Outgoing Governor Questions Ballot Procedures, Decision Brings Shake-up On Oil And Gas Panel

Nov 27, 2018

New Mexico Governor Questions Ballot ProceduresAssociated Press

Most midterm election results in New Mexico have been certified by the State Canvassing Board with recounts pending in a handful of state legislative races.

A board composed by Republican Gov. Susana Martinez, Supreme Court Chief Justice Judith Nakamura and Democratic Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver on Tuesday confirmed election results in which Democrats won all statewide and congressional races.

At the meeting, Martinez and attorneys with ties to the Republican Party raised repeated questions about the online application process in a sometimes heated discussion with election officials. Absentee ballots are the focus of litigation by defeated Republican congressional candidate Yvette Herrell in the state's southern district.

Election officials say that absentee ballots obtained online account for 2,823 votes in that congressional race. Democrat Xochitl Torres Small won the race by 3,722.

Ex-Customs Officer Gets Prison For Obstruction Of JusticeAssociated Press

A former U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer in Las Cruces has been sentenced to 366 days in prison for obstruction of justice.

Prosecutors say 32-year-old Christopher Holbrook also was sentenced Tuesday in federal court in Las Cruces to two years of supervised release after his prison term.

According to Holbrook's guilty plea, he falsified an official report regarding his use of force against a man in March 2015.

Prosecutors say Holbrook's report falsely claimed that he used the minimum amount of force necessary to control the man.

They say Holbrook admitted that he intentionally swept the man's legs out from under him and caused his head to hit the floor.

The victim was only identified by initials in court documents.

New Mexico Certifies Election Sweep By Democrats - Associated Press

New Mexico is certifying election results that give Democrats unfettered control of every statewide office and the state's five-member delegation to Capitol Hill.

The State Canvassing Board was prepared to meet Tuesday morning to confirm election results in all but a handful of state legislative races.

The state governor, secretary of state and chief justice of the New Mexico Supreme Court compose the board.

Results in three state House races are close enough to trigger automatic recounts. If current results are upheld, Democrats would hold a 46-24 majority next year.

Democrats have seized control from Republicans of the New Mexico governor's office and a southern congressional district. Democratic water attorney Xochitl Torres Small will succeed U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, while Democratic Michelle Lujan Grisham will succeed termed-out Gov. Susana Martinez.

Navajo Drops Bid That Could've Delayed Ballot Certification – Associated Press

The Navajo Nation has dropped a request that threatened to delay Arizona's certification of general election ballots because of alleged signature deficiencies.

The tribe filed a federal lawsuit last week that sought emergency relief for more than 100 Navajos who either weren't able to address mismatched signatures or didn't know to sign the ballot envelope.

A judge granted the tribe's request to withdraw a motion for a temporary restraining order at a hearing Monday.

The tribe says it spoke with Navajo, Apache and Coconino counties, and they agreed to work with the Navajo Nation to resolve voting problems.

The state plans to certify ballots Dec. 3.

The lawsuit still seeks the establishment of in-person voter registration, more early voting sites and election services in the Navajo language on the reservation.


Looking Ahead, Democrats Jockey To Be Pelosi's Heir Apparent Lisa Mascaro, Associated Press 

As Nancy Pelosi moves closer to securing the votes to become House speaker, the stage is being set down-ballot for the next generation of leaders jockeying to be the heirs apparent to Democratic leadership.

Pelosi's return to the speaker's office is not a lock, but her opponents have suffered a string of setbacks. House Democrats are set to meet behind closed doors Wednesday to start voting.

Meanwhile, up-and-comers are positioning themselves to be next in line once Pelosi's generation eventually steps down.

At the forefront is Rep. Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico, who helped usher in the majority as chairman of House Democrats' campaign committee. He is running unopposed for the No. 4 job as assistant Democratic leader.

Decision Results In Shake-up On New Mexico Oil And Gas Panel - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

A shake-up has resulted from a recent decision by New Mexico oil and gas regulators to ease restrictions on well locations for a Texas-based company operating in one of the nation's oldest producing basins.

New Mexico Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn has removed his agency's appointee to the Oil Conservation Commission after that staffer voted in favor of the request by Hilcorp Energy during a Nov. 19 hearing.

Dunn tells The Associated Press he's concerned about plans by Hilcorp to target thousands of its wells in the San Juan Basin toward a formation known as the Blanco-Mesaverde gas pool. Density limits had prevented the company from doing that without being granted exceptions for individual wells.

Dunn contends his office wasn't properly notified of the hearing and that 101 square miles of state trust land could be affected.

Dental Board Subpoenas New Mexico Dentist's Records - Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

The New Mexico Board of Dental Health is seeking records from a dentist accused of practicing without a license.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the board filed a motion in state district court this month ordering William Gardner to comply with a Sept. 4 subpoena.

According to the filing, the board received a formal complaint July 9 stating Gardner was practicing dentistry without a license. The complaint identified 82 people believed treated by Gardner without a license.

The filing claimed Gardner admitted during a May 11 deposition to practicing dentistry while his license was suspended.

Gardner's attorney Michael Danoff said he could not comment on the case because it was pending.

1 Dead After Small Plane Crashes In Santa Fe - Associated Press

Authorities say one person is dead after a small plane crashed in Santa Fe.

Police tell the Santa Fe New Mexican that the pilot was the only one on board when the plane went down about a mile short of the runway at Santa Fe Municipal Airport.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Lynn Lunsford says a single-engine Mooney M20 crashed Monday while apparently attempting to land. The aircraft was destroyed by fire.

Lunsford says the pilot had not been in contact with air traffic controllers prior to the accident.

It wasn't immediately known how many people were on board. No other information was immediately released.

New Mexico Lawmakers Endorse Pension, Health-benefit Reforms - Associated Press

Public employees across New Mexico would pay more for retirement health benefits under proposed reforms endorsed by a panel of state lawmakers.

A legislative committee on Monday pledged support for plans to shore up a retirement health care trust for public employees and a statewide pension fund for educators.

New Mexico Retiree Health Care Authority Executive Director David Archuleta is suggesting a phased-in 50 percent increase in contributions from public employees at school districts, state agencies, and city and county governments. Employer contributions also would increase.

In a separate legislative proposal, employers in public education would pay more into the state's largest public pension fund without increasing contributions from teachers.

The proposal from the Education Retirement Board would boost pension benefits for future teachers with lengthy careers.

Job Barriers Hit Some New Mexico Medical Marijuana Patients - The Santa Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

Some medical marijuana patients in New Mexico are finding a hard time gaining employment thanks to federal requirements on drug testing and a lack of flexibility for applicants.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the New Mexico Department of Health says about 58,000 New Mexicans have legal access to medical cannabis to treat approved ailments and diseases.

But Drug Policy Alliance of New Mexico Policy Director Jessica Gelay says national chains and New Mexico employers with ties to the federal government require drug testing.

Advocates say states like New Mexico should do more to protect the civil rights of medical marijuana patients around employment.

Gov.-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham's transition director, Dominic Gabello, says Lujan Grisham will order a review of the matter and will seek a solution.