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WEDS: New Mexico won't require COVID or flu immunization for school children, + More

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New Mexico urges flu, COVID immunization for children - Associated Press

State health officials are encouraging the immunization of children against flu and COVID-19 without making changes to its list of other vaccines required for school entry in the fall of 2023.

The New Mexico Department of Health announced Wednesday its school immunization requirements for the next school year. There were no changes to the list of mandatory immunizations for maladies including measles, mumps, tetanus, polio and chicken pox.

Immunization for flu, coronavirus and papillomavirus at appropriate ages are recommended but not required.

Health Department Secretary David Scrase says the agency has never required vaccinations for viral respiratory illnesses but is encouraging them based on an influx of young children getting sick with viruses including COVID-19, flu and respiratory syncytial virus. The influx of patients is straining hospital pediatric units.

"Vaccinating children against flu and COVID-19 would help prevent disease spread, severe illness and long-term complications in children," Scrase said in a statement.

Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, usually results in mild, cold-like symptoms and can cause severe breathing problems for babies.

A state vaccine advisory committee typically convenes once a year to discuss requirements for the upcoming school year. It met Nov. 3.

Maestas appointed to state Senate following bitter debate and dark accusations - By Patrick Lohmann, Source New Mexico 

Longtime Westside Albuquerque Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas will serve two years in the New Mexico Senate, an appointment that came at the end of a Bernalillo County Commission meeting punctuated with accusations of “schemes” and “conspiracy theories.”

The commission was tasked with appointing the replacement for former Sen. Jacob Candelaria, a longtime Democrat who recently changed his party affiliation to “decline to state.” He announced his resignation Oct. 19, saying he wants to start a family.

Maestas, who has represented a Westside seat for 16 years, immediately announced his interest in Candelaria’s seat, and Candelaria threw his support behind him.

Because the district’s lines are fully within Bernalillo County, the commission is required to name his replacement. Two commissioners immediately raised concerns about Maestas and whether Candelaria’s seat should would be filled before others had a chance to apply for the seat.

Another commissioner countered that delaying the vote would deprive the area of a representative for too long. Candelaria, in posts on Twitter, also said extending the timeline was a Mitch McConnell-style tactic aimed at stalling the appointment until a new commission is seated in early January — one that might be less favorable to Maestas.

Commissioner Debbie O’Malley, who pushed for postponing the appointment, also raised concerns Tuesday night about Maestas’ wife, lobbyist Vanessa Alarid, and a $5,000 donation she gave to a commissioner who ultimately voted for Maestas, Charlene Pyskoty. O’Malley said the donation was a way to buy Pyskoty’s vote, and O’Malley unsuccessfully tried to get Pyskoty to recuse herself and also to pause the appointment vote until after an ethics complaint regarding the matter is heard on Dec. 3.

“I believe she should recuse herself from the vote for the senator replacement, because Ms. Alarid’s husband is one of the nominees,” O’Malley said. “I think this is important because we are making an appointment in lieu of an election.”

Pyskoty denied any wrongdoing and said she wasn’t giving Maestas any special treatment. She also said that his spouse’s position as a lobbyist should have no bearing on the appointment before them.

“Vanessa Alarid is not the candidate here. It’s her husband. And he has never given me one thin dime,” Psykoty said. “And I’ve only spoken to him just a handful of times. I’ve spoken to all the candidates, all the applicants, in this process.”

Pyskoty and O’Malley have disagreed sharply on the matter before. The last time the topic came up at the commission’s Oct. 25 meeting, O’Malley called Pyskoty a slur after the meeting, according to the Albuquerque Journal. She apologized on Tuesday, but she also spelled out what she said was a “scheme” a year in the making to get Maestas a Senate seat.

She said during the meeting that Maestas has tried to use redistricting at the county and state level to ensure he had an easy path to Candelaria’s seat, and she accused him of depriving constituents the chance to weigh in on their next senator.

“What is disturbing … and very suspect is the fact that Rep. Maestas and Sen. Candelaria denied the voters in their districts, their constituents, the people they’re supposed to be fighting for, the right to choose their representative in the Legislature for over the next two years,” she said.

Maestas, reached briefly after the meeting, denied that he’d “schemed” to get the appointment. He said he learned along with the rest of the public that Candelaria was going to resign. And he said O’Malley is accusing him of the same tactics she’s employed in her political career as a commissioner and Albuquerque city councilor.

“It’s just amazing that people judge other people based on what they would do,” he said. “That’s how she rolls. She thinks everybody else rolls like her.”

O’Malley could not be reached after the meeting.

Three commissioners — a majority — voted for Maestas. They are Pyskoty, vice-chair Walt Benson and Steven Michael Quezada.

Maestas and seven other applicants threw their names in the hat to be appointed senator. They included Julie Radoslovich, director of the South Valley Academy, along with retired county commissioner and former Albuquerque City Councilor Steve Gallegos, and Em Ward, a doctor.

Radoslovich got two votes in favor of her appointment, the most of any other applicant. O’Malley and Chairperson Adriann Barboa voted for her. And about a dozen supporters stood up to speak in her favor, including former students and colleagues.

Quezada, who attended the meeting remotely, nominated Maestas for the seat, his voice piped in on the overhead speakers. Before he voted Tuesday night, via screen, he accused O’Malley of throwing out a half-baked theory about Maestas without evidence.

“To put conspiracy theories forward sounds a lot like MAGA (Make America Great Again) to me. But at the end of the day – yeah, you can roll your eyes,” he said, apparently seeing O’Malley’s reaction on the video stream. “That’s okay. The whole world saw that. But that’s the truth. You have no facts to base your conspiracy theories. I think this wasn’t a place to have that conversation.”

Quezada had, minutes earlier, suggested that Barboa — the chair and herself a registered lobbyist — might be conspiring to appoint a state lawmaker that she could lobby when the legislative session begins in January.

“If there’s a commissioner that’s a registered lobbyist that is herself or himself, appointing legislators or appointed officials, perhaps maybe that also could be looked at as a conflict of interest,” he said. “And I’m hoping that the news media will also look into that.”

Barboa, near the end of the meeting, defended her lobbying as being on behalf of reproductive rights and affordable health care. She has lobbied for Forward Together since 2013, according to the Openness Project.

”So I don’t work as a lobbyist with corporations or businesses,” she said. “I get to work for a nonprofit and with issues, by the people.”

Maestas will soon be sworn in as senator.

The commission will also have to replace him in the state’s House of Representatives, because his district also sits in Bernalillo County. It’s not clear yet whether that appointment will be as contentious.

However, the commission did vote on Tuesday to try to clean up the appointment process to potentially avoid this kind of acrimony. Now, the commission chair will be required to set a special meeting to name an appointment within three weeks of receiving a resignation letter from a lawmaker leaving ar seat.

The commission has named 11 replacement state lawmakers since 2015.

New Mexico officials warn of potential disruptions to county-level election certifications - By Ryan Lowery, Source New Mexico 

Voters statewide cast ballots last week to decide a number of races and local issues, and now that those votes have been counted, it’s up to county canvassing boards and commissions to complete the legal process of certifying election results.

The certification process is typically quick and straightforward, but in recent elections, unfounded fears, conspiracy theories and outright lies have caused delays. So far, no county has indicated plans to delay certification that are due in a few days, but the Secretary of State’s Office and the New Mexico Office of the Attorney General issued a joint statement Tuesday notifying county commissions that a legal team is ready to “take action against any attempts to interfere with legal certification.”

Under state law, each of the state’s 33 counties must have a canvassing board conduct a formal inspection of the election results. These boards then review vote totals and either certify the totals or order a recount.

In counties with 150,000 or more voters, the board has up to 13 days after the election to declare the results. In smaller counties, canvassing boards are required to declare certification no later than 10 days after an election.

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver and Attorney General Hector Balderas, through the joint statement, said they’re aware of election conspiracy theorists who might attempt to “enlist county commissions” to thwart legal certification of the 2022 general election results.

“These tactics are not new and were seen during the 2022 primary election when Otero County (influenced by these same election conspiracy theorists) attempted to neglect their legal duties and not certify the results of that election,” the statement said.

The Otero reference relates to an incident earlier this year when the County Commission initially refused to certify the results of the state’s June 7 primary election over distrust of vote-counting machines manufactured by Dominion Voting Systems, a Denver-based company that has been the target of many of former President Donald Trump’s false claims about fraudulent 2020 election results.

The board ultimately voted 2-1 to certify the results, but only after the state Supreme Court and the AG’s office stepped in.

The Otero County Commission — now composed of Republican Vickie Marquardt, Republican Gerald Matherly and Democrat Stephanie DuBois — unanimously voted Tuesday to certify the canvass of the 2022 general election.

Though no credible evidence of widespread voter fraud or manipulation of tallying machines has been found, Commissioner Marquardt said she still believes fraud is taking place nationwide.

“I think there is a fight for the elections in this country. I think it’s ongoing,” she said. “I think we all need to stay involved in it, but not certifying these elections — the only thing that’s going to do is probably get Gerald (Matherly) and I removed from office.”

Chaco drilling ban will likely only put a small dent in oil and gas production in regionShaun Griswold, Source New Mexico

A plan to bar new oil and gas leases within Chaco Canyon National Historic Park for 20 years will only slightly reduce the activity of extractive mineral industries, according to an environmental assessment released last week by the U.S. Interior Department.

The federal government announced a halt to new leases on about 338,690 acres within a 10 mile-radius in Chaco Canyon in January 2022.

The news was met with celebration by tribal entities and environmental groups, but advocates were concerned that the proposal wouldn’t apply to existing leases or to areas outside the buffer zone, so drilling would continue around the sacred site.

“There’s still going to be development going on in that 10-mile buffer, and there’s nothing to prohibit that,” said Carol Davis, director of Diné CARE, told the news publication Grist a month after the announcement. “And that’s going to expose people to the adverse health impacts that are a result of oil and gas fracking.”

The Interior Department projects that within the Chaco Canyon buffer zone, where new leases are not permitted, natural gas producers will see a reduction of less than 1% in their output. Oil and gas companies could see about 2.5% less production than in years before the ban.

The Chaco region is a large swath of northwest New Mexico, and it’s considered a checkerboard area because of the way small parts of the Navajo Nation dot the landscape.

On a state level, New Mexico already has a 12-mile buffer zone banning new oil and gas leases on state land around Chaco that went into effect in 2019.

That executive order was signed by state Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard.

“The moratorium on oil and gas drilling does not mean there’s a moratorium on activity. I mean, we haven’t decided what activity would occur obviously, right in this area,” she said. “We are still contemplating what uses that land would be for.”

Garcia Richard won re-election last week with 55% of voters saying yes to another four-year term for the commissioner. She supports the federal government’s approach to Chaco Canyon, she said, and if it weren’t for limits imposed by state law, she’d make the state’s ban in the area extend for longer. It’s set to expire in Dec. 2023, and she’s already preparing to seek a renewal.

She said the State Land Office has not seen any impact from the ban on oil and gas revenue to the state. In fact, the industry is making record profits. For fiscal year 2022, New Mexico earned more than $2.4 billion for business on state lands, the majority of which comes from oil and gas. That nearly doubled the agency’s record for revenue in a single year, Garcia Richard said.

“This is not necessarily that impactful to production. But it’s still, you know, it’s a worthy thing to do because this area is so sacred and significant to so many in our state,” she said.

Windfalls of millions in revenue are attractive for any state, but the boom-and-bust nature of the industry is a lingering concern for people like Rebecca Sobel.

Sobel, organizing Director for WildEarth Guardians, said she approves of the moves Garcia Richard has made to protect Chaco Canyon and would like to see the moratorium expanded. She does hold some concerns that the federal government isn’t doing enough to hold the industry accountable.

“I think it’s all too common of a trope in New Mexico, to be concerned for the self-interest of the oil and gas industry because our state budget is held hostage by industry profits,” Sobel said. “The entire Greater Caco landscape deserves protection. The Chaco Canyon culture doesn’t stop at the 10-mile buffer. The Chaco landscape is a living culture where communities still reside.”

The State Land Office is taking part in the Honoring Chaco Initiative where the Interior Department is hosting discussions between tribal leaders, business, state, federal and other parties invested in the future of stewardship in the area.

This part of the process is welcome by both Sobel and Garcia Richard because it brings tribal interests to the table while negotiating action plans.

“It’s encouraging to see Secretary Haaland try to run the Interior differently, especially with this initiative, getting tribes to come to the table to have their own voice and deciding what’s in their own self-interest,” Sobel said. “It’s a really important step that it’s happening, but it’s still yet to be seen what the outcomes of this process are going to be because the greater Chaco landscape has a legacy of issues dealing with the results of being sacrificed for decades.”

Garcia Richard said the expertise was obvious.

“There’s not going to be anybody but a tribal member who will know the significance of these issues we’re working on,” Garcia Richard said.

From the moment she started drafting the drilling lease moratorium for New Mexico, Garcia Richard made sure to include tribal interests in her plans, she said, eventually collaborating with and gathering support from leaders within Indigenous communities to work with environmental groups and others in presenting the final order.

She’s excited to see the federal government follow up with a similar approach.

“This land is ancestral to tribes in New Mexico, and it’s sacred and significant to tribes in New Mexico,” Garcia Richard said. “The one thing I probably would caution anyone who wants to undergo tribal constitution is not to make it just kind of a de facto, checkbox process. Consultation should be done early, often, and it should be meaningful.”

Maestas appointed to state Senate following bitter debate and dark accusationsPatrick Lohman, Source New Mexico

Longtime Westside Albuquerque Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas will serve two years in the New Mexico Senate, an appointment that came at the end of a Bernalillo County Commission meeting punctuated with accusations of “schemes” and “conspiracy theories.”

The commission was tasked with appointing the replacement for former Sen. Jacob Candelaria, a longtime Democrat who recently changed his party affiliation to “decline to state.” He announced his resignation Oct. 19, saying he wants to start a family.

Maestas, who has represented a Westside seat for 16 years, immediately announced his interest in Candelaria’s seat, and Candelaria threw his support behind him.

Because the district’s lines are fully within Bernalillo County, the commission is required to name his replacement. Two commissioners immediately raised concerns about Maestas and whether Candelaria’s seat should would be filled before others had a chance to apply for the seat.

Another commissioner countered that delaying the vote would deprive the area of a representative for too long. Candelaria, in posts on Twitter, also said extending the timeline was a Mitch McConnell-style tactic aimed at stalling the appointment until a new commission is seated in early January — one that might be less favorable to Maestas.

Commissioner Debbie O’Malley, who pushed for postponing the appointment, also raised concerns Tuesday night about Maestas’ wife, lobbyist Vanessa Alarid, and a $5,000 donation she gave to a commissioner who ultimately voted for Maestas, Charlene Pyskoty. O’Malley said the donation was a way to buy Pyskoty’s vote, and O’Malley unsuccessfully tried to get Pyskoty to recuse herself and also to pause the appointment vote until after an ethics complaint regarding the matter is heard on Dec. 3.

“I believe she should recuse herself from the vote for the senator replacement, because Ms. Alarid’s husband is one of the nominees,” O’Malley said. “I think this is important because we are making an appointment in lieu of an election.”

Pyskoty denied any wrongdoing and said she wasn’t giving Maestas any special treatment. She also said that his spouse’s position as a lobbyist should have no bearing on the appointment before them.

“Vanessa Alarid is not the candidate here. It’s her husband. And he has never given me one thin dime,” Psykoty said. “And I’ve only spoken to him just a handful of times. I’ve spoken to all the candidates, all the applicants, in this process.”

Pyskoty and O’Malley have disagreed sharply on the matter before. The last time the topic came up at the commission’s Oct. 25 meeting, O’Malley called Pyskoty a slur after the meeting, according to the Albuquerque Journal. She apologized on Tuesday, but she also spelled out what she said was a “scheme” a year in the making to get Maestas a Senate seat.

She said during the meeting that Maestas has tried to use redistricting at the county and state level to ensure he had an easy path to Candelaria’s seat, and she accused him of depriving constituents the chance to weigh in on their next senator.

“What is disturbing … and very suspect is the fact that Rep. Maestas and Sen. Candelaria denied the voters in their districts, their constituents, the people they’re supposed to be fighting for, the right to choose their representative in the Legislature for over the next two years,” she said.

Maestas, reached briefly after the meeting, denied that he’d “schemed” to get the appointment. He said he learned along with the rest of the public that Candelaria was going to resign. And he said O’Malley is accusing him of the same tactics she’s employed in her political career as a commissioner and Albuquerque city councilor.

“It’s just amazing that people judge other people based on what they would do,” he said. “That’s how she rolls. She thinks everybody else rolls like her.”

O’Malley could not be reached after the meeting.

Three commissioners — a majority — voted for Maestas. They are Pyskoty, vice-chair Walt Benson and Steven Michael Quezada.

Maestas and seven other applicants threw their names in the hat to be appointed senator. They included Julie Radoslovich, director of the South Valley Academy, along with retired county commissioner and former Albuquerque City Councilor Steve Gallegos, and Em Ward, a doctor.

Radoslovich got two votes in favor of her appointment, the most of any other applicant. O’Malley and Chairperson Adriann Barboa voted for her. And about a dozen supporters stood up to speak in her favor, including former students and colleagues.

Quezada, who attended the meeting remotely, nominated Maestas for the seat, his voice piped in on the overhead speakers. Before he voted Tuesday night, via screen, he accused O’Malley of throwing out a half-baked theory about Maestas without evidence.

“To put conspiracy theories forward sounds a lot like MAGA (Make America Great Again) to me. But at the end of the day – yeah, you can roll your eyes,” he said, apparently seeing O’Malley’s reaction on the video stream. “That’s okay. The whole world saw that. But that’s the truth. You have no facts to base your conspiracy theories. I think this wasn’t a place to have that conversation.”

Quezada had, minutes earlier, suggested that Barboa — the chair and herself a registered lobbyist — might be conspiring to appoint a state lawmaker that she could lobby when the legislative session begins in January.

“If there’s a commissioner that’s a registered lobbyist that is herself or himself, appointing legislators or appointed officials, perhaps maybe that also could be looked at as a conflict of interest,” he said. “And I’m hoping that the news media will also look into that.”

Barboa, near the end of the meeting, defended her lobbying as being on behalf of reproductive rights and affordable health care. She has lobbied for Forward Together since 2013, according to the Openness Project.

”So I don’t work as a lobbyist with corporations or businesses,” she said. “I get to work for a nonprofit and with issues, by the people.”

Maestas will soon be sworn in as senator.

The commission will also have to replace him in the state’s House of Representatives, because his district also sits in Bernalillo County. It’s not clear yet whether that appointment will be as contentious.

However, the commission did vote on Tuesday to try to clean up the appointment process to potentially avoid this kind of acrimony. Now, the commission chair will be required to set a special meeting to name an appointment within three weeks of receiving a resignation letter from a lawmaker leaving ar seat.

The commission has named 11 replacement state lawmakers since 2015.

Judge orders end to Trump-era asylum restrictions at border - By Elliot Spagat Associated Press

A federal judge on Tuesday ordered the Biden administration to lift Trump-era asylum restrictions that have been a cornerstone of border enforcement since the beginning of COVID-19.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan ruled in Washington that enforcement must end immediately for families and single adults, calling the ban "arbitrary and capricious." The administration has not applied it to children traveling alone.

Within hours, the Justice Department asked the judge to let the order take effect Dec. 21, giving it five weeks to prepare. Plaintiffs including the American Civil Liberties Union didn't oppose the delay.

"This transition period is critical to ensuring that (the Department of Homeland Security) can continue to carry out its mission to secure the Nation's borders and to conduct its border operations in an orderly fashion," government attorneys wrote.

Sullivan, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton, wrote in a 49-page ruling that authorities failed to consider the impact on migrants and possible alternatives.

The ruling appears to conflict with another in May by a federal judge in Louisiana that kept the asylum restrictions.

If Sullivan's ruling stands, it would upend border enforcement. Migrants have been expelled from the United States more than 2.4 million times since the rule took effect in March 2020, denying migrants rights to seek asylum under U.S. and international law on grounds of preventing the spread of COVID-19.

The practice was authorized under Title 42 of a broader 1944 law covering public health.

Before the judge in Louisiana kept the ban in place in May, U.S. officials said they were planning for as many as 18,000 migrants a day under the most challenging scenario, a staggering number. In May, migrants were stopped an average of 7,800 times a day, the highest of Joe Biden's presidency.

Immigration advocacy groups have pressed hard to end Title 42, but more moderate Democrats, including U.S. Sens. Mark Kelly of Arizona and Raphael Warnock of Georgia, wanted it to stay when the administration tried to lift it in May.

The ban has been unevenly enforced by nationality, falling largely on migrants from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — in addition to Mexicans — because Mexico allows them to be returned from the United States. Last month, Mexico began accepting Venezuelans who are expelled from the United States under Title 42, causing a sharp drop in Venezuelans seeking asylum at the U.S. border.

Nationalities that are less likely to be subject to Title 42 have become a growing presence at the border, confident they will be released in the United States to pursue their immigration cases. In October, Cubans were the second-largest nationality at the border after Mexicans, followed by Venezuelans and Nicaraguans.

The Homeland Security Department said it would use the next five weeks to "prepare for an orderly transition to new policies at the border."

"We continue to work with countries throughout the Western Hemisphere to take enforcement actions against the smuggling networks that entice migrants to take the dangerous and often deadly journey to our land borders and to address the root causes of irregular migration that are challenging our hemisphere as a whole," the department said.

ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt said Sullivan's decision renders the Louisiana ruling moot.

"This is an enormous victory for desperate asylum seekers who have been barred from even getting a hearing because of the misuse of public laws," Gelernt said. "This ruling hopefully puts an end to this horrendous period in U.S. history in which we abandoned our solemn commitment to provide refuge to those facing persecution."

Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy counsel for the American Immigration Council, an immigrant advocacy group, distinguished Sullivan's ruling from the one by U.S. District Judge Robert Summerhays in Louisiana, an appointee of President Donald Trump, which applied only to how the Biden administration tried to end Title 42. Sullivan found the entire rule invalid.

New Mexico begins certification process for midterm election - By Morgan Lee Associated Press

Midterm election results were certified Tuesday by at least three county commissions in New Mexico at the start of a once-routine process that in some locations has become a focal point for those voicing distrust in voting systems.

Among the decisions, Otero County's three county commissioners voted unanimously to certify Nov. 8 election results at a meeting in Alamogordo after a briefing by the county's top elections official.

The Otero County commission in June initially refused to certify primary election results while citing distrust of voting systems used to tally the vote — even though County Clerk Robyn Holmes said there were no problems. The commission reversed course on a 2-1 vote to certify the primary after Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver successfully petitioned the state Supreme Court to issue an order directing the local board to certify.

On Tuesday, Otero County Commission Chairwoman Vickie Marquardt commended the work of local election officials in the midterm election.

She said she still believes there are election problems in the U.S. but noted that county commissioners have limited oversight authority under New Mexico state law.

"We're basically like notaries," Marquardt said. "The county commission cannot remove the voting machines, we cannot demand a hand recount. ... And I know that you guys wish that it was in our authority. But it's not."

Commissioners in Socorro and Curry counties also voted unanimously to certify local election results.

Most of the state's 33 counties have until Friday to review any election discrepancies presented by county clerks and vote on certification. Those decisions are typically followed by a review of the state canvassing board, automatic recounts in close races and a post-election audit.

Attempts to delay primary results in a handful of New Mexico counties earlier this year have brought new scrutiny to a process that typically takes place quietly in the weeks after Election Day.

Partisan officials are involved in certifying elections in most states, something experts worry about after nearly two years of conspiracy theories falsely claiming the 2020 presidential election was stolen from former President Donald Trump. There is no evidence of widespread fraud or manipulated voting machines, and reviews in battleground states confirmed Democrat Joe Biden's win.

In Otero County in June, the dissenting vote against certification came from Couy Griffin, who was removed from office in September and barred from public office by a state judge for engaging in insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

The state Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to hear an appeal by Griffin of his removal and banishment from public office. Griffin and his attorney in the case could not immediately be reached for comment.

Griffin, a founder of the Cowboys for Trump, a group that has staged horseback parades to spread Trump's conservative message, said his vote against certification of the primary was based on his "gut feeling," but he didn't cite any specific discrepancies in the vote tally.

In the midterm election, voters in staunchly conservative Otero County favored Republican candidates by wide margins in statewide races for governor, attorney general and secretary of state. Democrats won every statewide elected office on the ballot and flipped a congressional seat in southern New Mexico.

Preliminary elections results show more than 60% of Otero County voters cast ballots for Republican candidate for Secretary of State Audrey Trujillo, who aligned her campaign with a coalition that seeks large-scale changes to elections administration.

Hobbs woman accused of dumping baby could face Dec. 19 trialKRQE-TV, Associated Press

A young Hobbs woman accused of abandoning her newborn by putting the baby into a trash container in near-freezing temperatures last January could go on trial next month.

KRQE-TV reported Tuesday that New Mexico prosecutors have a tentative start date of Dec. 19.

Prosecutors say Alexis Avila is charged with child abuse resulting in great bodily injury with the alternative of attempted murder.

A group of people looking through the container behind a Hobbs shopping center told authorities they heard cries and found a baby boy wrapped in a dirty blanket with an umbilical cord still attached.

They tried to keep the child warm until police and paramedics arrived. Authorities estimated the baby had been in the trash container for six hours and had hypothermia symptoms but survived.

According to a criminal complaint, Avila said she didn't know she was pregnant until Jan. 6 when she went to a doctor for stomach pain. She gave birth in a bathroom at her family's home following day.

Avila was 18 at the time and told police she panicked and didn't know what to do or who to call.

Investigators used surveillance video to identify a car suspected of being involved and that led them to Avila with search warrants turning up blood evidence.

The baby now named Saul remains in the care of his teenage father, who said Avila told him that she had a miscarriage.