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Local and State News

Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 1:20 a.m. MDT


RIO RANCHO, N.M. (AP) — A Republican candidate in a closely watched U.S. House race in Southern New Mexico has amended a campaign finance report after receiving a donation credited to a woman who had died. Yvette Herrell's campaign says the $2,800 donation from Joanne Harvard in June was due to a software glitch after her son and widowed husband also donated. Harvard died in April 2017. Her son, Jeff Harvard of the Harvard Petroleum Company, said it was his fault and not done on purpose. The campaign later attributed to the correct family member. Herrell is locked in a tight race with Democratic U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A federal judge has rejected an initial request to ease pandemic-related occupancy limits for in-person instruction at private schools in New Mexico, in a setback for a complaint supported by the U.S. Justice Department. In a Friday order, U.S. District Court Judge William Johnson rebuffed the complaint from the father of a seventh grade prep school student in Albuquerque who claimed restrictions aimed at social distancing are more severe at private schools than public ones. Johnson noted that some private schools have managed to reboot in-person teaching despite a 25% room occupancy limit, and that 7-12 grade public school students are still cut off from in-person learning.


LAS VEGAS (AP) — A new PBS film on the Latino voting bloc examines the rise of potentially the largest electorate of color in the U.S. The VOCES/PBS documentary "Latino Vote: Dispatches from the Battleground" is scheduled to begin airing on most PBS stations Tuesday and seeks to investigate how Latino voters see the 2020 Election. The film is told using a series of immersive dispatches from the battleground states of Nevada, Texas, Florida, and Pennsylvania. It follows left-leaning progressives and Latino evangelicals. Director Bernardo Ruiz says she wanted to focus directly on the Hispanic organizers and voters who may determine the nation's political future.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Economic analysts say that New Mexico is risking a public backlash and possibly overlooking recovery opportunities by not conducting an economic analysis of its pandemic-related health restrictions. State and independent analysists told a panel of legislators Friday that consumer confidence is key to the state's recovery as time goes on. Staff at the budget and accountability office of the Legislature said the state should consider incorporating more economic indicators into its pandemic policy decisions and build an economic dashboard to better track progress of economic recovery. The administration of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is taking a cautious approach to lifting health restrictions and reopening the economy.


LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — A New Mexico magistrate court judge has ruled there is probable cause to charge a former Las Cruces police officer in the choking death of a Mexican American man. The Las Cruces Sun-News reports Third Judicial District Court Judge Casey Fitch ruled this week there was enough evidence to order former Las Cruces Police officer Christopher Smelser to stand trial for second-degree murder. Smelser is accused of the Feb. 29 chokehold death of Antonio Valenzuela after he fled from a traffic stop. Smelser's attorney, Amy L. Orlando, said Smelser had been trained to use the hold and the murder charge was a political move.


FARMINGTON, N.M. (AP) — Body camera footage released by officials has shown that a New Mexico man who was shot and killed by a sheriff's deputy did not have a firearm as he claimed to after committing a crime spree. The San Juan County Sheriff's Office on Thursday released the video showing the fatal shooting of suspect Marco Benito. He was killed by police on Aug. 31 after he reached his right hand into a bag during a confrontation. An investigation by the San Juan County Regional Officer Involved Shooting Taskforce determined that the deputy used his weapon in accordance with sheriff's office's policy.


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.


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.