Hispanics' growing economic and electoral power

In this week's Intelligencer, Hispanics increase their clout, Governor Grisham pays up, left-wing groups give money for favorable public testimony, the interstate water war continues, and resistance to COVID mandates goes national — and local.

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.

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Dax Contreras
Executive Director, Hispanos Unidos

1. Hispanics increase both as an economic and electoral bloc

The details: The total economic output of American Hispanics was $2.7 trillion in 2019, and account for about 50% of net new small business growth in the past ten years. Hispanics also own 13% of all U.S. small businesses as well as 50% of all net new U.S. small businesses as of 2017. As of 2019, Hispanics are 1.7 times more likely to start businesses compared to all other ethnic groups.

Why it matters: Along with this expansion of economic strength, Hispanics are a key component of the Democratic Party’s intersectional coalition of the non-white. And although Democrats cracked 50% overall Hispanic in at least 11 states, Hispanics also swung Republican in 2020 in key places, most notably in Texas.

The big picture: With the Hispanic population surpassing 60 million in 2019 with a median age of 30 years old, the future of America is, in large part, the future of la gente. And as the divide between Left and Right becomes more pointed along cultural lines (traditional American values versus “progressive” secular ideology) it’s unclear which side Hispanics will align with.

One example of this is the immigration crisis at the border. An issue that has never been the main motivator of Hispanics, it is increasingly problematic for the Left as the situation gets more out of hand. According to the New York Times, a former Obama data analyst is advising Democrats to stop talking about the issue if they want to win elections.

2. Governor settles groping accusations with more money

Backstory: During Michelle Lujan Grisham’s 2018 campaign for governor, she poured water on a campaign staffer’s crotch and then grabbed that staffer’s private parts, according the staffer, James Hallinan. Hallinan says he was persuaded by the campaign to keep quiet, but he eventually filed suit against Lujan Grisham in 2019. Lujan Grisham has paid $62,500 to the law firm representing Hallinan.

What’s new: Over the past six months Governor Lujan Grisham has paid an additional $87,500, bringing the six figure total to $150,000. That money has come from Lujan Grisham’s campaign war chest, which has been deemed not illegal by fellow Democrat politician and current Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver.

Why it matters: Although the Governor claims the allegations are untrue, the payoff could be seen as “hush money” and a way to keep the details of the alleged assault out of the courts — and the public eye. Those running to unseat Lujan Grisham are likely to use the six-figure settlement against her on the campaign trail.

3. Left-wing groups giving cash in exchange for favorable public testimony?

The details: State watchdog group, New Mexico Ethics Watch, says it received copies of emails sent by left-wing political groups, Center for Civic Policy and NAVA Education Project, offering people $50 payments to speak in favor of “The People’s” map at the state’s redistricting committee hearings. This map would clearly benefit Democrats.

What they’re saying: NMEW executive director Kathleen Sabo is holding off judgement until all the facts are in but did say the payments “might cross the line” by possibly violating secretary of state rules that require paid lobbyists to disclose their paid lobbyist status.

Melanie Majors, executive director of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, said such paying people to speak at hearings was unheard of, “You could attend these meetings virtually, so why would anybody need a stipend to attend it?”

Elizabeth Cuna of Semilla Strategies of Albuquerque and campaign manager for the Center for Civic Policy for the redistricting campaign, responded to the controversy by saying it was a common practice and should be “encouraged” and “embraced.”

Why it matters: the Center for Civic Policy and NAVA are well-organized regulars when it comes to legislative committees. NM CAFÉ and other pseudo-non-partisan radical groups pushing the Democrat-friendly “People’s Map” are also ubiquitous and pack many committee hearings, organizing talking points, and having a huge impact on how our state is run.

4. Water wars rage on in New Mexico

Details: In 2013, Texas filed a lawsuit before the U.S. Supreme Court claiming New Mexico violated the Rio Grande Compact by using groundwater below the Elephant Butte reservoir: reducing surface water available downstream.

What’s happened: The federal government has intervened, saying New Mexico has failed to administer the groundwater usage, which threatens both the compact with Texas and a 1906 treaty with Mexico that requires the United States to provide Mexico with up to 60,000 acre-feet of water each year. This week during a virtual trial, special master Judge Michael Melloy heard witness testimony and opening arguments. Judge Melloy must also write a case report for the U.S. Supreme Court.

The big picture: The state has restricted New Mexican farmers from pumping the amount of water they need and with a drought stretching back to the early 2000’s, the urgency of this very complex situation has intensified the battle. Water is a huge issue for our desert environs — yet it is seemingly far below the radar of la politica.

5. COVID mandates, effective or not, motivate resistance

Details: While government intervention in the market has caused chaos in the international supply chain, more threats to nudge employers to force vaccinations on workers drove commercial airline pilots and flight attendants to call in sick en masse — in anticipation of getting fired for non-compliance.

Why it matters: In New Mexico specifically, there have been protests by healthcare workers in recent months in the form of public demonstrations as well as legal action against vaccine mandates. Even Los Alamos workers have taken to the streets for that cause.

Now, New Mexico State University faculty member, Professor David Clements, is now a former NMSU faculty member, fired as a result of his defiant stand against mask mandates on campus, which the university pins on NM Department of Health orders, which is an extension of Governor Lujan Grisham’s executive orders.

The big picture: Even though recent peaks in coronavirus stats are less than half of what they were last year, and even though rates have not increased as of late, the state of New Mexico –led by the executive dictates of MLG—continues to be one of the strictest lockdown states in the union. The health results and economic impact have been, at the very least, mixed.

6. Education event today features New Mexico Congresswoman


What it is: The news outlet Axios is hosting a livestream discussions with several prominent Hispanos, including Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernandez of New Mexico’s 3rd District. The event is a part of Axios’ Hispanic Heritage Month and focuses on “how education systems are devoting increased resources to prepare students” and will discuss “ensuring inclusivity for the next generation of leaders.”

Why it matters: Any chance New Mexico constituents can watch our elected officials discuss important issues is a good thing. Even better, when you register for the event, you have the opportunity to submit a question for Representative Fernandez.

To register to this online event, which starts today (Thursday, October 14th) at 10:30 a.m., click here.