NM guv candidates differ on plans for state’s troubled criminal justice system

Attack ads, political bottle tossing and recriminations have marked this year’s race to replace outgoing Gov. Susana Martinez, who is leaving office due to term limits. The campaign’s increasingly dark tone illustrates the state of play in politics here in New Mexico and across the nation. But under the tribalism lies something else: A set of stark differences in visions held by the two candidates, Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham and Republican Steve Pearce, who have both abandoned seats in the U.S. House of Representatives for a shot at the Governor’s Mansion. During three televised debates, Pearce and Lujan Grisham have hurled broadsides and frontal attacks at one another on a host of issues bedeviling the state — from education to immigration, economic development to marijuana legalization, energy to water conservation. Clashes over how to address New Mexico’s persistently high crime rates, particularly in Albuquerque, have torched some of the race’s oxygen, too.

Foreign teachers pay dearly to fill empty N.M. jobs

HOBBS – The alarm rings at 3 a.m., and Ronell Mangilit is the first one up in a house shared with four fellow teachers. He prepares breakfast, writes up the day’s math lesson, and puts on a button-down shirt, a tie and crisply pressed slacks. Then it’s off to teach the children of New Mexican oil rig workers — arriving in his sixth-grade classroom by 7:20 sharp. It’s a job no American wanted, but one the 30-year-old Filipino was willing to pay thousands of dollars to get. Armed with a PhD in math education and a promise to a deceased brother, Mangilit borrowed the equivalent of a year’s salary in the Philippines — roughly $9,000.

New internet ad threatens to soften Democratic support in northern NM

A new internet ad featuring five Hispanic activists from rural northern New Mexico is taking aim at the progressive wing of the Democratic party. Invoking land, culture and heritage, the speakers urge viewers to not support Democratic candidates just because they’re Democrats. Phrases appear in writing as each person is talking that lead the viewer through a series of statements that progressives are intolerant, divisive, that they are attacking tradition and want to control the land. From there, the ad states that progressives have taken over the Democratic party and that it’s time for “traditional New Mexico Democrats” to stand against them, concluding with “Vote People over Party.”

The kicker? The internet ad is funded by New Mexico Turn Around, a group with a political action committee largely funded in recent years by Republican New Mexico oilman Harvey Yates.

Patrick Lyons fundraising for Land Commissioner campaign raises legal and ethical questions

A campaign fundraising letter that public land commissioner candidate Patrick Lyons sent ranchers who lease land from the State Land Office is raising legal and ethical questions a month before voters decide whether to return him to the job he held for eight years. Should Lyons win the seat this November, he will be in charge of renegotiating leases with companies seeking to renew those agreements. About 30 percent of the money Lyons has raised so far in his run has come from lessees, according to a review of campaign finance records. A copy of the letter was shared with New Mexico In Depth and is addressed “dear agricultural lessee.” It goes on to describe Lyons’ record as a rancher and farmer, and as previous land commissioner. It then states, “I am running for Commissioner of Public Lands in 2018 and need your help to get elected so that the agricultural lessees have a voice at the State Land Office.” The letter asks the reader to consider donating $100 to $1,000 before concluding, “Let’s make sure agriculture has a voice in the Land Office.”

Lyons used a list from his previous time in office to reach out to ranchers, and didn’t duplicate the effort for the oil and gas industry.

What does your neighborhood say about children’s opportunity?

We want to make sure you don’t miss a fascinating new interactive map that shows how different neighborhoods in our cities and states compare when it comes to poor children moving out of poverty in adulthood. Called the Opportunity Atlas, the Census Bureau announced it in a blog yesterday in which its ambitions are stated clearly in the form of questions the project hopes to answer. “How do children’s chances of climbing the income ladder vary across neighborhoods in America? Where is opportunity lacking and what can we do to improve opportunity in such areas?”

Created by the Census Bureau in collaboration with researchers from Harvard and Brown universities, the project is squarely focused on children. But it turns the normal approach to tracking childhood poverty on its head by visualizing how poor children raised in a certain geographic area fare economically as adults.

New web portal launched for tracking money in politics

There’s a new web portal for tracking who’s behind the money in elections, a task that can be arduous. 

For New Mexico voters, the primary sources of campaign finance data are the websites of the New Mexico Secretary of State and the Federal Election Commission. And at the federal level there are also reports filed by broadcasters with the Federal Communications Commission that show who is buying airtime for television ads. Called “NAB” reports, which stands for National Association of Broadcasters, these are often the first sign one has of a group planning to spend money in an election. But searching those filings on the FCC site is onerous. The Center for Responsive Politics, or opensecrets.org, has pulled all of the reports filed by New Mexico broadcasters into a user-friendly portal.

Lawmakers get started on ethics commission enabling legislation

For a window into how legislation is made, few moments were more educational than a sparsely attended meeting Tuesday afternoon in a cavernous, mostly empty room on the University of New Mexico campus. On the surface, the meeting was congenial as two state lawmakers, legislative staff, attorneys and representatives of civic organizations hammered out the beginnings of draft legislation that would fill out the details of the state’s first independent ethics commission if voters give the go ahead in November. But beneath the amicable discussions there was a rematch of sorts, perhaps noticeable only to those aware of the contentious history surrounding the idea of an independent ethics commission. For almost 15 years, lawmakers offended by the notion that they needed anyone to watch over them squared off against other legislators who touted independent oversight as a way to restore public trust in government. Legislative opposition knew no political party, with both Democrats and Republicans chafing at the idea of an independent oversight body.

National PACs jump into 2nd congressional district race; we analyze the ads

The southern New Mexico congressional race is finally getting the national attention many have been expecting. With a major push by Democrats to take back control of the U.S. House of Representatives, the two women vying for the District 2 seat vacated this year by Rep. Steve Pearce are getting help from their national parties. That’s because the seat, long held by Republicans, is considered by national analysts as one that has a chance of flipping to Democratic control. Democrat Xochitl Torres Small, a water lawyer from Las Cruces, and Republican Yvette

Herrell, a state lawmaker and real estate agent from Alamogordo, have each been subjected to attack ads by Democratic and Republican PACs hoping to boost their preferred candidate’s chances. And the Congressional Leadership Fund, which is endorsed by House Republicans, added the race to fall advertising reservations.

Secrecy practice in NM federal court goes deeper than documents, defense lawyers say

A new federal court filing indicates the practice of secrecy at New Mexico federal courts expands beyond the improper sealing of documents to improperly closing off court proceedings from the public. Assistant Federal Public Defenders John Robbenhaar and Aric Elsenheimer filed a document last week alleging that an Aug. 3 court hearing was sealed — meaning no one besides parties to the case could enter during the proceeding — without their knowledge. A transcript of the hearing also was sealed without their input, the filing says. On Sept.

A win by two or more challengers would give women first-ever majority on NM Court of Appeals

The notion struck Megan Duffy at an event she attended with several other women — and it struck her hard. It was Aug. 18. The gathering marked the anniversary of a seismic change to the U.S. Constitution: Passage of the 19th Amendment, more commonly known as women’s suffrage. “Women have only been able to vote in this country for 98 years,” Duffy says in a recent interview with New Mexico In Depth and the Santa Fe Reporter.