New Mexico Energy Economy Lujan Grisham

In this file photo, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham prepares to sign an executive order related to prioritizing hydrogen development following a roundtable discussion with business leaders in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on March 10, 2022. 

NEW MEXICO

Voting starts to pick GOP challenger for governor

SANTA FE — Early voting started on May 10 across New Mexico ahead of the June 7 primary Election Day to determine the Republican nominee for governor and Democratic nominees for attorney general and other statewide offices.

Election officials began mailing absentee ballots to local voters and county clerk's offices opened their doors to in-person voting. Expanded early voting begins May 21 at more polling locations.

Five Republicans are vying for the nomination to challenge Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham as she seeks a second term. They include former television meteorologist Mark Ronchetti, state Rep. Rebecca Dow of Truth or Consequences and Sandoval County Commissioner Jay Block.

Democratic voters will select a nominee for the state's top law enforcement post as term-limited Attorney General Hector Balderas completes his second term. Albuquerque-based District Attorney Raúl Torrez is competing against lawyer and State Auditor Brian Colón, who is also from Albuquerque. The winner will compete against Republican attorney and U.S. Marine veteran Jeremy Michael Gay of Gallup.

New Mexico requires affiliation with a major party in order to vote in a primary.

But recent changes in state election law — including same-day registration — make it easier for unaffiliated voters to participate in the primary by affiliating with a major party, even briefly.

People already registered to vote for major parties — Republican, Democratic or Libertarian — are prohibited from switching parties during the election period that lasts from May 10 through June 7.

Grandma gets honorary degree for aiding community

SANTA FE — An 84-year-old woman has received an honorary degree from Northern New Mexico College for her contributions to the small community north of Española.

The degree was awarded Saturday to Socorro Herrera.

"I'm not the type that likes to show off, but they gave me that honorary degree, and I'm glad," Herrera told the Santa Fe New Mexican in an interview after the ceremony.

According to the newspaper, Herrera is a great grandmother and is known for feeding the elderly, singing at weddings and running Socorro's Restaurant, a staple of the little town that has drawn customers including former President Barack Obama and famed actor John Travolta.

Herrera was born in the same house in Hernández where she has operated the restaurant for the past 28 years.

She married at 16, had the first of her four children by the time she was 17 and didn't graduate from high school back then.

But now, Herrera is on her way to holding a diploma from the Peñasco Independent School District.

She has six grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

SOUTH DAKOTA

Eggers offers replacements for banned books

RAPID CITY — Best-selling author Dave Eggers is offering high school seniors in South Dakota's second-largest city free copies of his book "The Circle" and copies of four books by other authors that were removed from the district's schools.

School administrators in Rapid City deemed the books inappropriate for high school students and and marked the district's copies as surplus to be destroyed.

"The mass destruction of books by school boards is an unconscionable horror, and the freethinking young people of South Dakota shouldn't be subjected to it," Eggers said. Valerie Brablec Seales, Rapid City Area Schools' director of Teaching, Learning and Innovation, told the Board of Education that teachers requested the books and were considering using them in a new 12th-grade English course.

Seales didn't say why administrators objected to "The Circle," which satirizes cultures and values that have emerged in the internet age. But she said the first concerns about one of the five books were raised in August, the Rapid City Journal reported.

She said the books were ordered and sent to a warehouse before being distributed to the district's three high schools. Copies of the five books in question were then listed as surplus and marked "to be destroyed." The Board of Education on May 3 voted to delay a decision to destroy the books in order to seek legal advice.

Eggers said Rapid City seniors can receive any of the books that were pulled from the high school at no cost to them by emailing Amanda Uhle at amanda@daveeggers.net. He said the books will be shipped to students by independent bookstores.

Among the other books that the district pulled are "How Beautiful We Were: A Novel" by Imbolo Mbue, which follows a young woman from a small African village who starts a revolution against an American oil company.

WYOMING

UW employees could get pay raises this summer

Some University of Wyoming employees might be seeing a pay raise, the school announced on May 5.

Base pay raises would range between $1,400 and $1,900. Some employees could see additional salary increases based on merit, market and compression issues. Pay compression means that some new employees might currently make close to, or sometimes more than, what longer-tenured employees make.

The raises would go into effect starting July 1 if university trustees approve the plan. It's the first broad-based raise for UW employees since the 2018-2019 fiscal year, the school said in a statement.

An approximately $8 million annual appropriation from the Wyoming legislature would pay for the increases. That amount would be divided into two pools.

The first would provide salary increases for employees earning below $150,000. Employees earning below $80,000 would get a $1,900 increase. Employees earning between $80,000 but under $150,000 would get a $1,400 increase. Those earning above $150,000 wouldn't get an increase from this pool of money.

The second pool would pay for raises based on merit, market and compression issues.

Across state government, officials have been looking at ways to bump worker salaries amid concerns about recruitment and retention.

ARIZONA

Woman avoids jail for voting dead mom's ballot

PHOENIX— A judge in Phoenix on April 27 sentenced a woman o two years of felony probation, fines and community service for voting her dead mother's ballot in Arizona in the 2020 general election.

But the judge rejected a prosecutor's request that she serve at least 30 days in jail because she lied to investigators and demanded that they hold those committing voter fraud accountable.

The case against Tracey Kay McKee, 64, is one of just a handful of voter fraud cases from Arizona's 2020 election that have led to charges, despite widespread belief among many supporters of former President Donald Trump that there was widespread voter fraud that led to his loss in Arizona and other battleground states.

McKee, who was from Phoenix suburb of Scottsdale but now lives in California, sobbed as she apologized to Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Margaret LaBianca before the judge handed down her sentence. McKee said that she was grieving over the loss of her mother and had no intent to impact the outcome of the election.

Both McKee and her mother, Mary Arendt, were registered Republicans, although she was not asked if she voted for Trump. Arendt died on Oct. 5, 2020, two days before early ballots were mailed to voters.

Assistant Attorney General Todd Lawson played a tape of McKee being interviewed by an investigator with his office where she said there was rampant voter fraud and denied that she had signed and returned her mother's ballot.

Tom Henze, McKee's attorney, pointed to dozens of cases of voter fraud prosecuted in Arizona over the past decade, many for similar violations of voting someone else's ballot, and said no one got jail time in those cases.

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