Environmental issues take center stage in the upcoming New Mexico special election, where the Democratic Party seeks to maintain its grip on a seat previously held by the Home Secretary Deb HaalandDeb Haaland Biden Formally Restores National Monuments Canceled By Trump Administration Confirms It Will Restore National Monuments To Pre-Trump Boundaries Overnight Energy & Environment – Biden Set To Restore National Monuments Canceled By Trump MORE.

Democratic candidate Melanie Stansbury, a state legislator, draws on her background as an environmental science professional as she seeks to defeat Republican Senator Mark Moores in the June 1 election, highlighting the importance of issues relating to water infrastructure and public lands in a blue district with a large Native American population.

“Stansbury has a very progressive view on the environment and energy. … We’ve seen this turning point in the district, ”said New Mexico-based political blogger Joe Monahan, who noted Republicans across the state were reluctant to present his positions on these issues as radical. “They protect the environment, whatever the party.

The race to fill Haaland’s seat began late last year after President BidenJoe BidenMcConnell promises GOP won’t help raise debt ceiling in December after Schumer Ilhan Omar’s ‘tantrum’ at Biden: ‘Keep your promise to cancel student debt’ vaccine for children MORE nominated the former congressman for the most senior post in the Home Office.

Although New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District has had a blue streak over the past decade, the national attention the race is attracting is a sign Democrats see it as a first critical test for their party.

Republicans only need to overthrow a handful of House seats to regain control of the lower house in next year’s midterm elections. And Democrats fear they were excluded in a special election in Texas earlier this month that saw two Republicans, including the former President TrumpDonald TrumpOvernight Energy & Environment – Biden formalizes return to pre-Trump national monuments limits Overnight Defense & National Security – China tells US to keep troops out of Taiwan On The Money – Presented by NRHC – Break September Slow Jobs Report PLUSthe preferred candidate to – move on to the second round. New Mexico’s special election offers the GOP an opportunity to overturn a seat in the kind of suburban district where the party suffered losses under Trump, pressuring Democrats for a decisive victory.

Still, Democrats are seen to have a clear advantage before June 1. Haaland beat his Republican challenger in November by more than 16 points, and President Biden won the state with more than 54% of the vote. Reflecting the district’s status as a Democratic stronghold, National Republicans have largely stayed out of the race, while recent Federal Election Commission records have shown Stansbury a significant financial advantage over Moores for the period ending 12 may.

“They’re starting from a deep hole, the Republicans. It hasn’t really been a race you would call in-game or faltering, ”said Monahan.

For Stansbury, a trained environmentalist who worked in the Obama administration before being elected to the New Mexico House of Representatives in the 2018 “blue wave”, it is essential to continue to focus on Haaland on environmental issues.

“In New Mexico, water is life, water is part of our culture. It’s part of who we are, it’s part of who our communities are, ”Stansbury told The Hill in an interview. She cited the ongoing drought in the state and its effects on pastoralists and farmers as a notable example.

Camilla Feibelman, New Mexico state director for the Sierra Club, said climate and environmental problems are inevitable in the state, due to both the drought and the high likelihood of a rainy season. devastating forest fires.

“These are issues we face in terms of the immediate impact of climate change,” Feibelman said, in addition to other questions about the future of the energy industry in the state.

Haaland made history as the Senate-confirmed First Secretary to the Native American Cabinet, leaving his successor chunky shoes to address issues specifically affecting Indigenous peoples. Feibelman noted that Haaland had been a “real leader” in protecting the landscape of Grand Chaco, a national historic park that has seen an expansion of oil and gas leases in recent years.

More than 90 percent of the public land surrounding the ancestral village of Chaco Canyon has been leased for oil and gas extraction, according to the activist group Pueblo Action Alliance, which accuses the activity of having adverse effects on the health of people. frontline communities.

Stansbury also called tribal and public lands a major problem for her, noting that in her work at the Federal Office of Management and Budget and the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, she has focused heavily on tribal issues.

With an ally of tribal communities like Haaland now in the executive branch, “the next chapter … is really to continue the work of consulting and partnering with tribes in a nation-to-nation manner to resolve issues that are important. for each of our tribes, ”Stansbury told The Hill.

As well as ensuring that coronavirus relief gets to the tribes properly, she said, this includes pushing for provisions in Biden’s infrastructure plan of particular importance to indigenous communities. , such as the extension of broadband and drinking water infrastructure.

Stansbury and Haaland have a long relationship dating back to their time together in the state legislature. Stansbury said if elected she hopes to follow in her footsteps by doing important bipartisan work while still being ready to “really fight” on issues like climate change.

The Democratic candidate has spoken out in favor of the Biden administration’s indefinite hiatus on new oil and gas leases on public lands, and she also supports a Green New Deal.

Highlighting the importance of the environment to constituents in the district, Moores focused less on Stansbury’s views in this area than on other issues, such as crime in Albuquerque, striking her for her support for the Breathe Act, a proposal for police reform.

“A lot more Republicans are more centrist on the environment” in New Mexico, Monahan said.

In addition to Haaland herself, Stansbury has garnered support from the League of Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club – something that observers say will play well in an increasingly liberal part of the country.

Monahan, the political blogger, pointed to some of Stansbury’s more progressive policies as indicative of the district’s turn to the left.

A prime candidate supporting something like a Green New Deal, he said, “would not have happened 10 years ago.”

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