5 things to know about New Mexico’s elections

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - New Mexico voters will be choosing a lot more than a governor this November. They will also be electing a new attorney general and deciding whether Democrats will retain control of the state U.S. Senate seats and the statehouse. Here are five things to know about the midterm elections:

- U.S. SENATE

Democratic U.S. Sen. Tom Udall is seeking his second term, and with a sizeable campaign fund, he’s favored for an easy re-election. But Republican Allen Weh is putting up some of his personal fortune to launch an aggressive challenge. Udall is a popular former attorney general and congressman. Weh, a longtime Albuquerque businessman, is a former state Republican Party chairman and a retired Marine colonel who came in second behind Gov. Susana Martinez in the governor’s primary four years ago.

- ATTORNEY GENERAL

State auditor Hector Balderas, considered a rising star in the state Democratic Party, holds a more than 20-to-1 campaign cash advantage over Republican Susan Riedel in the race for attorney general. Balderas has stockpiled more money than any other statewide office candidates, except for Republican Gov. Susana Martinez. Balderas and Riedel are seeking the post being vacated by Gary King, who is attempting to unseat Martinez. Riedel is a former prosecutor and judge from Las Cruces.

- U.S. HOUSE

All three incumbents for New Mexico’s congressional seats are running for re-election. In the 1st Congressional District that covers most of Albuquerque, Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham is being challenged in her bid for a second term by Republican Mike Frese, a 66-year-old scientist and small business owner from Corrales. For the 2nd Congressional District seat, Democratic three-term incumbent Rep. Ben Ray Lujan is being challenged for a second time by Republican Jefferson Byrd of Tucumcari. In southern New Mexico, the national Democratic Congressional Committee is working to help Carlsbad lawyer Democratic attorney Roxanne “Rocky” Laura in her bid to unseat 3rd District Rep. Steve Pearce, who held the seat from 2003 to 2009, and most recently since 2011.

- LEGISLATURE

All 70 House seats are up for election this year. Twenty-five incumbents are unopposed. Republicans are eyeing the November election in hopes they can pick up enough seats to take control of the House for the first time in 60 years. Democrats hold a 37-33 advantage in the House. Democrats have a 25-17 majority in the Senate, and senators don’t run for election until 2016. Republicans hope their House candidates will receive a boost this fall by having the governor on the ballot to increase turnout of GOP-leaning voters in several potentially tight races.

- SECRETARY OF STATE

One of the feistier races is that between Republican Secretary of State Dianna Duran and Democratic Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver. They gave a preview on primary night with a squabble over how test returns ended up on a state website. Duran’s office blamed the county, saying some 88,000 Democratic votes that were part of test files were mistakenly reported by the clerk’s office. County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver said technicians verified the county sent only one file to state election officials Tuesday and that file included the correct results that the county posted on its own website.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.

Federal judge halts key part of Texas abortion law

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - A federal judge has thrown out new abortion restrictions that would have banned the procedure at most Texas facilities where women can legally end a pregnancy.

U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel on Friday sided with abortion clinics that challenged one of the most disputed measures of a sweeping anti-abortion bill signed by Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry in 2013.

The law would have required the clinics to meet hospital-level operating standards by Sept. 1. That would have left seven places for women to get an abortion in Texas, down from the 19 facilities that abortion-rights groups say are currently available.

The lawsuit was the latest challenge to tough new anti-abortion laws sweeping across the U.S.

The state is expected to appeal.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.

Albuquerque mayor vetoes decriminalize pot bill

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry has vetoed a measure that would have allowed voters to decide if small amounts of marijuana would be decriminalized in New Mexico’s largest city.

Berry said in a video message Friday that the proposal would contradict state and federal laws, and he couldn’t “in good conscience” support the bill.

A divided Albuquerque City Council voted to put the measure on the November ballot after activists failed to collect enough signatures.

The veto comes two days after the Santa Fe City Council bypassed voters and adopted outright a similar measure that makes possession of an ounce or less of marijuana a civil infraction punishable by a fine of no more than $25.

Berry’s move also vetoes a tax increase and other proposals attached to the same bill.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.

Police: Lovington student dies from accident

LOVINGTON, N.M. (AP) - Authorities say a 17-year-old Lovington high school student has died after falling off a moving vehicle on campus.

The Hobbs News-Sun reports that the that the female teen suffered injuries to her head Wednesday and was airlifted to a hospital in Lubbock, Texas

Lovington Municipal Schools Superintendent Darin Manes announced the student’s death Thursday after visiting with the family.

Lovington police Det. David Miranda says the specifics as to how the student fell from the vehicle are still being investigated and he doesn’t expect it to be complete until sometime next week.

The student’s name has not been released.

Miranda says that no arrests have been made.

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Information from: Hobbs News-Sun

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.

Police: Lovington student dies from accident

LOVINGTON, N.M. (AP) - Police say a 17-year-old Lovington high school student has died from an apparent accident on campus.

KRQE-TV reports that the female teen badly hurt her head Wednesday and was airlifted to a hospital in Lubbock, Texas. Authorities say she died Thursday night.

The student has not been identified.

Police says a car driving another student was involved and the girl was not hit or run over.

No further information was available.

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Information from: KRQE-TV

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.

AG: Santa Fe within rights to decriminalize pot

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - New Mexico Attorney General Gary King’s office says Santa Fe is within its right to decriminalize marijuana and it has no plans to challenge the city’s new ordinance.

Phil Sisneros, a spokesman for King, said Thursday that the attorney general supports decriminalizing marijuana laws and believes Santa Fe acted within its authority.

Those comments come after Santa Fe city councilors voted 5-4 this week to decriminalize marijuana, making the city the first in New Mexico to make possession of small amounts of pot a civil infraction.

The new ordinance makes possession of an ounce or less punishable by a fine of no more than $25. Previously, it was a criminal misdemeanor.

King, a Democrat, is running for governor against Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.

UNM to use grant to help student journalists

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - University of New Mexico will use a $35,000 grant to help student journalists get their work published and read throughout the state.

The Daily Lobo reports the school’s Communication and Journalism Department recently received the Online News Association grant and have used it to build an online news portal called New Mexico News Port.

Michael Marcotte, a visiting associate professor, says the portal will serve as a platform where students can experiment with the new tools of journalism.

She says students will cover the upcoming New Mexico elections and will partner with KUNM, KNME and the Daily Lobo.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.

Stewart says Ward’s death will affect him forever

ATLANTA (AP) - Tony Stewart says the death of Kevin Ward Jr. will “affect my life forever” as he returned to the track for the first time since his car struck and killed the fellow driver during a sprint-car race in New York.

Stewart spoke Friday for the first time Ward died at an Aug. 9 dirt-track event in upstate New York.

The three-time NASCAR champion has not raced since Ward’s death. Stewart will race in Atlanta on Sunday night for the first time in three weeks. He says he took time out of respect for Ward’s family - and so he could cope with the tragedy.

Speaking quietly, Stewart says he could not answer questions about the incident and he left after reading a short statement.


Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.

Mayor appoints Navajo to homelessness task force

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry has appointed Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly’s former chief of staff to chair the city’s new Native American Homelessness Task Force.

Berry says Sherrick Roanhorse joins the task force with extensive knowledge of Native American affairs. In addition to his role with Shelly, Roanhorse has worked as a policy analyst for the New Mexico Indian Affairs Department and as and a government and legislative affairs specialist with the Navajo Nation in Washington, D.C. He currently works in the state government affairs office of PNM.

Berry and Shelly agreed to create the task force following the brutal beating deaths in July of two homeless Navajo men in a vacant lot on Albuquerque’s southwest side.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.

County changes policy on immigration checks

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - New Mexico’s most populous county no longer will keep inmates in jail while their immigration status is being checked if there’s no order to keep them in custody once they’ve posted bail.

Bernalillo County officials say the new policy means the county won’t keep inmates confined at the Metropolitan Detention Center merely on the basis of a request from immigration authorities.

According to the Albuquerque Journal, County Attorney Randy Autio said the policy change is a result of court cases around the country.

He said authorities can’t violate somebody’s civil rights for the convenience of a government agency.

Autio says the county will still communicate with federal agents and notify them if there’s been a release order.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.

Santa Fe City Council votes to decriminalize pot

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - The Santa Fe City Council has voted to decriminalize marijuana, making the city the first in New Mexico to make possession of small amounts of pot a civil infraction.

The council voted 5-4 Wednesday night to make possession of an ounce or less punishable by a fine of no more than $25. Previously, it was a criminal misdemeanor.

Activists had submitted enough valid voter signatures to force a public vote on the matter.

By approving the matter outright, the council hoped to avoid the costs of a vote and the uncertainty of the question even making the November ballot.

Gov. Susana Martinez has said she opposes efforts in Albuquerque and Santa Fe to reduce marijuana possession penalties, and that she doubts a municipality can decriminalize pot without legislative action.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.

Ukraine’s leader urges country not to panic

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) - Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is calling on the country to resist giving into panic in the wake of Russian forces entering the country.

Poroshenko called an urgent session of the national security council on Thursday. Security officials said two columns of tanks entered the country’s southeast earlier in the day.

"Destabilization of the situation and panic, this is as much of a weapon of the enemy as tanks," Poroshenko told the security council, according to the Interfax news agency.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.