Senate Democrats go to war with their own

In this week's edition of the Intelligencer, Democrat infighting reveals racial tensions, a New Mexico state senator gets into a kerfuffle with a Catholic bishop, the New Mexico Attorney General is embroiled in an ethics scandal, New Mexico's unemployment rate reveals failed policies, and a recent study uncovers a trend reversal in migration from Mexican immigrants.

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. Senate Democrats go to war with their own

Driving the news: Last Friday Democrat New Mexico Senator Jacob Candelaria blasted Democrat state Senate Leaders, Peter Wirth and Mimi Stewart, for failing to support “queer people and people of color.” Candelaria accused Wirth of killing a bill intended to end the “gay panic” legal defense, and Stewart of giving political protection to the director of the Legislative Education Study Committee who allegedly made slurs against Native Americans and a homosexual underling.

Why it matters: If Candelaria succeeds in overthrowing the current senate majority regime, it would likely drive the already progressive legislature even further to the radical left. He says he is willing to spend his entire campaign war chest of about $250,000 to oust the leaders --while also claiming he has “no ambition” to replace either of them with himself.

What they're saying: "For me, this is about a movement to change the culture…There’s a fundamental issue here about the ambivalence of elite white progressivism,” Candelaria said. "The actions of Senator Wirth and Senator Stewart have proven to me that they, in my view as a senator, should no longer be trusted with leadership of the institution."

In other words, not even politicians who virtue-signal are safe from the wrath of "wokeness", and it reflects the larger power struggle between radicals and moderates for the soul of America (and for power and control of our state government).

2. State Senator clashes with clergy

catholic church

Details: Sen. Joe Cervantes took to Twitter to seemingly mislead the public about why he was denied communion by the Las Cruces Catholic bishop, claiming it was “based on my political office.” But the local Diocese clarified that Cervantes was privately contacted multiple times regarding the pro-abortion bill he co-sponsored and that he should not present himself for communion.

Christopher Velasquez, who is the director of communications for the Diocese of Las Cruces, told the Catholic News Agency (CNA) on Monday that it was “unfortunate that a pastoral issue with a member of the local church be publicized.”

Why it matters: Cervantes had a cynical incentive to flout his clergy: his reputation as a moderate Democrat has made him a target of the radically pro-abortion left-wing of the party. This fear of losing his senate seat is likely the reason he threw his name on SB10 (the repeal of the abortion ban) in the first place.

The big picture: Last month the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops overwhelmingly voted by 74% to advance a “teaching document” that would prevent abortion supporters like Cervantes from receiving communion. The final draft will be voted on in November. The contradiction of pro-abortion politicians who are members of a pro-life religion has been pointed out for decades.

3. Attorney General’s conflict of interest in big green deal?

wind farm

Details: NM Attorney General Hector Balderas has used his office to farm out millions of dollars in legal contracts to a hub for top donors, Robles, Rael, & Anaya. Balderas and Marcus Rael Jr. are both UNM law school grads and worked together prior to Balderas’ political career.

Why it matters: For months, energy corporation Avangrid, owned by Spanish energy conglomerate Iberdrola, has been paying Rael to lobby the state for a merger with PNM, the state’s largest electric utility. Rael has met 18 times with the AG’s office –the last meeting was just days after Balderas said publicly that there needed to be dramatic changes in the merger deal. Coincidentally, after that meeting Balderas signed off on a deal that incorporated only mild changes.

The big picture: The merger is controversial because it could export massive amounts of energy out of state. PRC will ultimately approve or deny the merger as early as August, probably after a series of public hearings. As AG, Balderas will give testimony on whether the merger would ultimately be in the public interest. His questionable handling of this merger could backfire, not only for the political future of Balderas, but it is also likely to bring additional scrutiny from government regulators in Santa Fe.

4. New Mexico has the highest rate of unemployment in the U.S.


New Mexico's 7.9% unemployment rate in June ties Connecticut as having the worst unemployment rate in country.

Details: The federal government last Friday published the numbers for June and though not surprising it wasn't pretty. Our neighbors, including Texas, Arizona, and Colorado had rates 1 to as much as 2 percentage points higher than our shared spot at the bottom of the list. 

Reality check: It is unsurprising because unless you have been living under a rock, it is clear to business owners struggling to find workers and economic policy watchers that Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham's continued misguided push to pay unemployment benefits that exceed the take home pay of those employed incentivizes potential job seekers to stay home. 

Michelle Lujan Grisham said in June that cutting off the $300-a-week federal supplemental benefit would be “awfully punitive” while also saying that she "want[s] to incentivize workers to go to work” by offering up to $1,000 worker bonuses.

Sorry MLG. You can't have it both ways. It is clear your failed leadership on this issue is hurting New Mexico businesses (large and small), and the mixed signals of her economic policies are counterproductive and a poor use of taxpayer money.

5. For first time in years, more Mexicans came to U.S. than left for Mexico

border wall

Details: According to a new Pew Research Center analysis of the most recently available data capturing migration flows from Mexico and the U.S., more Mexican migrants came to the United States than left the U.S. for Mexico between 2013 and 2018 – a reversal of the trend in much of the prior decade.

What they are saying: The analysis attempts to explain the trend reversal: "In the U.S., job losses during the Great Recession of 2007-2009 in industries in which immigrants tend to be heavily represented may have pushed a large number of Mexicans to migrate back to Mexico, which in the aftermath of the recession also made the U.S. less attractive to potential Mexican migrants. In addition, stricter enforcement of U.S. immigration laws both at the southwest border and within the interior of the U.S. may have contributed to the reduction in Mexican immigrants coming to the U.S. in the years leading up to 2013."