US Southwest Report – November 2018

ARIZONA

Arizona’s First Female Senator

Democratic Representative Krysten Sinema pulled out to a 1.5%, 32,169-vote lead over Republican Martha McSally in the Arizona Senate race. Senator-elect Sinema replaces retiring Republican Senator Jeff Flake and is the first woman to represent Arizona in the Senate.

Doug Ducey Re-elected Governor

By a margin of 57% to 41%, Republican Doug Ducey has been re-elected as the Governor of Arizona over his Democratic challenger David Garcia.

Garcia, a longtime educator, had hoped to use widespread anger over the Republican state government’s failure to fund Arizona schools sufficiently to unseat the incumbent. However, Garcia fell behind in the polls early on and had a 1 in 80 chance of winning on Election Day.

In a victory speech at the Republican watch party in Paradise Valley, Ducey said he was “truly energized by the work that lies ahead. This victory would not have been possible without the support and work of so many all-stars, starting with my family,” “It means a lot to stand before you tonight and call all of you friends.”

Governor Ducey attempted to highlight improvements in the state’s economy and finances during his tenure, though he said that there is “still work to be done in K-12 education.”


COLORADO

Jared Polis is the next Governor

Representative Jared Polis (D-CO-02), from Boulder, handily beat Walker Stapleton, Colorado’s Republican treasurer, by nearly 52 percent to 44 percent, according to incomplete results.

“Colorado is a state that values diversity,” Polis said in a pre-Election Day interview. “We’re willing to elect people that are going to do a good job for our state regardless of their background. … I think it’s exciting to show how far the LGBT community has come that it doesn’t stand in the way of being elected to the highest office in the state.”

Constitutional Amendment to Prohibit Slavery Approved

For more than 100 years, the Colorado Constitution included a provision that prohibited slavery, however, contained an exception for slavery, or involuntary servitude as punishment for a crime. The amendment was put on the ballot with overwhelming bipartisan support from Colorado’s lawmakers. It will change Article II, Section 26 of the state’s constitution, which has stated for more than 100 years: “Slavery prohibited. There shall never be in this state either slavery or involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.”

The new version will shorten that second sentence to say, “There shall never be in this state either slavery or involuntary servitude.” The Amendment was approved 65.1% (1,235,414) to 34.9% (663,370).


NEW MEXICO

Rep. Michelle Lujan-Grisham is the Next Governor

In a race that saw two New Mexico Representatives relinquish their seats to vie for the opportunity to lead the state, Michelle Lujan-Grisham is the victor. “What we did tonight is send a very clear message that this is a state that’s ready to lead in so many ways,” Lujan Grisham told cheering supporters at her election night party in Albuquerque. “Gone are the days when anyone talks about New Mexico not being in first place.”
The election results will see the Democratic Party gain as many as seven seats in the state house and raise fundamental questions about the future of the Republican Party of New Mexico. All Republican candidates challenged by Democratic women were defeated, and women may now hold 31 of the 70 state House seats, a watershed moment in state politics. The first Muslim ever elected to the state house will be engineer Abbas Akhil, who unexpectedly defeated Rep. Jim Dines (Dines, R-Albuquerque).

The state House could go from a 38 to 32 majority to as much as 45-to-46 Democratic majority. The new Democratic Governor will be in place when legislative redistricting takes place in 2021.

Reports of who will hold the powerful post of chief of staff when Governor-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham takes office may have an answer. Lawrence Rael is considered the front-runner. Rael is a bureaucrat’s bureaucrat who has served as Chief Administrative Officer to several ABQ mayors and who is currently Chief Operating Officer for ABQ Mayor Tim Keller.

Rael is a native New Mexican who ran for the Democrat Gubernatorial primary in 2014. The Chief of Staff position will put Rael directly in the orbit of the Governor’s office. He also has the administrative experience to run the day to day affairs of state government, a skill set not readily available.

The Governor-elect has announced former New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman will lead the transition team. The Governor-elect could begin by nominating cabinet appointees who could then lead the transition for their departments but has made no job offers. The Governor-elect announced at a press conference that Bingaman will be involved in shaping policy and identifying potential cabinet picks. “We really want to send a message that we want the best and the brightest to engage with us so we can make those decisions,” Lujan Grisham said.

PRC Election Results

Democratic candidate Stephen Fischmann is the unofficial winner in the Public Regulation Commission’s southwest District 5. Fischmann’s victory could put control of the commission into the hands of a progressive regulatory bloc through alignment with Democratic commissioners Valerie Espinoza and Cynthia Hall, possibly leading to more renewable energy development in New Mexico.

Two other commissioners will also join the PRC next year. They include Republican Jefferson Byrd, who won in eastern district 2 on Tuesday to replace current Republican Commissioner Pat Lyons, and Democratic candidate Theresa Becenti-Aguilar, who will replace Democratic Commissioner Lynda Lovejoy in northwest District 4.


UTAH

Mitt Romney heading to the U.S. Senate for Utah

Mitt Romney, the former Governor of Massachusetts and 2012 Republican presidential candidate, will represent Utah in the United States Senate. Romney was a leader of the ‘never Trump’ movement in 2016. Nevertheless, during his successful campaign to take over the seat of retiring Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Romney said he would be an only occasional critic of the president “when it is a matter of substantial significance.” In a clear message to the Trump Administration after the resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Senator-elect tweeted “I want to thank Jeff Sessions for his service to our country as attorney general,” Romney said. “Under Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, it is imperative that the important work of the Justice Department continues, and that the Mueller investigation proceeds to its conclusion unimpeded.”

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