THURS: Governor Launches Council For Racial Justice, + More

Jun 4, 2020

Governor Launches Council For Racial JusticeAlbuquerque Journal, Santa Fe New Mexican, KUNM

As protests continue around the country and in New Mexico over the death of an unarmed Minneapolis man in police custody, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced the creation of a Council for Racial Justice.

The Albuquerque Journal reported during a public meeting streamed on Facebook from the Roundhouse, Lujan Grisham said it’s time to address the “ugly truth” of racism that is embedded in our society and institutions.

The governor said she was appalled by the response of the White House to demonstrations over the death of George Floyd and by the militarization of police departments.

Rev. Donna Maria Davis and Democratic State Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton joined the governor in the public briefing. They will be part of the council, as will former state treasurer James Lewis.

Alexandria Taylor with the New Mexico Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs was also part of the public briefing. The Santa Fe New Mexican reported Taylor said it’s time for “painful and honest conversation” about how power structures can be more responsive to community members.

Lujan Grisham did not have specifics on what the council will do, but said the state must be open to all ideas in order to prevent the spread of racism.

She added that she expects a spike in COVID-19 cases because of the protests in New Mexico, but understands why people feel they need to protest.

The governor ordered state flags flown at half-mast through sundown Friday for George Floyd, whose memorial was also held Thursday.

Navajo Nation Keeps Closings, Curfews; Weekend Lockdowns EndAssociated Press

The Navajo Nation is extending its closure of tribal government facilities and continuing its overnight curfews while pausing weekend lockdowns imposed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Tribal health officials reported 128 additional cases of COVID-19 and seven additional deaths, increasing the total number of cases to 5,661 with 259 deaths, as of Wednesday.

Tribal President Jonathan Nez signed an order extending the closure of tribal government offices and entities to July 5.

Officials say a separate health emergency order will be issued to continue the daily curfew that runs from 8:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. and to pause the 57-hour weekend lockdowns. 

COVID-19 Races Through Prison Facilities In New Mexico – Associated Press

Coronavirus infections continue to sweep through state and federal prison populations in New Mexico as health officials report 218 new positive tests for COVID-19 statewide.

The New Mexico Department of Health on Thursday confirmed 110 virus infections among inmates overseen by state and federal authorities at facilities in Otero County.

That raises total confirmed COVID-19 infections among inmates at detention facilities in Otero County to 455. There were eight new deaths related to the coronavirus across the state.

At least 383 people have died from COVID-19 statewide. New Mexico has confirmed 8,353 infections from the pandemic through testing.

New Mexico Reports 218 More Coronavirus Cases, 8 More Deaths – Associated Press

Health officials in New Mexico say they have confirmed 218 more coronavirus cases with eight additional deaths.

That pushes the number of COVID-19 cases in the state to 8,353 with 383 known deaths as of Thursday.

State health officials say four of the eight deaths were in McKinley County with two in San Juan County and one in Bernalillo County.

McKinley and San Juan counties have been hit the hardest and account for more than half of New Mexico's infections.

McKinley County has 2,542 positive COVID-19 cases with San Juan County at 1,842. Bernalillo County, the state's most populous county, has 1,543 cases. 

GOP House Race Drags On After Vote-Counting Board Walks Out - By Cedar Attanasio And Morgan Lee Associated Press

A Republican congressional primary remained undecided as local election regulators in northern New mexico tallied a deluge of absentee ballots. 

Vote tabulation was stretching into a third day on Thursday in Santa Fe County, as three Republicans competed for the 3rd Congressional District nomination and the chance to succeed U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján as he runs for U.S. Senate. 

The GOP contenders are Navajo Nation member Karen Evette Bedonie of Mexican Springs, environmental engineer Alexis Johnson of Santa Fe and former Santa Fe County commissioner Harry Montoya. 

The race has been complicated by complaints of unsent absentee ballots and polling stations closed due to COVID-19.

Election regulators in Taos and Santa Fe missed a Wednesday evening statutory deadline for completing the count and received permission from a state district court judge for an extension. 

Taos County Clerk Anna Martinez attributed the local delay to a dereliction of duty by five members of an absentee balloting board who left on Tuesday night without completing the count and did not return.

GOP House Race Drags On After Vote-Counting Board Walks Out - By Cedar Attanasio And Morgan Lee Associated Press

A Republican congressional primary remained undecided as local election regulators in northern New mexico tallied a deluge of absentee ballots. 

Vote tabulation was stretching into a third day on Thursday in Santa Fe County, as three Republicans competed for the 3rd Congressional District nomination and the chance to succeed U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján as he runs for U.S. Senate. 

The GOP contenders are Navajo Nation member Karen Evette Bedonie of Mexican Springs, environmental engineer Alexis Johnson of Santa Fe and former Santa Fe County commissioner Harry Montoya. 

The race has been complicated by complaints of unsent absentee ballots and polling stations closed due to COVID-19.

Election regulators in Taos and Santa Fe missed a Wednesday evening statutory deadline for completing the count and received permission from a state district court judge for an extension. 

Taos County Clerk Anna Martinez attributed the local delay to a dereliction of duty by five members of an absentee balloting board who left on Tuesday night without completing the count and did not return.

 

New Mexico Senate Leaders Lose Primary Bid Amid Liberal Push - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

Two key leaders in the New Mexico Senate have lost their primary bids amid a push by liberal advocacy groups to unseat Democratic lawmakers who have resisted their progressive agenda.

Senate President Mary Kay Papen of Las Cruces and Senate finance committee leader John Arthur Smith of Deming were defeated as more votes were tallied Wednesday.

Papen has been a member of the Senate since 2001 and hadn’t faced a primary opponent in years. She’s an advocate for mental health services, but she fell behind Carrie Hamblen, CEO of the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce. 

Neomi Martinez-Parra of Lordsburg, a former vice chairwoman of the state Democratic Party, defeated Smith.

Smith, a member of the Senate since 1989, arguably has been one of the Legislature’s most influential voices on budget matters. He is known for keeping the state’s spending in check.

While he has no regrets, Smith said he may resign from his seat after an upcoming special legislative session so other lawmakers could take the lead on crafting the next state budget.

The session that will begin June 18 will focus on budget and economic recovery matters as New Mexico takes its first major steps toward reopening the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Three other Democrat incumbents also lost their primary bids.

Two were targeted for their more moderate positions on everything from state spending to the minimum wage, abortion laws and the legalization of recreational marijuana.

Incumbent Clemente Sanchez was defeated by retired teacher Pamela Cordova of Belen. She was running under the banner "unbought and unbeholden."

Sanchez, a Grants bank executive and chairman of the Senate's corporate affairs committee, was among the incumbents targeted by abortion rights and gun control advocates. Liberal critics also had attacked him for reluctance to tap one of the state's permanent trust funds to increase spending on early childhood education.

In other races, embattled Sen. Richard Martinez — who was convicted of drunken driving after ramming into a car stopped at a traffic light — lost his bid for the Democratic nomination in a northern New Mexico district.

Martinez was seeking a sixth term amid an uncertain political future following his conviction. He lost to Leo Jaramillo, a Rio Arriba County commissioner and Española resident. Jaramillo has acknowledged a drunken driving conviction more than 20 years ago.

More Coronavirus Cases Confirmed Among Inmates In New MexicoAssociated Press

State health officials say they have confirmed 25 more coronavirus cases among federal inmates being held at a lockup in southern New Mexico.

The state Health Department on Wednesday said the cases from the prison in Otero County brought the statewide total to 8,140. More than 160 state inmates being held at the same facility also have tested positive.

The state also reported eight additional deaths — all from McKinley and San Juan counties. Those areas have been hit the hardest and account for more than half of New Mexico’s infections.

More than 40 long-term care and acute care facilities around the state also have reported at least one case among residents and staff over the last month.

Navajo Nation Reports 54 New COVID-19 Cases, 4 More Deaths Associated Press

The Navajo Department of Health has reported 54 new cases of coronavirus on the Navajo Nation and four more known deaths.

That pushes the numbers to 5,533 positive COVID-19 cases and 252 known deaths as of Tuesday night.

Tribal officials also say preliminary reports from nine health care facilities indicate about 1,960 people have recovered from COVID-19 with more reports still pending.

Report Highlights Voting Inequities In Tribal Communities - By Felicia Fonseca Associated Press

Native American voting rights advocates are cautioning against states moving to mail-in ballots without opportunities for tribal members to vote safely in person. 

The Native American Rights Fund released a wide-ranging report on voting rights Thursday. 

In it, the group outlined the challenges that could arise as states move to rely more heavily on mail-in ballots. 

The report says online voter registration could be hampered by spotty or no internet service on reservations, ballots will be delivered to Post Office boxes that rarely are checked and turnout may be low because of a general reluctance to vote by mail.

"We're all for increased vote by mail," said Jacqueline De Leon, a staff attorney with the group and a member of Isleta Pueblo in New Mexico. "We're absolutely against all vote by mail. If there are no in-person opportunities, then Native Americans will be disenfranchised because it will be impossible for some of them to cast a ballot." 

The report is a result of field hearings held in New Mexico, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Arizona, Oregon, California, Oklahoma, California and the Navajo Nation in 2017 and 2018. 

Navajo Police Warn Against Illegal Marijuana, Hemp Farms - Associated Press

Authorities on the largest Native American reservation in the U.S. are warning people against illegally growing marijuana and hemp. 

Navajo Nation police issued the warning Wednesday after confirming that officers were investigating complaints about marijuana or hemp being grown near the northwestern New Mexico community of Shiprock. 

Police Chief Phillip Francisco says his department has turned over its findings to tribal prosecutors for further review. 

Police say the fields found near Shiprock were connected to a business called "Navajo Gold," but they could not find a valid license for the operation. 

Navajo lawmakers haven't passed any legislation that would allow for growing hemp or marijuana for industrial production or distribution.

The tribe also has no regulatory body to test, validate or distinguish between marijuana and hemp.

The Navajo Police Department said it will be forming a task force and enforcement team to investigate all unregulated growing and harvesting of marijuana and hemp on the reservation in response to increasing concerns.

New Mexico Close To Historic All-Women US House Delegation - By Russell Contreras, Associated Press

New Mexico has moved closer to possibly sending a historic delegation of all women of color to the U.S. House.

Democrats nominated two Latinas and a Native American woman in primaries on Tuesday. Republican voters also nominated a member of the Cherokee Nation and a Hispanic woman for two of those races. A third GOP primary hasn't been decided but a Hispanic woman is leading.

Democratic Rep. Deb Haaland, who is Laguna Pueblo, is running for re-election for her Albuquerque seat and Democratic Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, who is Mexican American, is running for re-election for her southern New Mexico seat. 

According to the Center for American Women and Politics, 490 women have filed as candidates for House seats nationwide in 2020, a record high. The numbers could grow because filing deadlines have yet to pass in around a dozen or so states.

Thieves Take 150 Pistols, Rifles From Albuquerque Gun Store - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

Dozens of handguns and rifles have been stolen from a gun shop in New Mexico's largest city.

That has prompted federal authorities to offer a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible. Federal firearms authorities said Wednesday that the heist at JCT Firearms took place early Monday.

They say 115 handguns and 35 rifles were taken. The theft is being investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and Albuquerque police.

The $10,000 reward is part of a national initiative in which the National Shooting Sports Foundation matches ATF rewards in cases of firearm thefts from federally licensed retailers.