Morning Word

Voters Re-elect Gov. Lujan Grisham as NM Dems Sweep Election

NM Health officials report rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations

Gov. Lujan Grisham defeats Ronchetti

Democrat Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham will serve another four years following yesterday’s general election, in which unofficial results from the Secretary of State’s Office show her capturing 52% of the vote compared with 46% for Mark Ronchetti and 2% for Libertarian candidate Karen Bedonie (a tighter race than four years ago when Lujan Grisham held a final 14% percentage point lead over now GOP Chairman Steve Pearce). In Santa Fe, voters throughout the day cited abortion as a top issue as they headed to the polls. Lujan Grisham also referenced reproductive choice during her victory speech last night at the Clyde Hotel in Albuquerque, saying New Mexico had “said ‘no’ to a political crusade that wants to turn women into second class citizens.” In a statement on her win, the governor described herself as proud of New Mexico and grateful “to live in a state that values and honors the basic human rights of women, minorities and anybody who simply wants to live with dignity. New Mexicans tonight said, ‘We believe in a better future for all of us,’ and I say unequivocally to you: We will achieve just that. Because there is nothing we can’t do if we are pulling together, if we are fighting for the people standing next to us, whether we know them or not.” Ronchetti acknowledged his likely loss during a speech at his watch party at the Albuquerque Hotel last night before reportedly calling the governor to concede.

Democrats won every statewide race in New Mexico yesterday and voters also appear to have elected an entirely Democratic slate for the US House. US Reps. Melanie Stansbury in the 1st Congressional District and US Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández in the 3rd both won re-election against Republican challengers. In the highly contested 2nd Congressional District, former Las Cruces City Councilor Gabe Vasquez appears to have ousted incumbent Republican Yvette Herrell by just over 1,000 votes, enough to avoid an automatic recount should the tallies hold upon certification. While the partisan balance of the US House and US Senate remains undecided in the wake of yesterday’s contests, Democrats’ efforts across the country seem to have thwarted Republicans’ prediction of a so-called “red wave.”

Voters support education, trail funding

Education advocates saw an early win last night with voters’ passage of Constitutional Amendment 1, which shifts money in the Land Grant Permanent Fund largely derived from oil and gas royalties into early childhood programs and public schools. Unofficial results from the Secretary of State’s office show a 70% approval rate for the hard-fought initiative. “Over a decade of work by advocates, parents, teachers, elected officials and a community of people who care about the futures of our children have led to this incredible victory,” Oriana Sandoval, director of the Center for Civic Policy, said in a statement. “Voters across New Mexico have made their voices heard. There is a clear mandate to create a better education system for generations to come.” Voters also approved Constitutional Amendments 2 and 3, albeit by slightly smaller margins, adding another exemption to the state’s anti-donation clause for essential infrastructure projects; and extending the length of service for judges facing retention races, respectively. State and local voters also approved a variety of bond questions, including $5 million for open space, trails and parks in Santa Fe County.

Elections officials report smooth day at the polls

Poll workers at the Santa Fe County Fairgrounds yesterday told SFR they had undergone active shooter training in advance of Election Day. Santa Fe County Clerk Katharine Clark, via text yesterday afternoon, said the training had been recommended by the Election Assistance Commission and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. “The reality of our current times,” she texted. First-time poll worker Michael Adee said voters had been cordial throughout the day, but the active-shooter training had taken him by surprise. “I have to say: I’m 67; I’ve been voting since I was 18, and that’s heartbreaking for me to think that’s necessary,” Adee said. “But then I thought about all my friends who were teachers, or administrators, and so it gave me one more layer of empathy for what other people face.” As of press time, no disturbances or problems had been reported statewide. Voter turnout, based on unofficial results, reached approximately 51.5%, compared to 55.6% in New Mexico’s 2018 midterms. Santa Fe County—which was the first to start reporting results last night—had approximately 62.6% turnout.

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, who has been publicly countering misinformation and attacks on election officials since 2020, won re-election against Republican challenger and election-denier Audrey Trujillo by 11 percentage points. “New Mexicans had a choice for this race,” she said in a statement. “That choice was between returning battle-tested leadership with over 16 years experience and a proven record delivering for New Mexico, or embracing lies, conspiracy theories and inexperience that would have wreaked havoc on our democracy. They chose the former, and our right to free, fair, and secure elections remains because they made the right choice.” In a separate statement from the Secretary of State’s Office, Toulouse Oliver described yesterday’s election as a success she attributed to the “dedicated, coordinated effort of many individuals and agencies, including all 33 county clerks and their staff, poll workers, vendors, and our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners. Multiple levels of security and accountability are built into our election process to ensure every vote counts and the public should remain wary of misinformation about this election that is likely to circulate in the coming days. As the canvassing process occurs over the next weeks I encourage all New Mexicans to learn more about the ways election administrators protect your vote and keep our democracy strong.”

COVID-19 by the numbers

Reported Nov. 8: New cases: 757; 632,738 total cases. The state’s most recent epidemiology report on geographical trends shows a 27% increase in the number of cases over the last seven days compared with the prior week. Deaths: seven; Santa Fe County has had 362 total deaths; there have been 8,673 fatalities statewide. Statewide hospitalizations: 160. Patients on ventilators: seven.Yesterday’s hospitalizations represent a 20-person increase from the day prior. Indeed, Health Department Communications Director Jodi McGinnis Porter confirms to SFR via statement a rise in hospitalizations: “For the last three weeks, we have seen a steady increase of COVID-19 hospitalizations,” she writes. “There were 80 New Mexicans hospitalized for COVID-19 in mid-October, today we have 160 New Mexicans in the hospital (nine are children) with COVID and seven are on ventilators.” (The state’s most weekly COVID-19 hospitalization report does not reflect this rise, she acknowledged, due to incomplete data at the time it was assembled). With the rise in hospitalizations, the health department “strongly recommends New Mexicans get their flu shot and stay up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters. It is safe to receive both the flu shot and the Omicron booster at the same time. Public Health Offices and pharmacies will be offering the vaccines free of charge.” DOH “also encourages residents to download the NM Notify app and to report positive COVID-19 home tests on the app,” she says, noting that approximately 760,000 New Mexicans are already using the app.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent Nov. 3 “community levels” map, which uses a combination of hospital and case rate metrics to calculate COVID-19 risk for the prior seven-day period, categorizes McKinley County as “red” now (with high risk) and seven New Mexico counties as “yellow,” (medium risk levels, two more than last week): San Juan, Rio Arriba, Taos, San Miguel, Harding, De Baca and Grant. 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

Now that we’re done voting, let’s talk ethics, shall we? The new EthicsNOW podcast will host a live program at 1:30 pm today via Zoom (register here) in which New Mexico Ethics Watch Executive Director Kathleen Sabo, comparative ethicist Will Barnes and legal scholar Paul Biderman will discuss the show’s first eight episodes—on topics ranging from ethics in politics, arts and medicine—and take questions on any topic folks want to broach. “For so many people, the subject of ethics seems academic and complex,” Sabo says in a news release. “That’s why we started the EthicsNOW podcast, and why we’re hosting this interactive event. We’re keeping it real—we want to help them see that ethics applies to their real lives in real ways, every day.”

Lightning strikes twice

Last week, this newsletter referenced a recent Art in America essay about The “Lightning Field” installation in Catron County. Now the Atlantic magazine also is weighing in on this 1977 land art. In his story, “The Art Exhibit for the Anti-Instagram Age,” writer Rowan Moore Gerety posits that sculptor Walter De Maria’s work “simultaneously protects the artist’s vision and re-creates the art world’s penchant for exclusion.” Gerety had been trying to snag a reservation since moving to the Southwest and finally did so last month (possibly by pulling strings). Gerety’s essay, not unlike Sean J. Patrick Carney’s essay for Art in America, questions the limits and strictures the Dia Foundation places on visitors to the installation. “I was torn,” Gerety writes. “We live in an era when trips to cultural and natural sites are relentlessly documented, to the point that aficionados have cataloged whole lists of the waterfalls, ancient ceremonial sites, and Mediterranean towns “ruined” by Instagram. I appreciate a good dose of privacy, all the more so in a beautiful spot. But if the land-art movement arose in part as a response to the cloistered world of urban galleries and museums, I couldn’t help but think that the measures protecting De Maria’s vision also served to re-create the art world’s penchant for exclusion and preoccupation with status.”

World-building in NM

Wired magazine highlights New Mexico science fiction writer Melinda Snodgrass’ recent praise of New Mexico as a “great place for sci-fi.” Snodgrass’ most recent novel Lucifer’s War “pits an unlikely band of heroes against a horde of Lovecraftian monsters that have been spreading fear and ignorance throughout human history.” She’s also well known for having written the Star Trek: The Next Generation script “The Measure of a Man” (the one in which Data’s status as a sentient being with rights to autonomy is debated). Snodgrass spoke about New Mexico, where she grew up and lives, during a recent appearance on Episode 529 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast, saying: “It’s a very weird place, where you have Los Alamos laboratory, Sandia laboratories, high-tech, high-energy centers. Some of the finest scientific minds in the world come here to lecture and study and commune with each other, and then on the other side you have people who will balance your aura and sell you a crystal to deal with your cancer.” Snodgrass also spoke about New Mexico’s fertile sci-fi writers’ community and her work through George RR Martin’s Stagecoach Foundation mentoring younger writers, among other topics.

Hold onto your hats

The National Weather Service forecasts another sunny, albeit windy, day with a high temperature near 63 degrees and southeast wind 10 to 15 mph becoming southwest 15 to 20 mph in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 30 mph.

Thanks for reading! The Word found yesterday exhausting on every level and is recovering by watching the Waimea Bay Cam meditation.

Editor’s note: An earlier version gave the wrong name last name for Sandoval. It’s been corrected.

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