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Vulnerable Vasquez calls in far-left Gov. MLG for last-ditch 2023 fundraising plea

On Saturday, far-left U.S. Rep. Gabe Vasquez, who faces tough reelection odds next November, called in far-left Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to help him rake in last-minute cash ahead of the New Year by appealing to the fringe progressive base.

“Right-wing extremism and petty politics are on the rise, yet Gabe is committed to working across the aisle to vote for common-sense legislation that moves our state/country forward,” wrote Lujan Grisham in a fundraising email, despite Vasquez siding with the far-left on basically everything, including instituting a new land grab in Deming and refusing to vote to help reduce inflation under the Joe Biden regime.

She continued, “Fighting for this amazing state means fighting for progress,” adding, “While his far-right opponent is reliant on extremists like Donald Trump, Mike Johnson, and Kevin McCarthy, we know your support will take him past the finish line and into another term of building progress for New Mexico and America.”

It is unclear why the governor is name-dropping McCarthy, who just quit Congress, but it appears to be a way to fluff up the fringe progressive base in the attempt to drum up cash ahead of 2024. Former Congresswoman Yvette Herrell is running again with the support of all the U.S. House GOP leadership.

Lujan Grisham is woefully unpopular, topping the rankings as one of the least popular governors in America. Those numbers surely worsened when she unilaterally attempted to snatch Bernalillo County and Albuquerque residents’ gun rights via executive order, which a Democrat-appointed judge slapped down.

Now, Vasquez heavily relying on the far-left governor to help him rake in some last-ditch donations appears to be a move toward the unconstitutional governor and her extreme positions on anything from abortion to energy policy.

The most read Piñon Post stories of 2023

2023 has been another eventful year in New Mexico, with lots of news we have been blessed to cover. Through it all, the Piñon Post staff has worked overtime to provide New Mexicans with top-notch independent news and conservative opinion for an informed New Mexico. 

This year, we have built an even larger audience, broken important stories, and done even more to represent New Mexicans in our media coverage. Here are the most-read stories of 2023 from the Piñon Post: 

Happy New Year from all of us at the Piñon Post! 

NM anti-gun group knew it broke federal regulations: public info request docs.

According to documents obtained via a public records request posted by New Mexico state Rep. Stefani Lord (R-Sandia Park), the anti-gun group under scrutiny for appearing to break state laws, New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence (NMPGV), knew of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms regulations regarding the destruction of firearms the group obtained via a “buy-back.”

“A recently obtained letter from the @ATFHQ to @RawTools (to which @NMPGVNOW gave firearms) through the NM Inspection of Public Records Act clearly states that the firearms MUST be destroyed per ATF specifications in the owner’s presence,” wrote Lord.

The February 2020 letter from Michael S. Knapp, a firearms enforcement specialist at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Firearms and Explosives Industry Division Firearms Industry Programs Branch, read, “A ‘transfer’ includes any change in dominion or control of a firearm, whether temporary or permanent, commercial or noncommercial,” saying if the owner of the firearm remains with the gun while it’s destroyed, it is lawful, adding, “This analysis may change if an owner/possessor transfers a firearm and does not remain with the firearm during destruction.”

“The GCA makes it unlawful for any non-licensee to receive a firearm in their state of residence purchase or obtained outside of that state. 18 U.S.C. § 922)g73). Additionally, section 9227) generally requires a NICS background check prior to the transfer of a firearm from a Federal firearms licensee to a non-licensee,” he adds.

NMPGV, which has since blocked a great many critics, including Rep. Lord, claimed the organization obtaining firearms in exchange for cash-equivalent gift cards were not “transfers,” but the directive from Mr. Knapp of the ATF directly contradicts the group’s claim. ​​

Furthermore, the below are the only ATF-compliant ways to properly destroy a firearm:

•Use an oxy/acetylene torch (not band sawed)

•Must remove at least ¼ inch of metal per cut

•Must be made at angles and completely sever the receiver in at least 3 critical locations (specified by model)

The photographs and statements made by NMPGV show these specifications were not met in the transfers of firearms between parties surrendering their guns in the exchanges. It should be noted that NMPGV and Raw Tools do not have Federal Firearms Licenses (FFLs).

Lord added in the X post, “The rules must apply to all, no matter the intentions. There must be equal treatment for everyone, or the laws and guidelines must be abolished.”

Lujan Grisham-appointed judge resigns

A Doña Ana County judge, appointed by far-left Democrat New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in February, has tendered his resignation. 

Judge Mark D. Standridge, serving as a Third Judicial District Court Judge for Division IV, officially resigned from his position, with his last day being December 15th.

Mark D. Standridge, a University of Arizona and UNM School of Law graduate, entered the legal profession by being admitted to the New Mexico Bar in 2006. 

Before his appointment as a judge, Standridge held diverse roles, including serving as an Assistant United States Attorney for the District of New Mexico. In that capacity, he focused on investigating and prosecuting various felony criminal cases, emphasizing civil rights and gun-related offenses.

Prior to his federal service, Standridge contributed to the legal landscape in Las Cruces, working as a Deputy City Attorney for the City of Las Cruces. He also handled cases in private practices, showcasing a comprehensive legal background.

The circumstances surrounding Judge Standridge’s resignation were not detailed in the available information. His departure marks the conclusion of his tenure as a judge in the Third Judicial District Court in New Mexico.

New Mexico’s $49 billion investment portfolio just got a new manager

The State Investment Council’s quest for a new state investment officer in New Mexico concluded without the need for an out-of-state search, as Jon Clark, an Albuquerque native and Democrat Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s current deputy secretary of the New Mexico Economic Development Department, emerged as the chosen candidate. He will oversee $49 billion in savings and trust accounts for the state.

Clark, who has been serving as the acting secretary following the departure of Alicia J. Keyes earlier this year, has been offered the prestigious position with an annual salary of $285,000, per the Santa Fe New Mexican. This marks a decrease of approximately $34,000 compared to the previous state investment officer, Steve Moise, who retired in October after a remarkable 13-year tenure.

Jon Clark via Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office: https://web.archive.org/web/20231228010405/https://www.governor.state.nm.us/our-leadership/economic-development-department/

While there were discussions about the possibility of increasing the salary to attract a qualified replacement, the State Investment Council, chaired by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, did not delve into this issue during a special meeting held on Wednesday.

The council, in a unanimous 8-0 vote, Jon Clark was approved as the next state investment officer, contingent upon the finalization of all administrative processes associated with the hiring requirements for the state of New Mexico.

Following an executive session, council members provided limited comments, indicating that their decision had been predetermined. Catherine Allen, chair of the council’s governance committee, expressed excitement about the appointment, stating, “We’re very excited about the new state investment officer and the process that we used to get them.”

Acknowledging the efforts of Hudepohl and Associates, an Ohio-based executive search firm, Allen extended gratitude for finding “such great candidates” for the position. Clark, among 86 applicants, stood out as one of the 25 individuals meeting the minimum qualifications. After interviewing six candidates, the council narrowed the list down to two finalists, ultimately selecting Clark for the role.

In his cover letter, Clark emphasized his unique qualifications, noting his finance degree and experience in leading venture capital investments. He highlighted his role as Chief Economist for the Legislative Finance Committee, asserting that the position doesn’t demand a traditional investment background but rather requires someone skilled in managerial decision-making with sufficient understanding of the investment landscape.

The next steps include clarifying who will assume leadership at the Economic Development Department if Clark accepts the offered position.

See all the candidates appearing on NM’s 2024 presidential primary ballots

The political landscape in New Mexico is gearing up for the upcoming primary on June 4, 2024, and five candidates have been officially certified by the state’s major political parties for the presidency. The list of Democrats, Libertarians, and Republicans might just surprise you. Here are all the White House contenders who will appear on New Mexico primary ballots next year (click the NEXT PAGE button below):

Anti-gun org that broadcast it breaking law blocks critics after taking heat

In a post made on X, formerly Twitter, the anti-gun group New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence (NMPGV), run by Democrats’ anti-gun darling Miranda Viscoli, announced in so many words that it was breaking the law — then kept on digging itself in a hole when challenged.

“Pictured are unwanted firearms from one household in Farmington, NM.  Our gun buyback was [canceled] by the City, but local residents asked us to show up anyway. So, we spent today dismantling guns house by house,” wrote the group, with a photo accompanying the post. The post immediately sparked a fierce response.

“The @NMStatePolice should investigate a private party going door to door and sawing people’s guns in half without doing a background check as required for a transfer in New Mexico.  The @FBI and @ATFHQ (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) should also look into this since a private group does NOT have the ability to check NCIC to see if they are now in possession of a stolen firearm. So many crimes committed by this anti-gun group” posted state Rep. Stefani Lord (R-Sandia Park).

In 2019, the state Legislature passed S.B. 8, which Viscoli advocated in support of on behalf of her group. The group holds ineffective gun “buybacks,” which pay people for willingly giving up to the group, which then turns the firearms into gardening tools.

New Mexico Shooting Sports Association (NMSSA) wrote to NMPVG, “Shoutout to @NMPGVnow for joining forces with the ‘rogue sheriffs’ and ‘bad-faith critics’ by refusing to comply with laws criminalizing private firearm transfers in NM,” referencing a social media post by Democrat Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham who lambasted many of the state’s sheriffs for refusing to enforce the anti-gun law.

San Juan County Sheriff Shane Ferrari has since initiated an investigation into the activities of the group, saying, “I have reached out to ‘New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence’ with questions. They have referred me to Attorney General Torrez. Both the San Juan County District Attorney’s Office and the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office are reviewing my assessment.”

On Tuesday, NMSSA and Rep. Lord announced that NMPVG had blocked them on X following their support for the group bucking anti-gun laws.

Lord wrote, “I guess drafting a bill today in @NMPGVnow ’s honor rescinding the Universal Background check struck a nerve. Either there is an investigation into your alleged violations of New Mexico guns laws, and federal violations, or the laws are worthless and should be removed. ‘All are equal before the law, and laws should be equally enforced.’ There can’t be ‘laws for thee, but not for me.’ That’s not how this works.”

“And they blocked us,” wrote the New Mexico Shooting Sports Association.

The group also blocked a plethora of other pro-gun accounts, as they posted on X:

On Wednesday, the anti-gun group blocked state Rep. John Block (R-Alamogordo):

It is immediately unclear the status of the investigation into Viscoli and NMPGV, but as soon as more information comes in, we will bring you the latest in the saga of the anti-gun group breaking the law.

Leftist NM columnist angers libs by endorsing this Dem over Biden

In a surprising twist that has left many leftists fuming, Santa Fe New Mexican‘s leftist columnist Milan Simonich has ignited a firestorm by openly endorsing Michelle Obama over Joe Biden in a recent column. Simonich, known for his outspoken views, has drawn criticism from within his own ideological camp for his strong opinions on Biden.

Simonich’s column begins with a reflection on the power of a good lead, citing an infamous example from 197, where a journalist prematurely declared victory for Richard Nixon just before the Watergate scandal unfolded. Drawing a parallel to contemporary politics, Simonich suggests that the public’s tendency to forget scandals could play in favor of 45th President Donald Trump, whom the leftist media have done everything possible to besmirch.

The columnist then takes a surprising turn by expressing dissatisfaction with Joe Biden’s candidacy for a second term. At 81, Biden, according to Simonich, may not match up well against potential Republican nominees like Trump or Nikki Haley, especially in swing states crucial for an Electoral College victory.

“I had hoped Biden would end his reelection bid before Christmas Day and clear the way for the candidate who could stomp Trump. I wanted Biden to recruit and endorse Michelle Obama,” writes Simonich.

The columnist envisions a 2024 campaign with Michelle Obama at the helm, contrasting her plain-speaking style with Trump’s rambling and praising her thoughtful and reasoned approach in contrast to Trump’s affinity for Vladimir Putin. Simonich argues that Obama’s candidacy could invigorate voter participation and put more states in play for Democrats.

Simonich believes that Michelle Obama’s candidacy would be a game-changer, running on honesty and competence against Trump’s perceived vulnerabilities. He asserts that Reagan’s success in rebuilding the Republican Party post-Watergate was based on charisma and a lack of criminal history—attributes he believes make Trump vulnerable to someone like Obama.

“I had hoped Biden would end his reelection bid before Christmas Day and clear the way for the candidate who could stomp Trump. I wanted Biden to recruit and endorse Michelle Obama,” Simonich wrote.

While acknowledging the slim chances of Michelle Obama running, Simonich suggests alternative candidates if Biden were to step aside, mentioning Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan and Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey as viable options to defeat Trump.

The column concludes with a holiday wish for a president who puts the country first, leaving readers with a provocative and unexpected perspective from a typically far-left commentator.

Which New Mexico city is the safest?

New Mexicans all know its largest city, Albuquerque, is the deadliest in the state, according to World Population Review, but which New Mexico city is the safest?

Small towns are often celebrated for their close-knit communities and a sense of charm and safety. A recent analysis by MoneyGeek, a personal finance site, delved into FBI crime data from the past year to identify small towns and cities with populations ranging from 30,000 to 100,000 that excel in safety. The analysis aimed to calculate the cost of crime in each area, considering impacts on victims and the justice system. Violent crimes were weighed more heavily due to their typically higher costs.

Christmas on the Pecos in Carlsbad, NM. Photo: NM Department of Tourism.

Surprisingly, many of the safest small communities were concentrated in the Northeast. Monroe Township in New Jersey claimed the top spot, boasting low property and violent crime rates. Hillsborough Township, also in New Jersey, secured the second position. Other Northeastern towns like Wallingford, Connecticut; Shrewsbury, Massachusetts; Westfield, New Jersey; Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania; and Princeton, New Jersey, all ranked in the top 10.

Beyond the Northeast, Zionsville, Indiana; Mason, Ohio; and Lone Peak, Utah, also received high safety scores. Notably, California, often associated with high crime rates in larger cities, had two cities – Rancho Santa Margarita and Danville – in the top 15.

MoneyGeek further broke down the data to identify the small towns or cities with the lowest crime costs in each state. Notable mentions included Rancho Santa Margarita in California, Windsor in Colorado, and Shrewsbury in Massachusetts.

Carlsbad, New Mexico, emerged with a cost of crime per capita of $1,410, securing its place in the analysis as the safest city in New Mexico. This demonstrates the town’s commitment to maintaining a safe environment for its residents.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park Jirka Matousek, Wiki Commons.

Clovis had a crime cost per capita of $1,593, Santa Fe’s was $2,361, Hobbs’ was $2,841, Farmington’s was $3,006, and Roswell’s was $3,851, according to the study.

The nationwide crime landscape in 2022 revealed a drop in overall violent crime by 1.7%, with a significant 6.1% decline in the murder rate. However, property crimes surged by 7.1%, attributed in part to a notable increase in motor vehicle theft.

While small towns are often perceived as havens of safety, the study also highlighted exceptions. Monroe, Louisiana, for instance, experienced a higher crime cost in 2022 than the majority of large cities. Despite the overall trends, it’s evident that some small towns, like Carlsbad, are successfully prioritizing safety and community well-being.

Fmr. BernCo sheriff walks away from Dem Party, likely to challenge Heinrich

Retired Democrat Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales has changed his party affiliation to Republican, according to a voter registration card provided exclusively to the Piñon Post.

Gonzales, who served two terms as sheriff for the state’s largest county, is considering a run for the U.S. Senate against Democrat Sen. Martin Heinrich, who has his eyes set on the New Mexico governorship once far-left incumbent Democrat Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham finishes her second and final term, a source close to Gonzales has shared exclusively with the Post.

Born and raised in the heart of New Mexico, Gonzales developed a strong commitment to public service from an early age. He began his law enforcement career with the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office, steadily rising through the ranks due to his dedication, leadership, and commitment to community safety.

During his time as sheriff, Gonzales implemented several innovative initiatives aimed at enhancing public safety and building trust between law enforcement and the community. 

His focus on community-oriented policing strategies garnered praise for fostering positive relationships between officers and residents. Under his leadership, the Sheriff’s Office worked collaboratively with local organizations, schools, and businesses to address crime prevention and engage in community outreach programs.

Sheriff Gonzales demonstrated a keen understanding of the challenges facing law enforcement in the modern era. His efforts included implementing technology upgrades to enhance crime-fighting capabilities, advocating for officer training programs, and championing initiatives to address the root causes of criminal behavior. Gonzales’s commitment to transparency and accountability within the Sheriff’s Office contributed to increased public trust in law enforcement.

During Lujan Grisham’s brutal COVID-19 lockdowns, which resulted in 40% of New Mexico small businesses closing up shop, Gonzales refused to enforce her edicts, saying in 2020 that they were “turning everyday citizens into villains.”

“It is my opinion that the resources of the sheriff’s office should be focused on making our communities safe and more prosperous for everyday citizens,” he said, adding, “For that reason, we will not follow along with any orders that subvert your Constitutional rights. Therefore, my agency’s focus will continue to be public safety, apprehending actual criminals, and not harassing everyday citizens attempting to make a life for themselves and their families in Bernalillo County.”

The then-sheriff was honored at the White House by President Donald Trump in 2020 for his work on “Operation Legend,” which was a coordinated approach between law enforcement departments to aggressively investigate the most violent crimes. 

In 2021, Gonzlaes ran for Albuquerque mayor, coming up short of incumbent far-left Democrat Mayor Tim Keller. 

Now, with a potential U.S. Senate race on the horizon in 2024, the former sheriff could give Heinrich a run for his money if he decides to run. Republican Ben Luna of Otero County has already announced a run for the seat, a story broken exclusively by the Post in September. ​

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