Are Hispanic Voters Tiptoeing Right?

In this week's Intelligencer, the Hispanic vote for Democrats continues to erode, a bipartisan lawsuit to limit executive power, the unintended consequences of government control, a broken government child support system, a former lawmaker is indicted by a grand jury, and Democrats get a key federal judge appointment.

The Intelligencer is a weekly newsletter that gives you a quick overview of La Politica across New Mexico and the U.S., covering topics such as policy, current events, the political landscape, and tech.

Send us any feedback (including chismes and quejas) by going to our website or shoot me an email at dax[AT]nmhispanos.com. And if you are not already subscribed, sign up here.


Dax Contreras
Executive Director, Hispanos Unidos

1. Democrats warn of 'canary in the coal mine' for Hispanic voters in California recall

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What's happening: California Gov. Gavin Newsom soundly defeated the effort to remove him from office. But the rosy result obscures a significant drop of support among Hispanic voters for Democrats.

Details: The electorate in California's recall election two weeks ago was 24% Hispanic. Sixty percent of them opposed the recall, preferring to keep Gov. Gavin Newsom in office. That’s a solid margin, but it’s also down four points. Mr. Newsom won 64% of Latinos in 2018.

The numbers are more intriguing for Latino men: 55% opposed the California recall, dropping six points from three years ago.

Background: The Democratic dip is interesting particularly because it follows a trend. Exit polls from 2020 say that Mr. Trump, while losing the election, improved his share of the Latino vote by four points. He won five Texas counties where the population was at least 80% Hispanic, all of which he’d lost in 2016, according to the L.A. Times.

What's they're saying: “Donald Trump got a historic number of Latino votes in 2020, and you can claim it was because of this or because of that, but it’s not like Larry Elder broke through for these folks. There is something else going on,” said Michael Trujillo, a Democratic strategist based in Los Angeles, referring to the leading Republican candidate in the failed recall attempt.

The big picture: No one is predicting a total collapse of Democratic Hispanic support, and the effect obviously was not enough to make Larry Elder the next Governor of California. But in a country that’s about evenly split, a little shift in a growing demographic matters, and it’s no longer easy to dismiss the Hispanic shift in GOP support as a fluke, rather it's more of a continuing trend we will be watching, especially in upcoming New Mexico elections.

2. Republican and Democrat state senators team up to sue MLG

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Details: Greg Baca, the Republican and Jacob Candelaria, the Democrat are both lawyers and together have filed a petition contending that Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham does not have a monopoly on spending the remainder of the $1.7 billion in American Rescue Plan funds. The governor’s office responded by claiming they do. The State Supreme Court will decide whether or not to hear this specific question.

Why it matters: Nearly $2 billion is a nice chunk of change and the Grisham administration, under the “leadership” of former politician/bureaucrat Bill McCamley has previously been accused of corruptly allocating hundreds of millions in federal COVID cash. McCamley resigned right before the scandal went public.

The big picture: This petition is only the latest reaction to MLG’s dictatorial governance. Recently, another state Senator teamed up with local New Mexicans to challenge Grisham’s executive orders that continue to keep the Land of Enchantment on lockdown. This petition for a grand jury could lead to the removal of the governor who, so far, has survived her first term with little damage. With her approval dropping, November of 2022 will most likely be the only chance to deny her a second term.

3. Government control of the economy continues to backfire

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Unintended consequences: People in rural areas will now struggle to find a place to fuel up their cars. A recently passed liquor reform law included an amendment that forced gas station owners to choose between selling gasoline or hard liquor. Many gas stations no longer sell gas. One owner, Gigi Garcia, said all of the 8-cents-per-gallon profits are lost in payroll and maintenance, plus new federal laws would make her pay for new gas pumps.

Bad incentives: First, the government spent tax dollars to pay people not to work, and then spent tax dollars to try to pay people to go back to work by giving out checks for up to $1,000. Although New Mexico has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, only about 4,000 New Mexicans took the money. Local businesses continue to hunt for employees. The $2.9 million spent on those workers — who made up only 5 to 10 percent of unemployed New Mexicans — comes from the federal “stimulus” leaving $7 million earmarked for 15,000 workers.

Corporate cronies: For years, environmentalists have partnered with Democrat politicians to favor large corporations that profit from unreliable “green energy” that often emit more pollutants than fossil fuels. In New Mexico, 30 percent of the state budget and 90 percent of education funding comes from oil and gas taxes. Now, Congressman Leger Fernández, NM CD3, the “Just Transition for Energy Communities Act” would offer $4.5 billion in grants to help deal with the economic loss brought about by the environmentalists.

4. “It sours everybody on the purpose of child support and the purpose of government.”

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Details: A mother can’t receive certain federal welfare if she doesn’t name her child’s father and other personal info (bank account, etc.) as well as provide the date she believed she got pregnant or even to submit their children to genetic testing. All this in order to force fathers to pay child support, which the state takes as reimbursement for providing the mother’s welfare.

Why it matters: Some women fear domestic violence or emotional abuse in retaliation if they name fathers to the authorities, though they might be allowed to opt out of these requirements if she provides a police report, restraining order, or affidavit attesting to the harm she’d face by naming an abusive father. Others fear that the state will garnish up to 65 percent of the father's paycheck — or face jail time (at taxpayers' expense) if he can’t pay up.

The bottom line: In 2020, more than $1.7 billion in child support was collected by federal and state governments and during the pandemic, they even funneled stimulus from poor fathers to government — $684 million more than in 2019, mostly from dads’ stimulus checks being intercepted — none of which went to mothers or children.

The big picture: America became the most prosperous nation in history much in part to private charity. When government was smaller and taxes lower, it was easier for people to help the poor. But today, welfare spending can’t keep up with inflation, minimum wage increases, or tens of thousands of illegal immigrants coming in. Yet, states continue to spend billions on agenda-driven and corrupt schemes, which steers funds away from directly helping mothers and children in poverty.

5. The former New Mexico House majority leader is indicted by a grand jury

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Details: Court documents show former lawmaker and Albuquerque Public School employee, Sheryl Williams Stapleton, has been indicted by a grand jury.

Background: Stapleton is accused of using her position as a powerful lawmaker and APS employee to funnel money to her personal and business bank accounts and has been indicted on 28 criminal charges, including money laundering and racketeering.

What we're watching: As we recently covered, Demesia Padilla, the former New Mexico tax department head, received five years of probation but no prison time. It remains to be seen if Stapleton's accused egregious violation of the public trust will receive a similar slap on the wrist or something more substantial.

6. Democrats finally get the Federal judge they wanted

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Background: In October of 2019, the nominee to replace U.S. District Judge Robert Brack, Kevin R. Sweazea, withdrew from consideration for the job — mainly because the two Democrat U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich pulled their support of his nomination. Sweazea was given the highest rating of "unanimously well qualified" by the American Bar Association and other high marks from peers. Despite his qualifications Udall and Heinrich refused to return their “blue slips” — a nominee for federal district court does not move forward for a confirmation vote without one from their senator.

Playing games: Even though the senators’ offices repeatedly informed Sweazea they would support him, it was rumored that Udall and Heinrich were actually pushing for others to be the nominee. All the while, as the four active judges were swamped with cases (it was so bad that judges from other states were brought in to help), the Democrat senators said they were “working to see the judicial vacancies filled with qualified candidates as soon as possible.”

Fast-forward two years later and Heinrich and Udall’s senatorial replacement Ben Ray Lujan returned their “blue slips” for the Biden nominee, 41 year-old Margaret Strickland. Strickland, a criminal defense lawyer who recently served two years as president of the powerful New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers Association.

What we're watching: It seems the Democrat senators stalled Trump’s nominee to get one who is more aligned with their politics, as district judges are responsible for sentencing felony cases — including felony reentry immigration cases. “I am confident that her experience in southern New Mexico and the southwest border region, along with her incredible work ethic, she will immediately get to work on a heavy backload of cases,” said Heinrich on the senate floor. It will be interesting to watch a career criminal defense attorney switch roles from defense attorney to a judge in a court notorious for having a tremendous backlog of immigration cases.