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Local and State News

Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 6:20 a.m. MDT

  • Senate race pits political scion against TV-savvy Republican

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A Latino Congressman and mainstay of Democratic politics in northern New Mexico is vying for an open U.S. Senate seat against a television-savvy Republican challenger with household name recognition as a former network meteorologist based in Albuquerque. The race between U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján of Nambe and first-time candidate Mark Ronchetti is testing the statewide appeal of a six-term Congressional Democrat who signed Obama's health care overhaul and is fighting to preserve it in the age of COVID-19. Ronchettti is running as a "faith, family and freedom" Republican with a tough-on-crime platform, condemning career politicians and toxic politics in Washington, D.C.

  • Voting rights groups organize hotline to report interference

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Voting rights organizations in New Mexico have announced a nonpartisan voter protection program intended to make it easier for people to report election interference and seek out consultation on other problems at the polls or with absentee ballots. On Thursday, Common Cause New Mexico and the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico said they are establishing a hotline in English and Spanish that will be staffed by attorneys, law students and those with a legal background who are familiar with the New Mexico Election Code. President Donald Trump continued his assault on the integrity of the U.S. elections during the first presidential debate this week.

  • Much of U.S. Southwest left parched after monsoon season

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Cities across the U.S. Southwest recorded their driest monsoon season on record this year. Some locales received only a trace or no rain. The seasonal weather pattern that runs from mid-June through September brings high hopes for rain and a cooldown in the desert region. But like last year, it largely was a dud, leaving the region parched and prolonging the drought. Las Vegas tied a record set in 1944. Phoenix's monsoon season wasn't the driest, but the city had its hottest one on record. Weather forecasters say the upcoming winter likely won't make up for the precipitation deficit.

  • New Mexico senator seeks better air quality in US schools

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich has introduced legislation aimed at improving air quality in schools. The Keeping Schools Safe Act would provide $1 billion in grant funding for ventilation and air quality monitoring. It also would mandate the creation of coronavirus-specific technical guidance for heating, ventilation and air condition systems. Some existing ventilation systems including many in New Mexico schools are incapable of using filters that eliminate the coronavirus. Albuquerque Public Schools decided to stay online-only through the rest of the year citing ventilation and other issues. Heinrich, a New Mexico Democrat, says the measure would help students return to in-person learning.

  • Melania Trump praises care at detention centers in tape

WASHINGTON (AP) — First lady Melania Trump expressed support for the care that migrant children separated from their families received in U.S. detention centers and cast doubt on the authenticity of some immigrants' stories of fleeing danger in their home countries during a series of recordings aired Thursday. The tapes aired on CNN come from Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former aide to the first lady who released a book last month entitled "Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship with the First Lady." The White House has been critical of the book and says the first lady is focused on her family and serving the country.

  • Faith groups decry Trump's plans for record low refugee cap

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Refugee advocates are calling on Congress to halt the Trump administration's plans to lower its limit on refugees allowed into the U.S. to a record low. Faith-based groups, including some that President Donald Trump is courting for re-election support, said Thursday that further tightening of America's doors to refugees is immoral. They spoke a day after the government unveiled plans to reduce by more than 16% the number of refugees admitted to the country for the fiscal year that started Thursday. The 15,000 target is the lowest since Congress passed the 1980 Refugee Act. The president must consult lawmakers but he will ultimately make the decision.

  • Tracks, casinos push for gambling expansion in New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico's commercial racetrack and casino venues have crafted a proposal for an expansion that would include internet gaming, 24-hour casino operations and unlimited video slot machines and table games. Officials with Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino testified Thursday before the Legislative Finance Committee about overhauling the industry in New Mexico. Track lobbyist Scott Scanland told lawmakers that the officials want to start the conversation and that everything should be on the table. Under the proposal, tribes would no longer have to make revenue sharing payments to the state and the tax and purse structure for tracks would change to make up the difference.

ALBUQUERQUE N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham says the alarm bells are ringing as the number of COVID-19 cases and the rate of spread are on the rise in the state. She asked people during an online briefing Thursday to recommit to wearing masks, staying home and avoiding large gatherings, noting that she doesn't want another round of lockdowns. She floated the idea of people limiting their daily activities rather than going to multiple places in a single day. Another 227 COVID-19 cases were reported Thursday, bringing the statewide total to more than 29,660 since the pandemic began. Another five deaths also were reported.