And…it’s election season
This year's legislative session may have ended, but a politician's work is never over. Particularly if one faces a challenge in the upcoming election season, as is the case for numerous New Mexico legislators ($TNM). Several Democrats considered more conservative for their stances on, say, guns, marijuana and abortion, face challenges from progressive candidates in the June 2 primary, including: John Arthur Smith of Deming; Mary Kay Papen and Joe Cervantes of Las Cruces; and Clemente Sanchez of Grants. Candidates have a March 10 filing deadline. "Even just the fact that there's challengers—that signals a shift to me that there are more people willing to admit that when it comes to being left of center or a Democrat…these candidates that have claimed to be Democrats for so long maybe don't represent us after all," Lucas Herndon, executive director of Progress Now New Mexico, told the Santa Fe New Mexican.
Democrats won't just face challenges within their own party. All 112 seats in the state Legislature are up for election this year and Republicans, a minority in both houses, plan to try to take back some seats during the general election next November. "We're declaring war," Republican Rep. Jane Powdrell-Culbert of Corrales said after the legislative session ended last week.
Torres Small against fracking ban
US Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, D-NM, says she opposes a bill that would ban fracking nationally sponsored by fellow Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York. Torres Small, who represents District 2 where much of the state's oil industry is centered, says she has always opposed a fracking ban because "if we shut down oil and gas drilling in New Mexico today, we'd have to shut down our schools tomorrow." Power the Future Western States Director Larry Behrens says his organization also opposes the proposed ban: "The fact that a socialist representative from New York wants to destroy our economy deserves nothing but condemnation from New Mexico's elected representatives," he said. Presidential candidate US Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-VT, introduced the Senate version of the bill last month. Torres Small, who won her seat in the traditionally Republican district in 2018 by less than 3,000 votes, will face a challenger again in November; three Republicans will face off in the June primary, including her previous opponent, former state lawmaker Yvette Herrell.
Order in the court
Legislators last week approved a final budget that includes an increase of more than 4% for court operations in the fiscal year that begins July 1. If Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham approves the plan as expected, the judiciary will have approximately $191 million to pay for operations that include five new judgeships (one in Santa Fe), more money for pretrial services and increases in security. Arthur Pepin, director of the Administrative Office of the Courts, tells SFR judicial leaders are pleased with the session's outcome and that lawmakers understood the courts' priorities. However, the state still has catching up to do when it comes to judges' salaries: An approved 7% increase fell shy of the 8% recommended by an independent panel. Funding shortages, along with staff turnover and several judicial retirements, also have led to long delays for hundreds of cases awaiting review by the New Mexico Court of Appeals, according to a new report by Searchlight New Mexico.
The Santa Fe Human Rights Alliance has put out a call for community members to help the organization create a timeline of the LGBTQ community in Santa Fe and New Mexico from 1870 through the present. The alliance will host the first of a series of community meetings on the project from 6 to 7:30 pm this Thursday, Feb. 27 in the community room at the Santa Fe Public Library (145 Washington Ave.) The event will feature guest speakers state Sen. Liz Stefanics, Santa Fe Community College board member Linda Siegle, performer Eric Gustafson and House candidate and activist Roger Montoya. For more info, visit hrasantafe.org
Listen (and look)
Not every good idea makes it through every session. So says New Mexico Speaker of the House Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, in an interview with PBS correspondent Gwyneth Doland about the failed attempts to legalize cannabis during the most recent session. While the pot bill tanked, Egolf says he's happy with the state's financial situation, as well as other bills passed during the session. The short web segment is part of #YourNMGov, a collaboration between New Mexico PBS, KUNM radio and the Santa Fe Reporter, funded by Thornburg Foundation and New Mexico Local News Fund.
Hemp it up
On Friday, the state Economic Development Department announced it has committed $600,000 in LEDA funds—matched by $5.3 million in private investment—to Berino hemp business Natural ReLeaf so it can begin growing year round. The company started growing hemp in Berino, located in Doña Ana County, last year with a 2019 crop yield of 10,000 pounds. It plans to expand manufacturing, build eight new greenhouses and add 56 jobs over the next two to three years. "Agriculture is part of our history and culture, and now hemp is providing new opportunities for family farms," Cabinet Secretary Alicia J. Keyes said. Among its various CBD products, truffles, in a variety of flavors, are currently very popular. The company sold chocolate-covered strawberries infused with CBD for Valentine's Day and is constantly introducing new products like bath balm, chapstick and honey stix.
The Denver Post has nice words for a newish novel set in Santa Fe in a recent regional roundup: Getting New Mexico, by Rhenna St. Clair, "is a humorous, quirky novel," the review says, "and you can't beat the Nambe and Santa Fe settings." As for the plot: "Aaron Schuyler is a reprobate, a fraud, a bankrupt and a moocher who gets by on meals snagged at funerals of people he didn't know. His wealthy mother is tired of bailing him out but gives him one last chance. She agrees to support him if he goes to New Mexico and gets a job at Sam's Club in Santa Fe."
Whom do you love?
Do tell, as nominations are underway for SFR's 2020 Best of Santa Fe competition wherein you let us know whose name should be on the final ballot (and the math here is much simpler than the delegate math for the presidential primary election). The process is simple: Through March 15, just choose from the many categories that are part of the contest, and then nominate your favorite businesses for the categories where you think they belong. You can nominate once per category here.
In other SFR deadline news, the deadline for the 2020 Poetry Contest nears: Entries must be made before midnight on Feb. 29. The winner will be awarded a prize package in the form of gift certificates at local businesses worth $100. Second and third place winners will receive prize packages for $50 and $25, respectively. Prizes are awarded solely at the discretion of SFR's judges. All the deets available here.
Batten down the hatches
Why? Because while today will be sunny with a high near 51 degrees (yay!), it will also be windy. Windy as in west wind 10 to 20 mph increasing to 20 to 30 mph in the afternoon and possibly gusting as high as 40 mph. Tomorrow also will be windy with gusting winds as high as 30 mph, but temps will only reach a high near 36. If you need the Word, she'll be hiding under her bed until June.
Thanks for reading! The Word figured now was as good a time as any to refresh her memory about presidential primary delegate math ($WP).