's run on a platform of election denial, saying, 'Actually, elections are only legitimate when my candidate wins,'" said David Becker, executive director of The Center for Election Innovation & Research and co-author of "The Big Truth," a book warning of the dangers of Trump's election lies.

In Arizona, state Rep. Mark Finchem, who attended Trump's rally on Jan. 6, 2021, right before the violent assault on the U.S. Capitol, has made clear he would not have certified Biden's 2020 win in that state. The GOP nominee in Nevada, Jim Marchant, made the same promise.

Republican Kristina Karamo in Michigan insisted Biden didn't actually win her state, but he did — and by more than 154,000 votes. Less than two before this year's midterms, Karamo sued to change Detroit's election procedures. A judge dismissed the case on Monday, saying there was no evidence to support the allegations. On Tuesday she tweeted a post from a conspiracy website spreading more doubt on the voting in the Democratic Party's bastion in the state.

Benson emailed supporters: "You showed the world that Michigan voters will vote for truth over lies. They will vote for facts over conspiracy theories. And they know the value of real results over empty promises."

In Minnesota, Crockett, a lawyer who echoed some of Trump's election lies, lost to Democratic Secretary of State Scott Simon.

"I want to thank Minnesotans today for their vote of confidence, not just in me, but in our entire democracy in Minnesota," Simon said at a party. "Our system in Minnesota is not perfect, but it is fundamentally fair, accurate, honest and secure. And you know what? People in Minnesota know it, right?"

The candidacies from election conspiracists have triggered big spending in the contests, predominantly by Democrats and their allies. Their ads pleaded for voters to think carefully before entrusting such candidates with the job of running elections.

Mastriano, for example, arranged for buses to transport people to Trump's Jan. 6 rally in Washington, which took place just before the riot. As a candidate, Mastriano promised to appoint someone who would wipe clean the voter rolls, forcing the state's roughly 8.8 million voters to re-register.

In Wisconsin, the state's bipartisan elections commissions oversees elections, but some Republicans want to change that. Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has blocked bills from the GOP-controlled Legislature that would wrest control of voting away from the commission.

Evers defeated Republican Tim Michels, a businessman backed by Trump who had his own plan for making the commission friendlier to Republicans.

Many Republican secretaries of state did rebuff Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election and they won primaries against challengers who questioned that outcome. The most prominent example was in Georgia, where Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger rejected Trump's private entreaties to "find" enough votes to declare him winner of the state, which Biden ally won.

Raffensperger's refusal infuriated Trump, who recruited a primary challenger who lost badly in the May primary. Raffensperger defeated Democratic state Sen. Bee Nguyen on Tuesday.

New Mexico reelects Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham - By Morgan Lee Associated Press

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham won reelection Tuesday to a second term by defeating Republican Mark Ronchetti on pledges to safeguard access to abortion and sustain public spending on social safety-net programs.

Lujan Grisham hitched her campaign to support for abortion access as a cornerstone of women's rights, along with legislative accomplishments that range from tax cuts to gun control and teacher pay raises.

"Tonight New Mexico said 'no' to a political crusade that wants to turn women into second-class citizens," the governor said in a victory speech to supporters in Albuquerque.

Her reelection in a heavily Hispanic state with entrenched swaths of extreme poverty is likely to prolong state support for tuition-free college for in-state students, expanded preschool and no-pay daycare, and shore up health care subsidies for low-income residents.

Ronchetti, a former television meteorologist, fell short as he skewered Lujan Grisham on public safety concerns and the governor's oversight of the economy, public education and child protective services.

"Do not give up on the promise of what New Mexico can become," Ronchetti told supporters.

Lujan Grisham said Democrats defeated a political movement fueled by anger.

"The weather forecast in New Mexico is four more years — four more years of progress, four more years of rebuilding, four more years of fighting for students and educators," the governor said.

In other statewide races, Maggie Toulouse Oliver won reelection as New Mexico's top elections official while Stephanie Garcia Richard will have a second term as state land commissioner. Democrat Raul Torrez, who serves as the top prosecutor in Bernalillo County, was elected as attorney general.

Lujan Grisham has drawn support from abortion-rights groups, teachers' union leaders and recent visits from U.S. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

During the pandemic, Lujan Grisham implemented aggressive public health restrictions on businesses and a roughly year-long suspension of classroom learning, promoting COVID-19 vaccinations with special attention to Native American communities.

Lujan Grisham's reelection victory safeguards recent legislation limiting police immunity from prosecution, provides legal access to medically assisted suicide and outlaws wildlife trapping on public land.

The former three-term congresswoman has championed an "all-of-the-above" strategy toward energy production as wind turbines proliferate across the nation's No. 2 state for oil production.

Lujan Grisham will command new authority over the electrical grid and power supplies by appointing regulators to the Public Regulation Commission, previously overseen by elected commissioners.

New Mexico has alternated between Democratic and Republican governors since the early 1980s. An incumbent governor last lost reelection in 1994.

Registered Republican David Cantrell of Santa Fe said he voted for Democrats across the ballot and has grown disillusioned with GOP candidates who give voice to conspiracy theories about elections and their proposals for reducing crime and inflation.

"It's corporate greed that drives inflation," he said.

The midterm election marked a second unsuccessful bid for public office by Ronchetti, who ran for Senate in 2020.

Supportive campaign visits from allied Republican governors and former Vice President Mike Pence failed to spell victory for Ronchetti, as he pledged to send troops and police to the U.S. Border with Mexico if elected.

Former President Donald Trump endorsed Ronchetti last week in a social media post.