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

New Mexico Democrats pick top contenders for June 7 primary

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Democrats are deciding which candidates to put at the top of their primary election ballot as the party strives to retain control of every statewide office and challenge a Republican incumbent in Congress. Convention-related events began Friday in Roswell and extend into the weekend, when party delegates begin balloting to endorse their favorite contenders. Competitive Democratic primary contests include races for state treasurer, state auditor and Congress in the 2nd District. Unopposed Democrats seeking reelection include Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver and State Lands Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard.

New Mexico hospitals seek new financial support

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Hospital executives are urging New Mexico's governor to sign off on health care spending proposals that would devote $171 million to shoring up labor costs at hospitals and nursing homes. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has until March 9 to vet a $8.5 billion spending plan from the Democratic-led Legislature for the fiscal year starting on July 1. In a public letter to the governor on Thursday, the New Mexico Hospital Association describes financial and physical strain of the pandemic on hospital staff that has left nursing staffs depleted. The governor also is weighing endorsement of a $1,000 personal income tax credit for resident nurses.

Members of Congress highlight missing minority women, girls

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Members of a congressional panel focused on civil rights and liberties are acknowledging that more needs to be done to address the disproportionate numbers of Indigenous, Black and other minority women and girls who are missing in the United States. The panel's chairman, U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, called it a "crisis hiding in plain sight." He says he hopes Thursday's hearing will shine more light on the problem. The panel heard from advocates working to bring more attention to the cases of missing and slain Native Americans as well as a Black father from Baltimore whose pregnant daughter went missing in 2017.

New Mexico to offer equal pay to Native American teachers

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico will begin to offer equal pay to dozens of Indigenous language teachers after legislation was signed into law Thursday. For years tribal members certified to teach languages like Zuni, Navajo, Apache and Keres haven't been considered teachers under state minimum salary rules, which require a four-year degree. Universities don't offer four-year degrees for most Native American languages. In New Mexico, they're certified by tribes and approved by state education officials, earning as little as $14,000 per year under the title of "teaching assistant." The law signed Thursday by Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham now sets the minimum salary at $50,000.

Ex-firefighter was 2nd driver killed in crash during pursuit

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Authorities say a retired New Mexico firefighter was the other person killed along with a Santa Fe police officer in fatal car crashes during a pursuit of a carjacked vehicle. A New Mexico State Police statement said Las Vegas resident Frank Lovato, a 62-year-old retired firefighter for the northern New Mexico city, died Wednesday at the scene on Interstate 25 in the Santa Fe area. The statement said Lovato was not involved with the pursuit. The other person killed in the crashes was previously identified as Robert Duran, a 43-year-od Santa Fe Police Department senior officer. The suspect fled after the crash and remained at large Thursday.

Sen. Ben Ray Luján: 'Absolute honor to be back' after stroke

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic Sen. Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico is back in Congress. Luján returned to Capitol Hill on Thursday for the first time since he had a stroke in January. Luján received a standing ovation as he entered a morning hearing of a Senate committee. Teary-eyed, he thanked colleagues for their support and told them: "It's an absolute honor to be back." His sudden absence had put new strain on Democrats' fragile 50-50 majority in the Senate, leaving them without full day-to-day control of the chamber and putting President Joe Biden's legislative agenda and Supreme Court nomination in doubt.

New Mexico officer dies in chase of suspected kidnapper

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Police in Santa Fe have released the name of the officer who was killed in a car chase Wednesday. They say Officer Robert Duran had been with the Santa Fe Police Department since 2015. Police say the 43-year-old Duran leaves behind a wife and two teenage sons. Authorities still are looking for a suspected kidnapper they say led their officers on a chase ending in a fatal car crash on a major highway. Duran and an uninvolved motorist were killed when the kidnapping suspect drove into oncoming traffic. A woman allegedly kidnapped is now in the hospital, while the man police say was armed with a knife escaped from the carnage on the road.

Election official warns residents about door-to-door canvas

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico's top election regulator and prosecutor are warning residents of Otero County in southern New Mexico to be wary of intrusive questions and potential intimidation by door-to-door canvassers linked to a review of the 2020 election that was authorized by the Republican-led county commission through a private company. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver said Wednesday that many Otero County residents have been caught off guard as they are approached by canvassers. She and Attorney General Hector Balderas encouraged voters to report any possible harassment. The U.S. continues to grapple with false claims surrounding President Joe Biden's win.