Morning Word

Trump Endorses Ronchetti in NM Gov’s Race

Court records reveal disturbing details from Santa Fe weekend murder

Donald Trump endorses Ronchetti

Former President Donald Trump yesterday endorsed Republican candidate Mark Ronchetti in New Mexico’s gubernatorial race. Trump made the endorsement on Truth Social, the social-media platform he founded last year. “New Mexico has an absolutely terrible Governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham,” Trump wrote. “She is WEAK on Crime, bad on the Border where illegal aliens are pouring into our Country at record numbers, & has almost no support from Law Enforcement, which fully understands what a disaster she has been. Also, Drugs & Human Trafficking are OUT OF CONTROL. The good news is that Republican Nominee Mark Ronchetti is outstanding. He will be tough & smart on Crime, the Border & everything else. Mark as my Total Endorsement!” In response, Lujan Grisham issued a statement that read, in part: “Donald Trump’s endorsement of Mark Ronchetti emphasizes the clear choice in this race: I will keep delivering on the issues that matter to New Mexico families, while Mark Ronchetti would bring Donald Trump’s extreme national Republican policies to New Mexico.” The Democratic Party of New Mexico, in a tweet, called Trump’s endorsement “a last-ditch effort to save his flailing campaign. No surprise, both MAGA extremists want to strip abortion rights and could care less about the integrity of our democracy.” As of press time, Ronchetti did not appear to have acknowledged the endorsement and his campaign spokesman, Ryan Sabel, told the Associated Press the two have never spoken, and noted other people who have endorsed Ronchetti, such as former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson: “Mark is supported by people from all walks of life and all different viewpoints,” Sabel said.

Trump’s endorsement yesterday came as a new poll—this one from Emerson College Polling/The Hill—showed a tight race, with a two-to-three point difference, depending on the inclusion of undecided voters. A KOB/Survey USA Poll, also reported yesterday, showed the governor with a seven-point lead, closer to the recent Albuquerque Journal/Research & Poling Inc. poll that gave Lujan Grisham an eight-point lead. As of yesterday, approximately 235,000 people have cast their ballots in the Nov. 8 election, according to the Secretary of State’s Office—approximately 17% of registered voters. Among those who have already cast absentee or early ballots, approximately 54% were registered Democrats; 33.4% were Republicans; 11.5% were Independents and the rest were either registered Libertarians or registered to a minor party.

Criminal complaint: Couple conspired in brutal murder

Highly disturbing details emerged yesterday in the Oct. 29 homicide of 21-year-old Grace Jennings. Santa Fe Police on Sunday arrested Kiara McCulley, 19, and Isaac Apodaca, 25, and charged each with first-degree murder. According to criminal complaints filed yesterday in Santa Fe Magistrate Court against McCulley and Apodaca, SFPD was dispatched to a residence on Jaguar Drive on Saturday, where they eventually found Jennings’ body in a detached garage with “injuries consistent with being cut or stabbed with a sharp object.” Officers “also observed what appeared to be a sword with blood on the blade.” Apodaca subsequently relayed to SFPD that both Jennings, his former girlfriend, and McCulley, his current girlfriend, had spent the night with him in the garage—where he lived. In the morning, when he went in the main residence to use the bathroom, he returned to find Jennings dead, he said. However, Apodaca’s cell phone messages indicate he encouraged McCulley to kill Jennings while she slept, telling her: “Remember, you’ll move up the ranks. Plus you get perks in the black market since this is your first.” Another message to McCulley read: “I am wanting you to kill her, you have to end your suffering by ending her joy.” McCulley told SFPD she couldn’t remember what had happened due to undiagnosed multiple personalty disorder, but said she had “fantasized multiple times” about killing Jennings, alleging Jennings had witnessed McCulley be gang raped in 2016. She also said Apodaca is in charge of a secret organization called Ghost, which “gets rid of people who are in charge of sex trafficking or hurting kids” and that Apodaca had told her to kill Jennings so that she “could get ranked up in her platoon.” Both McCulley and Apodaca are scheduled for their first court appearances today.

Meanwhile, First Judicial District Judge T. Glenn Ellington yesterday allowed prosecutors to proceed with first-degree murder and evidence tampering charges against Elijah Judah Trujillo, who was 15 when authorities say he fatally shot 60-year-old Samuel Cordero in Ragle Park last August. In a roughly two-hour hearing, prosecutors presented police testimony and three home security videos to help make their case, while Trujillo’s attorney’s argued the state’s evidence is lacking and failed to show Trujillo and Cordero were the only ones at the park the morning Cordero was killed. While allowing prosecutors to proceed, Ellington said in his ruling the “testimony and evidence in respect to identification of the alleged shooter is all circumstantial.” For now, Trujillo remains incarcerated at the San Juan County Juvenile Services Center.

PRC interviews begin

The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission Nominating Committee held its first interviews with commissioner applicants last week, and will continue interviewing applicants on Nov. 7 and Nov. 8. Following those interviews, the commission will make final recommendations to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Nov. 14. Voters in 2020 approved a constitutional amendment changing the PRC from an elected five-member body to a three-member panel appointed by the governor, the latest PRC-reform attempt in that body’s history. The nominating committee’s list of recommended candidates must include applicants from at least three different counties in New Mexico and can’t include more than two members from the same political party. Last week’s first set of interviews included one with Santa Fe County Independent Kenneth Costello; next week’s applicants include two more Santa Fe residents: Scott Karns, a Republican, and Carolyn Glick, also a registered Independent. Candidate questionnaires and final candidates’ application materials can be found here.

COVID-19 by the numbers

Reported Oct. 31New cases: 1,040 (includes weekend, and is a nearly 26% increase over last Monday’s three-day total); 628,243 total cases; Deaths: one; Santa Fe County has had 359 total deaths; there have been 8,643 fatalities statewide. Statewide hospitalizations: 106. Patients on ventilators: one. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent Oct. 27 “community levels” map, which uses a combination of hospital and case rate metrics to calculate COVID-19 risk for the prior seven-day period, nine New Mexico counties are now “yellow,” aka have medium risk levels (two more than last week): Bernalillo, Sandoval, Valencia, Torrance, Socorro, Cibola, Grant, De Baca and San Juan. The rest of New Mexico’s counties continue to have green, aka low, levels. Corresponding recommendations for each level can be found here.

Resources: CDC interactive booster eligibility tool; NM DOH vaccine & booster registration; CDC isolation and exposure interactive tool; Curative testing sites; COVID-19 treatment info; NMDOH immunocompromised tool kit. People seeking treatment who do not have a medical provider can call NMDOH’s COVID-19 hotline at 1-855-600-3453.

You can read all of SFR’s COVID-19 coverage here.

Listen up

University of New Mexico Political Science Professor and professional pollster Gabe Sanchez joins KRQE’s New Mexico News podcast to take a look at the midterm elections in general and some of the key races here that will play out on Nov. 8. New Mexico PBS correspondent Gwyneth Doland drills down into one of those races—the 3rd Congressional District face-off—with new interviews with US Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández, D-NM, and GOP challenger Alexis Martinez Johnson.

Inhabiting O’Keeffe

Most “visit Santa Fe” stories recommend a trip to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. Forbes magazine, however, endorses renting the O’Keeffe Cottage (which shares grounds with the museum), in its roundup of “artist-inspired vacation rentals.” The O’Keeffe Cottage, Forbes writes, “was built in 1850 by Oliver Hovey, a printer from Vermont who established New Mexico’s first English-language newspaper, and the adobe and plaster building is filled with art from Santa Fe artist Anne Staveley.” Along quasi-similar lines, ARTnews includes O’Keeffe’s Abiquiu home and studio in its story on “18 Preserved Studios of Famous Female Artists That You Can Visit.” The home and studio, ARTNews writes, “offer a snapshot of O’Keeffe’s life there between 1949 and 1984 (two years before her death), including her midcentury modern furniture and collection of bones.” If you want to keep driving, the O’Keeffe Room in the Mabel Dodge Luhan House (where O’Keeffe used to stay) is available for overnight stays. And for a third read on O’Keeffe, Santa Fe-based author and FOTN (friend of this newsletter) James Reich dug into the artist in a recent edition of his newsletter, “The Ecological Uncanny,” where he unpacked some thoughts on O’Keeffe, as envisaged by the late writer Joan Didion, O’Keeffe’s obscure sisters and the real and imagined landscapes all inhabited.

Nurturing elite runners

Outside magazine recently delved into a new initiative to foster the next generation of elite Native American runners. Wings of America has long supported Native American runners, but has now launched a Wings Elite program. “For as long as I can remember, Wings has been talking about the next Billy Mills, or the next Patti [Catalano] Dillon, or the next Louis Tewanima,” Wings Executive Director Dustin Martin tells Outside. “But anyone who knows competitive running understands that caliber of athlete, in this day and age, is not really fostered without a very concerted investment and effort not only from that runner, but from their community.” Speaking of Dillon—the first American woman to break 2:30 in the Boston marathon and the first Native American woman (she’s Mi’kmaq) to break that and numerous other records—she’s the program’s head coach. She says she’s been waiting decades for such a program: “It’s a dream come true,” she says. The program also has just brought on its first runner: Santiago Hardy (Diné), a former Wings National Team member, who has moved into the program’s home-base building in New Mexico, and helps with Wings’ youth program. “The kids love him to death,” Dillon tells Outside. “And that’s really good for his spirits, to be able to mentor the other kids, and have the kids see we have a pro athlete.”

Winter countdown

November has arrived, signaling the inevitable acceleration of time and encroachment of winter holidays (Thanksgiving is in about three weeks, for example). Meanwhile, the National Weather Service forecasts a sunny day with a high temperature near 61 degrees and northeast wind 5 to 15 mph becoming southwest in the afternoon.

Thanks for reading! The Word is listening to (and enjoying) this gloomy song based on this gloomy Emily Dickinson poem.

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