An Open US Senate Seat in New Mexico

Bill and Hillary Clinton announce new speaking tour

The Story:

Next year the people of New Mexico (a state that voted for Hillary Clinton for President) will elect a new US Senator to replace Tom Udall (D), who will finish up his second term and who is not running for a third. This means that the Republican Party has a chance to pick up a seat to defend or pad its existing narrow majority in the chamber.

Declared Candidates:

A former Trump administration Interior Department official, Gavin Clarkson, is the only individual yet to have declared that he is running for the Republican Party’s nomination for this seat. Others are expected in due course to jump into the race.

On the Democratic side, there are three declared candidates: Maggie Toulouse Oliver, Ben Ray Lujan, and Giovanni Alexander Haqani. Oliver, New Mexico’s Secretary of State, successfully pressed for campaign finance reform in the state. She boasts that she “took on the Koch brothers and won” on that issue.

The Thing to Know: 

Not only did New Mexico vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016, it voted for Barack Obama twice before that. It is seen as a ‘blue’ state. Its retiring Senator, Udall, stands out for (distinctively “progressive”) views on both gun control and conservation.

 

Longtime Congressman a ‘titan’ of NM politics

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

Manuel Lujan Jr., a New Mexico native son who rose to lofty political heights as a longtime Republican congressman and U.S. Interior secretary, died late Thursday at age 90.

Lujan Jr., who came from a prominent Santa Fe political family, held New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District seat for 20 years – from 1969 through 1988. He was the first Hispanic Republican to join the Congressional Hispanic Congress and focused largely on constituent needs during his time in Washington D.C.

Former Gov. Garrey Carruthers, who was state GOP chairman while Lujan Jr. was still in office, described the former congressman on Friday as a “titan” of New Mexico politics.

Specifically, he said Lujan Jr. had a knack for giving short speeches, in both Spanish and English, and recalled his nightly ritual of personally calling back New Mexico residents who had left messages with his congressional office.

“If you want to be in this business, you have to be like Manuel Lujan Jr.,” Carruthers told the Journal. “He just seemed to be a level above the rest of us.”

Lujan Jr. was appointed interior secretary by then-President George H.W. Bush in 1989 – becoming just the second New Mexican to hold the post – and remained in the position for nearly four years, a time span that included the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill off the coast of Alaska.

He faced scrutiny in the high-profile Cabinet position, including criticism from some groups for challenging the Endangered Species Act, and said after leaving the office in 1993 that “no one is satisfied.”

“If you do something that’s pro-development, you get the environmental groups against you, and if you do something that’s pro-environmental, you get the industry groups after you,” Lujan Jr. told the Associated Press at the time. “What I tried to do – and I think I was successful in doing – was to bring a balance between the use of resources on public lands and environmental concerns.”

His brother, Edward Lujan, said Friday that Manuel Lujan Jr. had not been in good health in recent months and had broken his hip in a fall several months ago.

But he said Manuel Lujan Jr. had remained active and…

FBI arrests armed militia member accused of detaining migrants in NM

FBI arrests armed militia member accused of detaining migrants in NM

Larry Mitchell Hopkins is a member of the so-called border militia group United Constitutional Patriots; Jeff Paul reports from Los Angeles.

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Democratic Party chair visits Roswell, talks politics

Marg Elliston, chair of the Democratic Party of New Mexico, speaks to an audience March 23 at the Holiday Inn in Roswell during the biennial convention of the Democratic Party of Chaves County about the party’s strong showing in the 2018 elections. (Alex Ross Photo)

Marg Elliston, chair of the Democratic Party of New Mexico, lauded the party’s recent electoral wins and sought to prepare local party activists for 2020 during a visit to Roswell recently.

The party faithful were at the Holiday Inn for the Democratic Party of Chaves County’s biennial convention. Registered Democrats elected a new county chair and picked Stephanie Thomas.

The party had much to celebrate after its romp to victory in races across the state in 2018 and by enlarging their majority in the New Mexico House of Representatives. Democrats now hold the governorship for the first time in eight years.

And in congressional races, the party won the much-watched contest for the U.S. House seat in the 2nd Congressional District. The district, which encompasses all of southern New Mexico, including Roswell, is usually staunchly Republican territory.

“We turned New Mexico blue,” Elliston told the audience during the March 23 meeting.

Elliston, a retired state employee, cut her political teeth as New Mexico chair of President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, and for five years, was chair of the Democratic Party of Sandoval County. Last year, she was elected chair of the state party.

Like many Democrats, she said she has gone through emotional ups and downs since what was largely seen as a surprise win by President Donald Trump against Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 race for the White House.

“We set goals, we organized and we smashed those goals to smithereens,” Elliston said.

The party in 2018 sent out 1.5 million campaign mailers, made more than a million phone calls, sent out 564,000 text messages, knocked on 378,000 doors and made 281 volunteer recruitment calls, Elliston said.

The fruits of the party’s labor were seen not only on election night, but in the rush of legislation that passed during this past legislative session, she added.

In all, 310 bills passed legislative chambers and were sent to the desk of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham — many are long-sought legislative goals by progressives.

“I think we will see the results of what we elected in 2018 and what our Legislature accomplished in 2019 for many years to come,” Elliston said.

New Mexico has demonstrated its Democratic leanings in recent presidential elections, with the party’s nominee carrying the state’s five electoral votes in five of the last six presidential elections.

New Mexico until recently was considered a swing state. Democrat Al Gore carried New Mexico by 367 votes over President George W. Bush in 2000. Four years later, the state flipped to G.W. Bush, who won it by 339,888 votes.

It was 2008 that marked a turning point in how the state was seen politically, Elliston said. She credits a big infusion by the Obama campaign of money and excitement into the state party as part of the party’s recent advantage.

“I think it excited a lot of people…

‘I’m in despair’: a mother and village mourn Guatemalan boy’s death in US

Catarina Perez, the grandmother of Felipe Gómez, the second Guatemalan child to die in US custody this month.
Catarina Pérez, the grandmother of Felipe Gómez Alonzo, the second Guatemalan child to die in US custody this month. Photograph: Luis Echeverria/Reuters

From outside the flimsy two-bedroom shack, the sound of weeping could be heard as Catarina Alonzo mourned her eight-year old son.

Early in December, Felipe Gómez Alonzo and his father, Agustín Gómez Peréz, left the family’s modest home in the mountains of Guatemala with dreams of starting a new life in the US.

But the pair were detained near the US border just a few miles away from the Paso Del Norte port of entry in El Paso, and within six days, Felipe died in a New Mexico hospital – the second Guatemalan child to die this month while in US custody.

YalambojochMexicoMexico CityGuatemalaGuatemala CityTexasEl Paso500 km500 miles

“I’m sad and in despair over the death of my son,” said Alonzo, when she emerged to speak to reporters.

US authorities are investigating the deaths of Felipe and seven-year-old Jakelin Caal, but the circumstances which drove both families to risk sending their children on the long journey north are clear: the absolute poverty besetting swathes of rural Guatemala.

Both children came from remote indigenous communities, where migration has long been seen a reasonable response to the country’s hardship, racism and violence.

“Felipe was happy to leave with his father,” said Alonzo in Chuj, an indigenous Mayan language.

Catarina Alonzo, the mother of Felipe, at her home in the village of Yalam.
Catarina Alonzo, the mother of Felipe, at her home in the village of Yalam. Photograph: Luis Echeverria/Reuters

She said that both parents had agreed to let Felipe join his father, an agricultural worker, on his trip north. Gómez Pérez hoped to find work to pay off his debts and send money to the family. Felipe hoped to study, and have a bicycle of his own.

When his father had second thoughts about taking him along, Felipe grew upset, so the two parents agreed he could go. Gómez Pérez even bought him a new pair of shoes for the trip, said Alonzo, through tears, her breath making clouds in the chill mountain air.

Throughout the journey, the family stayed in touch by mobile phone. “We talked as soon as they reached the border,” she said, adding that Gómez Pérez called again the next day when the pair were already in border patrol custody. “He said Felipe was okay and excited and healthy.”

Shan Goshorn, Whose Cherokee Art Was Political, Dies at 61

Shan Goshorn, “Pieced Treaty: Spider’s Web Treaty basket,” 2007. Ernest Amoroso/National Museum of the American Indian

Shan Goshorn, an acclaimed Cherokee multimedia artist who incorporated political activism into her work, died on Dec. 1 in Tulsa, Okla. She was 61.

Her sister Donna Beck said the cause was a rare form of cancer.

Ms. Goshorn ranged across various media in her work, including paint, glass, metal and fiber as well as hand-tinted photography.

“I consider myself an artist who chooses the medium that best expresses a statement, usually one that addresses human rights issues, especially those that affect native people,” she wrote on her website.

Ms. Goshorn was most known for her imaginative basket-weaving. She often integrated photographs into her basketry, in some instances obtained by crowd-sourcing: Native Americans around the country would contribute images.

Other baskets might incorporate strips of paper or plastic with text printed onto them from treaties and compacts with the federal government, or from historic maps or speeches. Some baskets took creative shapes — a briefcase, for example, or an open flame.

Shan Goshorn, “Self Portrait in Artist Studio,” 1996.

Ms. Goshorn’s work is among the collections of the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, the Denver Art Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts in Santa Fe, N.M., the Museum of the Cherokee Indian in Cherokee, N.C., and the North American Native Museum in Zurich. In 2013 she was honored with a Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship.

She also won acclaim year after year at the Santa Fe Indian Market in New Mexico, an annual event organized by the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts that draws hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the country.

In Washington, politics around oil, climate change in flux

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) with from left: Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) After winning control of the House, Democrats are expected to be more interested in combating climate change than boosting oil and gas production.

WASHINGTON — After almost a decade of oil-friendly Republicans controlling Congress, the energy sector faced a dramatically different political landscape Wednesday.

Where Republicans pushed an end to the oil export ban and the relaxing of environmental regulations around drilling, the new Democratic-led House is expected to be more interested in combating climate change than boosting oil and gas production.

Even before the election, Democrats made clear they planned oversight hearings into President Donald Trump’s efforts to cut regulations around oil and gas drilling and other industrial activity. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., who is expected to chair the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said last week that Democrats would “focus on the need to address climate change by looking at its impacts on our communities and economy, and by holding the Trump administration accountable for dangerous policies that only make it worse.”

The industry also will face the unfriendly fire without key allies, such as Rep. John Culberson, R-Houston, who lost to political newcomer Lizzie Fletcher, and Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Dallas, who lost to former NFL player Colin Allred. They and other Republicans will be unable to stop Democrats from haling energy executives to committee rooms explain their role and influence in the Trump administration’s rollback of regulations.

“They’ll be under pressure from the keep it in the ground constiuency,” said Lee Fuller, executive vice president of the Independent Petroleum Association of America. “How many other things do they want to pursue and how much time do they have? I think we’re going to have to see it sort out over the next several months. There’s people who want to spend all their times impeaching Trump.”

Democrats will have the power to hold hearings, conduct investigations and pass bills in the House. But with Republicans still controlling the White House and Senate, Democrats face a difficult time enacting legislation into law without GOP support.

“It’ll be noisier. There will be…

Last night wasn’t a wave. It was a realignment.

Fueled mainly by gains in urban/suburban areas, Democrats won control of the U.S. House of Representatives, providing a potential check and balance next year on President Donald Trump, especially with special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation.

Fueled mainly by turnout in rural America — especially in states Trump won by significant margins in 2016 — Republicans expanded their Senate majority, picking up what looks like two seats (and it could be three if Rick Scott hangs on in Florida).

And in the gubernatorial races, Democrats picked up governorships in blue/purple states (Illinois, New Mexico, Michigan, Maine, Nevada and Wisconsin), while Republicans — thanks to that turnout from Rural America — won the crème a la crème of the presidential battlegrounds (Florida, Ohio).

As GOP political strategist Tucker Martin put it, last night was a realignment, not a wave.

Indeed, much like Virginia’s gubernatorial contest from last year, Democrats won big in highly educated urban/suburban areas up and down the ballot. The problem for them is that not all states are Virginia, where those urban/suburban areas mathematically crush the rest of the state.

Yes, Dems flipped the governor’s mansion in Kansas. And they pulled off a surprising congressional win in Oklahoma.

But as we wrote yesterday, we are living in extremely volatile and divided times. And what we are seeing is a further realignment of our politics — with urban/suburban going Democratic, and with rural and red areas going more Republican.

Also, how important is party in this realignment? So important that party trumps indictments (Duncan Hunter, Chris Collins) or Bob Menendez.

Where Trump was above and below 50 percent proved decisive

Yes, the House results served as a rebuke to President Donald Trump. But also note how he — and his campaigning — altered the composition of the electorate in key Senate/gubernatorial states. Despite his overall job rating of 45 percent, per the exit polls, his rating was much higher in some very important states last night:

  • Indiana: 55 percent
  • Georgia: 53 percent
  • Missouri: 53 percent
  • Arizona: 52 percent
  • Ohio: 52 percent
  • Florida: 51 percent
  • Texas: 49 percent
  • Nevada: 49 percent
  • Wisconsin: 48 percent
  • Minnesota: 46 percent
  • Pennsylvania: 45 percent
  • Michigan: 44 percent
  • Virginia: 43 percent

So draw a line at 50 percent: Any place where Trump was at 50 percent or above, the GOP did very well. Any place where he was below 50 percent was dangerous for Republicans, including in Wisconsin, where GOP Gov. Scott…

Bay Briefing: No matter your politics, election night was a bumpy one

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, right, and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) Chairman Ben Ray Lujan, a Democrat from New Mexico, greet guests at a House Democratic election night event in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. Pelosi said, “When Democrats win – and we will win tonight – we will have a Congress that is open, transparent.” Photographer: Yuri Gripas/Bloomberg Photo: Yuri Gripas / Bloomberg

The outcomes of some hotly contested races remain in doubt, but election day has come and gone — and our political future looks to be as turbulent as the recent past.

Nationally, we’ll have a more conservative U.S. Senate — the Republicans are on track to hold more than their current 51 of the 100 seats — and a House of Representatives where the Democrats have regained the majority with seats to spare. This means Rep. Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco could again be House speaker and be even more of a thorn in the side of President Trump.

But Democrats’ hopes of a blue wave were dashed. Red states keep getting redder; ask outgoing Sens. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, all Democrats.

Within California, by contrast, we’re awash in a sea of blue: Gavin Newsom easily defeated John Cox, who was endorsed by Trump via tweet. Dianne Feinstein will be sworn in for her fifth full term at age 85.

No Republican running for statewide office appears likely to log more than 45 percent of the vote. That said, there was at least one surprise in the state ballot measures. Prop. 5, which would have allowed homeowners 55 and older to keep their Prop. 13-level property taxes, lost handily — suggesting that people don’t always vote their pocketbook.

Then there’s San Francisco, where the progressives may win a clear majority on the Board of Supervisors — though what passes as “moderate” here would be classified as wild-eyed liberal in much of the nation. Prop. C, which would boost two business taxes to double the funding for homeless service, took 60 percent of the vote. And if you’re a fan of the ever-picturesque Embarcadero, you are not alone — more than three-quarters of the electorate supported a $425 million bond to begin a seismic upgrade.

This barely skims the surface of a night where, I would guess, everyone who cares about the current state of affairs found much to love and much to loathe. The full results await you here.

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The “blue wave” has left Congress and US politics more diverse than it has ever been

Ilhan Omar of Minnesota is one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress

The hotly anticipated “blue wave” may not have been as large as many of the left had hoped, but the Democrats have retaken Congress – and there’s another reason for optimism too: more women that ever have won their races this year, and American politics has never looked so diverse.

The Centre for American Women and Politics and Rutgers University, which has been keeping track of the number of women elected, showed that even before all the races had been called, women had broken previous records in the Congress. Their latest figures (updated at 4am EST) show that 95 women have won their House races so far.

Many of these women are trailblazers in other respects too. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Abby Finkenauer of Iowa are both 29 years old, making them the youngest women ever elected to Congress. (Finkenauer is also the first ever congresswoman from Iowa.)

Deb Haaland of New Mexico and Sharice Davids of Kansas are both the first Native American women in Congress. Davids will also make history as the first openly gay woman of colour in Congress, and forms part of what the New York Times has described as an “LGBT wave” who hope to counter the threat posed to civil rights by legislation such as the so-called “bathroom bill” and the Trump administration’s attempts to define transgender out of existence.

Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota will together be the first Muslim women in Congress. Their stories are both remarkable: Tlaib is a social justice attorney who grew up in Detroit, the eldest of…