Conditions for New Mexico’s children are ripe for change

The challenge is clearer than ever: A judge has ruled that New Mexico – once again ranked last for child well-being – fails to provide its children with a sufficient education, and must do better. Fortunately, after years of austerity, lawmakers expect to have more than a billion new dollars to allocate this year, along with a new governor who brings a fresh mandate and agenda. A policy window is opening, and substantial change is possible. During this special moment, lawmakers should prioritize early childhood. The science is clear – the first years of life set the brain’s foundation for future success in profound ways, and reliable access to care and education supports family economic and educational attainment.

On heels of town hall, New Mexico First seeks to stabilize what’s working in higher ed

New Mexicans know that obtaining a credential or a degree after high school increases a person’s earning potential across a lifetime. However, rising education costs and poorly defined pathways can make college seem out of reach, especially for low-income students. By 2020, an estimated 63 percent of New Mexico jobs will require at least some college, yet the state falls short in supplying a skilled workforce to fill those positions. At New Mexico First’s 2018 town hall, “Strengthening Higher Education and Tomorrow’s Workforce,” participants recommended financial support for students so they encumber as little debt as possible while completing well-defined higher education pathways, from certificates to professional degrees. To that end, we are working on two urgent pieces of legislation that will prevent the shuttering of two important projects: the College Affordability Fund and the SUN PATH program for students aspiring to healthcare careers.

ATF defendant alleging racial profiling headed to drug rehab center

Yusef Casanova has sat in a prison cell for 27 months — charged with federal drug and gun offenses after his arrest in a 2016 undercover sting operation in Albuquerque. On Dec. 20, his attorney will drive him to the Four Winds Recovery Center, a drug rehabilitation facility, just outside Farmington. It’s an unusual turn of events: A federal judge ordered the release of Casanova, who is facing decades in federal prison if he’s convicted. Casanova was swept up in an undercover operation that arrested a highly disproportionate percentage of black people.

Hot Statewide races continue money trends

It’s no surprise that candidates in New Mexico’s two hottest statewide races brought in the most money in October. Campaign reports were filed with the Secretary of State yesterday, and once again Democratic gubernatorial candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham left every other candidate in the dust when it came to fundraising, including her rival, Republican Steve Pearce. And in the race for state land commissioner, Republican Pat Lyons continued to have a slight edge over Democratic opponent Stephanie Garcia Richard. That said, while Lujan Grisham outstripped Pearce in fundraising, he spent almost as much in October. And numerous other statewide candidates and a swath of Court of Appeals candidates outspent Lyons and Garcia Richard.

PACs bombard New Mexico airwaves

Feel bombarded by political advertisements? There’s a good reason. Political action committees have spent $19.6 million this election cycle. Reports filed with New Mexico’s Secretary of State yesterday show a little under half of that — $8 million — has been spent just in the past month. Most of that is on advertising on television and radio, online and in your mailbox.

Feverish spending in NM CD2, with $12 million raised to date

Everyone knows by now that outside groups are spending big to influence the outcome of New Mexico’s southern congressional district. Republican Yvette Herrell and Democrat Xochitl Torres Small are campaigning to represent the district. Getting a handle on how much cash is pouring in can be tricky. Fortunately, there are a couple important tools. One, the Federal Elections Commission requires a lot more timely reporting of campaign finance data than does New Mexico.

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.

Martinez campaign brain McCleskey backs four Republican judicial contenders

The 2018 election will be pivotal for discerning the kind of imprint Gov. Susana Martinez— the first female governor of New Mexico and the first elected Latina governor in the United States — leaves on New Mexico policies and laws. There’s a good chance many of her priorities, if not her methods, will live on if her successor is Republican Steve Pearce. Not so much if Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham moves into the Governor’s Mansion. How much she shapes New Mexico’s appellate court for the long term is another area worth watching. Six judges on the 10-member court are Martinez appointees.