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Stories about New Mexico

New Mexico county commission recall effort fails to collect enough signatures to get on ballot

An effort to recall Couy Griffin (R) from his position as the District 2 representative on the Otero County Commission in New Mexico did not collect enough signatures to get on the ballot. Recall supporters had to collect 1,574 signatures from registered voters in District 2 by Sept. 28, but they announced that they had fallen short by 345 signatures.

Recall supporters said Griffin had used the office for personal gain. Griffin said the allegations against him were baseless and politically motivated.

Griffin, who founded the organization Cowboys for Trump, was arrested in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 17, for his alleged role in the breach of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. He was charged with “knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority,” according to the Alamogordo Daily News. Griffin was released from federal prison on Feb. 5.

After Griffin was arrested, District 1 Commissioner Gerald Matherly (R) and District 3 Commissioner Vickie Marquardt (R) called for his resignation, as did New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas (D). Griffin said he would not resign. He said he was accused of crimes but not convicted. “I just want those that have already come to the conclusion that I’m guilty, I just again ask you to put the brakes on a little bit and let the legal process take place,” Griffin said.

Griffin was elected to the three-member commission in 2018, defeating Democratic candidate Christopher S. Jones with 65% of the vote.

New Mexico allows recalls at the county level for “malfeasance or misfeasance in office or violation of the oath of office by the official concerned.” Those actions must have occurred during the official’s current term of office in order for a recall effort to be approved to circulate petitions.

Recall supporters filed paperwork to start the recall process on March 11. District Court Judge Manuel Arrieta ruled on April 8 that the recall effort could move forward. Griffin appealed that decision to the New Mexico Supreme Court on April 19. The New Mexico Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s ruling on June 28, allowing the recall effort to move forward.

In the first half of 2021, Ballotpedia tracked 164 recall efforts against 262 officials. This was the most recall efforts for this point in the year since the first half of 2016, when we tracked 189 recall efforts against 265 officials. In comparison, we tracked between 72 and 155 efforts by the midpoints of 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.

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Since Aug. 10, four states have implemented universal indoor mask requirements

Between Aug. 10 and Sept. 2, Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington announced new indoor mask requirements for both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.

In Illinois, an indoor mask requirement for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals went into effect on Aug. 30. Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) announced the policy on Aug. 26. Illinois had previously lifted its mask requirement, which lasted for 407 days between May 1, 2020, and June 11, 2021.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) announced an indoor mask requirement for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals on Aug. 11, and announced an outdoor mask requirement for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals on Aug. 24. The orders took effect on Aug. 13 and Aug. 27, respectively. Oregon had previously lifted its mask requirement, which lasted for 365 days between July 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021.

On Aug. 17, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) announced an indoor mask requirement for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals would take effect on Aug. 20. Previously, New Mexico had an indoor mask requirement in place only for unvaccinated individuals. It had lifted the requirement for vaccinated individuals on May 14, 2021.

In Washington, an indoor mask requirement for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals took effect on Aug. 23. Gov. Jay Inslee (D) announced the policy on Aug. 18. The requirement does not apply to small gatherings or office environments where everyone is vaccinated and interaction with the public is rare, or while working alone. Inslee previously lifted the indoor mask requirement for vaccinated individuals on May 13, 2021.

Three states currently have statewide mask orders for unvaccinated individuals, and 7 states have statewide mask orders for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. All 10 of the states have Democratic governors.

In total, 39 states have issued statewide mask requirements. Thirty-two states (16 states with Republican governors and 16 states with Democratic governors) have allowed statewide orders to expire. Three states (Louisiana, Oregon, and Illinois) that allowed a statewide order to fully expire later reinstated a mask order.



New Mexico Secretary of Education Ryan Stewart resigns

Ryan Stewart resigned as New Mexico’s secretary of education on Aug. 20, citing health issues in his family. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) first appointed Stewart to the position in August 2019. Stewart said he would continue serving at the Public Education Department in an advisory role. 

Lujan Grisham announced on July 29 that former Los Alamos Public Schools Superintendent Kurt Steinhaus would become the new secretary of education. Steinhaus retired as superintendent in May. He previously served as deputy cabinet secretary of the state Public Education Department and as director of student and education programs at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Steinhaus began his career as a music teacher at Alamogordo Public Schools.

“I’d like to thank Secretary Stewart for his steady leadership and guidance during these past two years. I’m among the many who will miss him. I’d also like to thank my colleagues at the Higher Education and Early Childhood Education and Care departments for their warm welcome and expressions of support,” Steinhaus said during a news conference. “I look forward to collaborating with them regularly as we work together to build the nation’s best cradle to career education system. We are united in that commitment.”

The New Mexico secretary of education is an appointed state executive position in the New Mexico state government. The secretary serves as head of the state Public Education Department and is responsible for overseeing New Mexico’s education policy and program development, operational management of the department, and the distribution of educational funding.

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Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton resigns from New Mexico House of Representatives

Representative Sheryl Williams Stapleton (D) resigned on July 30 following allegations of racketeering and money laundering. In July 2021, a federal grand jury subpoena was served on the Albuquerque Public Schools district where Stapleton was working as the district’s director of career and technical education.

According to the Albuquerque Journal, the investigation was triggered by a mislabeled invoice and persistent inquiries from the Albuquerque Public Schools business office questioning Stapleton’s relationship with contractor Robotics Management Learning System LLC. Documents say the contractor was paid more than $5 million since 2006 and that more than $950,000 of that was funneled to the two businesses and two nonprofits with ties to Stapleton.

In her resignation letter, Stapleton denied the allegations. She said, “In short, because I must devote a significant amount of time and energy to fully defend against these allegations, I believe it is in the best interest of this state and the House of Representatives that my position as both a member of the House of Representatives and Majority Floor Leader be replaced with a representative who can fully and competently resume the tasks and duties that are necessary to continue serving this great state.”

Stapleton was first elected to the New Mexico House of Representatives to represent District 19 in 1994. 

As of August 2021, there have been 78 vacancies in 35 state legislatures. Fifty of those vacancies have been filled. Stapleton’s resignation is New Mexico’s second state legislative vacancy this year; the first was Melanie Ann Stansbury (D), who left the state House when she won the special election to represent New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District.

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The latest redistricting news from New Jersey, New Mexico, and Wisconsin

In this week’s Redistricting Review, we cover news out of New Jersey, New Mexico, and Wisconsin.

New Jersey: On July 20,New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner asked Democrats and Republicans to reconvene and pick a consensus candidate for the 13th member of the state’s congressional redistricting commission.

According to state law, the majority and minority leaders of each chamber of the state legislature and the chair of the state’s two major political parties appoint the first 12 members of the congressional redistricting commission. The 12 commissioners then appoint the last commission member. If they cannot agree on an appointment, the commissioners must submit two names to the New Jersey Supreme Court and the court must then appoint the final commissioner.

Last week, when the commissioners could not reach a consensus by their July 15th deadline, they submitted former New Jersey Supreme Court Justice John E. Wallace, Jr., and former Superior Court Judge Marina Corodemus to the court. According to the New Jersey Globe, “This is the first time the two parties haven’t agreed on a 13th member for congressional redistricting. The Supreme Court option wasn’t involved in 1991, 2001 and 2011.”

Chief Justice Rabner gave the commissioners until July 30th to respond with a consensus candidate. If they do not, the New Jersey Supreme Court will pick a tiebreaker candidate by August 10th.

New Mexico: The New Mexico Redistricting Committee’s new website launched last week. The website includes information on how to participate in committee meetings and a portal for submitting public comments or maps. It can be accessed here.

Wisconsin: The Wisconsin Supreme Court temporarily halted a lower court ruling blocking Republican legislators from hiring private attorneys with taxpayer funds. On July 15, the court unanimously agreed to take up the case, and in a 4-3 decision ordered that Republican lawmakers be allowed to hire private attorneys pending their decision.

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Filing deadline to run for Albuquerque City Council was on July 5

The filing deadline to run for city council in Albuquerque, New Mexico, was on July 5, 2021. The seats in districts 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9 are up for election on November 2.

As of July 2, 19 candidates have filed across the five districts. In addition to the city council seats, the mayor of Albuquerque will also be on the ballot in November. The filing deadline to run in the mayoral race passed on June 19.

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Mayoral Election In Albuquerque, New Mexico (2021)

Mayoral Election In Albuquerque, New Mexico (2019)



New Mexico Supreme Court Justice Barbara Vigil retires

New Mexico Supreme Court Justice Barbara Vigil retired on June 30. She joined the court in 2012 after winning election to an open seat on the court against Paul J. Kennedy, 55% to 45%. Vigil won a retention election for a full eight-year term in 2016, with 72% of voters retaining her. Before that, Vigil served for 12 years as a New Mexico First Judicial District Court judge.

In the event of a midterm vacancy, New Mexico Supreme Court justices are chosen by assisted gubernatorial appointment, which means that the governor will select a nominee based on recommendations from the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission. To remain in office, the new appointee must stand for partisan election in November 2022 and retention election in 2024. 

All five New Mexico Supreme Court justices have been either elected as Democrats or appointed by a Democratic governor. Vigil’s replacement will be Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s (D) fourth nominee to the five-member supreme court, and Chief Justice Michael Vigil (no relation) was elected as a Democrat.

In 2021, there have been 14 supreme court vacancies caused by retirements in 12 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected.



New Mexico Supreme Court allows recall effort against Otero County commissioner to move forward

New Mexico Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Vigil on June 28 affirmed a lower court’s ruling to allow an effort to recall Couy Griffin (R) from his position as the District 2 representative on the Otero County Commission to move forward. Once the recall petitions are signed by the lower court justice who initially approved them, recall supporters will be given 90 days to collect 1,574 signatures to get the recall on the ballot.

New Mexico allows recalls at the county level for “malfeasance or misfeasance in office or violation of the oath of office by the official concerned.” Those actions must have occurred during the official’s current term of office in order for a recall effort to be approved to circulate petitions.

Recall supporters said Griffin had used the office for personal gain. Griffin said the allegations against him were baseless and politically motivated.

Griffin, who founded the organization Cowboys for Trump, was arrested in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 17, for his alleged role in the breach of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. He was charged with “knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority,” according to the Alamogordo Daily News. Griffin was released from federal prison on Feb. 5.

After Griffin was arrested, District 1 Commissioner Gerald Matherly (R) and District 3 Commissioner Vickie Marquardt (R) called for his resignation, as did New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas (D). Griffin said he would not resign. He said he was accused of crimes but not convicted. “I just want those that have already come to the conclusion that I’m guilty, I just again ask you to put the brakes on a little bit and let the legal process take place,” Griffin said.

Griffin was elected to the three-member commission in 2018, defeating Democratic candidate Christopher S. Jones with 65% of the vote.

In the first half of 2021, Ballotpedia tracked 164 recall efforts against 262 officials. This was the most recall efforts for this point in the year since the first half of 2016, when we tracked 189 recall efforts against 265 officials. In comparison, we tracked between 72 and 155 efforts by the midpoints of 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.



Bernalillo County Commission appoints Pamelya Herndon to New Mexico House of Representatives 

The Bernalillo County Commission appointed Pamelya Herndon (D) to District 28 in the New Mexico House of Representatives on June 22. Herndon replaces Melanie Ann Stansbury (D), who was elected to New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District on June 1 of this year. 

The Bernalillo County Commission voted 4-0 to appoint Herndon, who was one of eight candidates seeking the District 28 seat. Upon her appointment, Herndon said, “I will serve this district very well. I will represent every single person. I want to thank the commissioners for their faith in me and it starts immediately.” She will serve the remainder of Stansbury’s term, which ends on Jan. 17, 2023.

Before her appointment, Herndon served as the president and CEO of KWH Law Center for Social Justice and Change and the CEO of The Women’s Center for Social Justice and Change. She also worked with the Southwest Women’s Law Center, Herndon Legal Services, and the State of New Mexico. She received a B.B.A. in accounting from Howard University in 1975 and a J.D. from the University of Texas School of Law in 1978. 

As of June 24, there have been 57 state legislative vacancies in 32 states during 2021. Forty-one of those vacancies have been filled. Herndon is one of 21 Democrats to fill state legislative vacancies in 2021. 

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Melanie Stansbury sworn in to Congress on June 14

U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury (D) was sworn in to represent New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District on June 14. Stansbury defeated Mark Moores (R), 60% to 36%. to win a special election for the seat on June 1. The seat became vacant when former Rep. Debra Haaland (D) left office to become secretary of the interior. 

At the time of her election to Congress, Stansbury served in the New Mexico House of Representatives, representing District 28. She was first elected in 2018, defeating incumbent Jimmie Hall (R), 54% to 46%. Before running for office, Stansbury worked for the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and the Office of Management and Budget. She has also worked as a science educator with the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. 

When a vacancy occurs in the New Mexico House of Representatives, the governor appoints a replacement from a list provided by the board of county commissioners representing the vacant seat. The governor is not required to appoint someone of the same party as the last person who held the seat. 

With Stansbury taking office, the partisan breakdown of the U.S. House is 220 Democrats, 211 Republicans, and four vacancies. The partisan balance of the New Mexico House is 44 Democrats, 24 Republicans, one independent, and one vacancy. 

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