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Local and State News

Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 11:20 a.m. MDT

  • Early voting surges in New Mexico as Senate candidates clash

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — More than 80,000 people cast ballots across New Mexico over the weekend as Democrats continue to dominate early voting ahead of the Nov. 3 presidential election. The secretary of state's office said Monday that more than 265,000 ballots have been cast. Voting convenience centers opened Saturday across the state. Registered Republicans currently account for one-third of ballots, while about 54% were cast by Democrats. On Sunday, candidates in an open U.S. Senate race presented clashing visions for the future of the U.S. health care system, responses to climate change and potential policing reforms during a televised debate. Democratic Rep. Ben Ray Lujan and Republican former meteorologist Mark Ronchetti hope to replace Democratic Sen. Tom Udall, who is retiring. 

  • Navajo Nation reports 42 new COVID-19 cases but no deaths

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) — Navajo Nation health officials are confirming 42 new cases of COVID-19 but no new deaths. The figures released Sunday night bring the total number of cases to 10,955. The known death toll remained at 573. Tribal health officials said 116,368 people on the vast reservation that covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah have been tested for COVID-19 since the pandemic started and 7,381 have recovered. A shelter-in-place order, mask mandate, daily curfews and weekend lockdowns remain in effect on the Navajo Nation. Most people experience mild or moderate symptoms with the coronavirus, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks.  

  • Explosion at New Mexico cannabis plant critically injures 2

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Two men are in critical condition after an explosion at a cannabis manufacturing facility in New Mexico. The explosion Thursday at the New MexiCann Natural Medicine facility in Santa Fe was the second explosion that has injured workers at the plant in the last five years. The two men were transported by air ambulance to a hospital. Their identities were not made public. A state official says the incident is under investigation. Fire officials obtained two search warrants Friday for camera footage of dispensary. 

  • New Mexico marks another daily record for virus cases

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico health officials confirm that the state set another new single-day record with 819 confirmed COVID-19 cases. The state Department of Health reported new cases Friday. The previous record of 672 confirmed cases on Thursday already had eclipsed records set in recent days. The new cases of the novel coronavirus bring the state total to 35,770. In addition to the new cases, the state also reported that six more people in New Mexico died of the virus. The spike in cases comes as eight football players at the University of New Mexico and one assistant coach tested positive for the coronavirus. The positive cases announced Wednesday led state officials to step in and shut down all team activities.

  • Spaceport America board fires executive director

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — The CEO of New Mexico's commercial spacecraft launch facility facing accusation he pressured a former chief financial officer to circumvent internal financial controls has been ousted. The Las Cruces Sun-News reports Dan Hicks was terminated as Spaceport America's executive director and CEO with little public discussion on Friday. The governing board of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority met in a special session via video conference. The firing comes as Hicks has been on administrative leave since June while allegations of mismanagement and abuse of authority have been under investigation by the New Mexico State Auditor and the New Mexico Spaceport Authority. Hicks did not immediately return phone messages.

  • Torres Small keeps big money edge in key US House race

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — Democratic U.S. House Rep. Xochitl Torres Small has kept a fundraising edge in a crucial House race in southern New Mexico that Republicans hope to flip. Federal election reports show the Las Cruces Democrat pulled in $2,247,575 during that third quarter, which ended September 30. She now has $1,869,189 cash-on-hand going into the final weeks before the election. Republican challenger Yvette Herrell saw a surge in fundraising during the same period and raised $1,013,687 _ one of the biggest fundraising quarters for a Republican congressional candidate in state history. The Alamogordo Republican reported having $514,096 cash-on-hand.

  • NM man who shot and killed another guilty of manslaughter

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Federal prosecutors say a 22-year-old man who fatally shot another man while staying at his girlfriend's house has pleaded guilty to a voluntary manslaughter charge. The U.S. Attorney's Office in New Mexico announced that Joshua Gutierrez entered the plea Friday in Albuquerque federal court. A news release from the U.S. attorney says Gutierrez was staying at a home on the Navajo Nation where his girlfriend and her father lived when the shooting occured on March 29 when he went to investigate an argument. The shooting happened on the Navajo Nation and Gutierrez faces 12 years in prison. 

  • New Mexico retirement board to amend investment policies

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A panel that oversees a multibillion-dollar pension fund for New Mexico teachers and other educational retirees is taking a step toward dropping investments in private prison companies. The Educational Retirement Board voted 4-2 with one member abstaining to amend its investment policies to exclude private prisons. Teachers' unions and immigrant activists have been pushing the board to do so for more than a year, saying divesting in certain companies would make a statement. Some board members reiterated their concerns during Friday's meeting, saying the board has to be mindful of constitutional mandates and statutory requirements that guide investment of the retirement fund.