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TUES: New Mexico primary holds implications for Legislature and prosecutor in Alec Baldwin case, + More

A polling location on Albuquerque’s Westside in 2022
Gino Gutierrez
Source NM
A polling location on Albuquerque’s Westside in 2022

New Mexico primary holds implications for Legislature and prosecutor in Alec Baldwin case - By Morgan Lee, Associated Press

New Mexico voters are picking their partisan favorites in Tuesday's primary to reshape a Democratic-led Legislature, with all 112 seats up for election in November.

The votes in the first Senate election since redistricting in 2021 hold implications for Native American communities, the state's oil industry and the #MeToo movement.

New Mexico has a closed primary system that limits participation to voters who register with major parties, leaving out Independent or unaffiliated voters, but not Libertarians.

Making it through to the general election might hinge on small margins because of generally low turnout. About 117,000 ballots were cast in early and absentee voting prior to Tuesday, out of about 1.3 million registered voters.

Democrats are picking district attorneys in crime-weary Albuquerque and the Santa Fe area, where Alec Baldwin is scheduled to stand trial in July in the fatal shooting of a cinematographer.


In Senate District 30, activist Angel Charley of the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women is seeking the Democratic nomination against pro-business, socially conservative former Sen. Clemente Sanchez in a redrawn district with more Native American influence.

Charley is Diné, with Laguna and Zuni Pueblo ancestry. There are no Republican contenders in the district stretching from Isleta Pueblo near Albuquerque to the Arizona state line, traversing Acoma and Laguna pueblos.

In House District 69, incumbent Democratic Rep. Harry Garcia of Grants is seeking a fifth term, with two challengers in the decisive primary. They are: attorney Michelle "Paulene" Abeyta of To'hajiilee on the Navajo Nation, and state employee and miner Stanley Michael of San Mateo. Two-thirds of registered voters in the district identify as Native American.


Democratic primaries could unseat district attorneys in crime-weary Albuquerque as well as Santa Fe, where special prosecutors are preparing to bring Alec Baldwin to trial in July on an involuntary manslaughter charge.

District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies has vowed to hold Baldwin accountable for the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. Former district attorney Marco Serna hopes to unseat her.

In Albuquerque, incumbent District Attorney Sam Bregman, an appointee of the governor, is running for the Democratic nomination to retain the seat against Damon Martinez, who served as U.S. Attorney for New Mexico under President Barack Obama.


The Democratic primary in Senate District 15 provides a reckoning over allegations of sexual harassment.

Longstanding centrist Democratic Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto is confronting progressive primary challenger Heather Berghmans in Albuquerque, to compete with a GOP candidate in November. Ivey-Soto resigned from a committee leadership post in 2022 amid allegations of sexual harassment and bullying behavior towards women. A complaint about his consulting work for county clerks and possible conflicts of interest was dismissed in May by the State Ethics Commission. The Albuquerque district extends from the intersection of Interstates 25 and 40 toward the city's northeastern heights.

In House District 18, four Democrats are vying for an open seat with no GOP competitors — physician Anjali Taneja, nurse Gloria Doherty, computer technician Juan Larrañaga and Marianna Anaya. Anaya, an activist and lobbyist for progressive causes, previously accused Ivey-Soto of groping her at a hotel reception in 2015. The winner succeeds retiring Democratic Sen. Bill Tallman in an eastern Albuquerque district that straddles I-40.


In Senate District 42 and House District 62, Republicans are competing as oil-industry advocates and conservative standard-bearers.

Oilman and state Rep. Larry Scott of Hobbs is competing against rancher and recently appointed state Sen. Steve McCutcheon of Carlsbad for control of a Senate district in the heart of southeastern New Mexico's oil economy. McCutcheon was tapped by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham last year to succeed retired state Sen. Gay Kernan.

In an overlapping House district, three Republicans from Hobbs are vying to succeed Scott without competition from Democrats — Elaine Sena Cortez, Debra Hicks and attorney D'Nae Robinett Mills.


Republicans who backed Donald Trump's failed efforts to overturn the 2020 election are seeking the GOP nomination in two state Senate districts.

In District 12, Sandoval County Commissioner Jay Block of Rio Rancho is competing against Albuquerque-based Republican Candace Gould for the chance to run against Democrat Phillip Ramirez of Albuquerque in the compact urban district. Block voted twice as a commissioner in 2022 against certifying local election results while stoking doubts about election integrity.

In District 9, Audrey Trujillo of Corrales is seeking the GOP nomination for an open seat after running unsuccessfully for secretary of state in 2022. She has cheered Trump's efforts to reverse the will of voters in 2020. Frida Susana Vasquez of Rio Rancho sought the GOP nomination in the district stretching from Bernalillo to Algodones, including portions of Sandia Pueblo. Democrats are choosing between Heather Balas of Corrales of and Cindy Nava of Bernalillo.


More than 20 incumbents have primary challengers.

In Senate District 13, incumbent state Sen. Bill O'Neill of Albuquerque is competing for the Democratic nomination in a heavily redrawn district against another seasoned politician — Bernalillo County Commissioner Debbie O'Malley. The district includes downtown Albuquerque.

In Senate District 3, Shannon Pinto of Tohatchi on the Navajo Nation is being challenged in a decisive Democratic primary by Sherylene Yazzie of Coyote Canyon. Pinto succeeded her grandfather, John Pinto, a World War II Navajo Code Talker and the state's longest-serving senator. The northwestern district includes parts of the Navajo Nation and Gallup.

Southwest US to bake in first heat wave of season and records may fall - By Scott Sonner and Anita Snow Associated Press

Parts of California, Nevada and Arizona are expected to bake this week as the first heat wave of the season arrives with triple-digit temperatures forecast for areas including Phoenix, which last summer saw a record 31 straight days of at least 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43.3 Celsius).

By Wednesday, most of an area stretching from southeast California to central Arizona will see "easily their hottest" weather since last September, and record daily highs will be in jeopardy from Las Vegas to Phoenix, the National Weather Service said late Monday.

Excessive heat warnings have been issued from 10 a.m. Wednesday to 8 p.m. Friday due to the "dangerously hot conditions," the weather service said.

Fire crews will be on high alert especially in Arizona, where fire restrictions went into effect before Memorial Day in some areas and will be ordered by Thursday across most of the western and south-central parts of the state, authorities said.

Fire forecasters at the Southwest Coordination Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, said weather in the region doesn't typically become so hot until mid- or late June.

"It does seem like Mother Nature is turning up the heat on us a little sooner than usual," Tiffany Davila, spokesperson for the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management, said Monday evening.

"We can't back down from a fire just because it's pushing 113 degrees outside. But we do keep a close eye on everybody in the field. Make sure they are keeping hydrated and taking more breaks than they normally would," she told The Associated Press.

Highs on Monday reached 110 F (43.3 C) at Death Valley National Park in California near the Nevada line, 103 F (39.4 C) in Phoenix and 105 F (40.5 C) in Needles, California.

Slightly above normal temperatures are forecast for the region on Tuesday before they start heating up on Wednesday.

In Las Vegas, where the high topped out at 103 F (39.4 C) on Monday, temperatures will soar to 10 to 15 degrees above normal during the second half of the week — peaking at 111 (43.8 C) on Thursday.

A high of 120 F (48.8 C) is forecast for Thursday at Furnace Creek in Death Valley.

The current forecasted high of 113 F (45 C) for Phoenix on Thursday would break the daily record high of 111 F (43.8 C) set in 2016. Last summer, the high there reached 110 F (43.3 C) or higher from the last day of June through the entire month of July. At least 400 of the 645 heat-related deaths that occurred last year were during that monthlong period.

Phoenix, Maricopa County and Arizona state officials this year are striving to better protect people from ever higher temperatures. Those most in danger from the heat are people outdoors, especially homeless people in downtown areas who often don't have access to sufficient shade, air conditioning and cold water.

Governments this year are setting aside more money so some cooling stations can stay open longer and on the weekends, including two that will keep their doors open overnight.

Mesa, Arizona, Mayor John Giles said they are "committed to ensuring that those most vulnerable to heat exposure have access to essential life-saving services, including hydration and cooling stations and daytime respite centers."

Additional fire restrictions set to go into effect Thursday across Bureau of Land Management lands in Arizona will come with bans on campfires, open flames and recreational shooting in some areas, BLM spokesperson Delores Garcia said.

"As the heat goes up, so does the threat of wildfires," she said.

"We have noticed the effects of the winter and early spring rains really brought up the vegetation and the higher heat has just cured that vegetation. That's what we are seeing as the driving factor. And then winds on top of that," Garcia said.

Meanwhile, California's largest wildfire so far this year was significantly surrounded on Monday after blackening a swath of hilly grasslands between San Francisco Bay and the Central Valley.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said the Corral Fire was 75% contained after scorching more than 22 square miles (57 square kilometers).

One home was destroyed and two firefighters were injured. The wind-driven fire erupted Saturday afternoon and at one point thousands of people were under evacuation orders.


Sonner reported from Reno, Nevada.

Biden prepares an order that would shut down asylum if a daily average of 2,500 migrants arrive - By Seung Min Kim, Stephen Groves and Colleen Long Associated Press

The White House is telling lawmakers that President Joe Biden is preparing to sign off on an executive order that would shut down asylum requests at the U.S.-Mexico border once the average number of daily encounters hits 2,500 between ports of entry, with the border reopening only once that number declines to 1,500, according to several people familiar with the discussions.

The impact of the 2,500 figure means that the executive order could go into immediate effect, because daily figures are higher than that now.

The Democratic president is expected to unveil the actions — his most aggressive unilateral move yet to control the numbers at the border — at the White House on Tuesday at an event to which border mayors have been invited.

Five people familiar with the discussions on Monday confirmed the 2,500 figure, while two of the people confirmed the 1,500 number. The figures are daily averages over the course of a week. All the people insisted on anonymity to discuss an executive order that is not yet public.

While other border activity, such as trade, is expected to continue, the 1,500 threshold at which the border would reopen for asylum seekers could be hard to reach. The last time the daily average dipped to 1,500 encounters was in July 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senior White House officials, including chief of staff Jeff Zients and legislative affairs director Shuwanza Goff, have been informing lawmakers on Capitol Hill of details of the planned order ahead of the formal rollout Tuesday. But several questions remain about how the executive order would work, particularly how much cooperation the U.S. would need from Mexican officials to carry out the executive order.

The president has been deliberating for months over how to act on his own after bipartisan legislation to clamp down on asylum at the border collapsed because Republicans defected from the deal en masse at the urging of Donald Trump, the former president and presumptive Republican presidential nominee. Biden continued to consider executive action even though the number of illegal crossings at the southern border has declined for months, partly because of a stepped-up effort by Mexico.

Biden administration officials had waited until after Mexico's presidential elections, held Sunday, to move on the U.S. president's border actions. Mexico elected Claudia Sheinbaum, the nation's first female leader, and Biden said in a statement Monday that he was committed to "advancing the values and interests of both our nations to the benefit of our peoples." The two spoke on the phone Monday, although White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre declined to say whether they spoke about the pending order.

"We continue to look at all options on the table," Jean-Pierre told reporters traveling with Biden on Air Force One on Monday evening.

The executive order will allow Biden to declare that he has pushed the boundaries of his own power after lawmakers, specifically congressional Republicans, killed off what would have been the toughest border and asylum restrictions in some time. Biden's order is aimed at trying to head off any potential spike in border encounters that could happen later this year, closer to the November elections.

For Biden's executive order, the White House is adopting some policies directly from the bipartisan Senate border deal, including the idea of limiting asylum requests once the encounters hit a certain number. The administration wants to encourage migrants to seek asylum at ports of entry by using the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's CBP One app, which schedules about 1,450 appointments per day.

Administration lawyers have been planning to tap executive powers outlined in Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which gives a president broad authority to block entry of certain immigrants into the U.S. if it is deemed "detrimental" to the national interest. It is the same legal rationale used by Trump to take some of his toughest actions on migration as president.

That has advocacy groups already preparing to challenge Biden's immigration order in court.

"We will need to review the (executive order) before making final litigation decisions," said Lee Gelernt, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union who led several of the most high-profile challenges to Trump's border policies. "But a policy that effectively shuts down asylum would raise clear legal problems, just as (it) did when the Trump administration tried to end asylum."

The White House is also sure to encounter vocal resistance from many Democratic lawmakers. California Sen. Alex Padilla, an outspoken critic of the Senate's earlier border bill, said the pending executive order was "just not the solution we need and it's very incomplete as a strategy."

Padilla, who was also briefed by the White House on the proposal, wants an approach that works with countries throughout Latin America to address the poverty and unrest that drives migration to the United States. In recent weeks, Padilla has also pressed the White House for executive actions that benefit immigrants and said the message he has heard in return is, "We're working on it."

Biden will unveil his executive order flanked by several border mayors whom the White House invited for the announcement. Texas Mayors John Cowen of Brownsville and Ramiro Garza of Edinburg both confirmed their invitations, and San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria's office also said the White House invited the mayor, but he could not attend due to scheduling difficulties.

Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Texas Democrat who said he was briefed on the plan, said he wishes the White House would have taken executive action a long time ago and said cooperation from Mexico would continue to be critical as the administration implements the order.

"If you think about the logistics, where else can they go?" Cuellar said. "If they're not going to let them in, where do they go? Do they return them (to Mexico), or do they try to deport as many as they can? We did add a lot more money into ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) so they can deport, but the easiest thing, of course, is just send them back to Mexico. You've got to have the help of Mexico to make this work."

Jennifer Babaie, an attorney at Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso, Texas, said she would be alarmed if Biden issued formal deportation orders without an opportunity to seek asylum. Advocates worry he may attempt that under the 212(f) provision.

Pandemic-era expulsion authority known as Title 42 had "a silver lining" for migrants because they could try again without fearing legal consequences, Babaie said. But a formal deportation order would expose them to felony prosecution if they attempted again and it would impose bars on legally entering the country in the future.

"This is even more extreme than (Title 42), while still putting people in harm's way," Babaie said.

Associated Press writers Elliot Spagat in San Diego and Fatima Hussein on Air Force One contributed to this report.