AlamogordoConservativeDaily.org: 3 Interesting Otero County Local Political Races: Will They Buck the Mid-Term Curse Dating to FDR?

New Mexico joined the Union in January 1912. It has participated in 28 presidential elections through 2020, alternating some extended periods of support for Democratic and Republican candidates. Democrats have now won 7 of the last 8 elections, including Joe Biden’s 54% to 44% win over Donald Trump in 2020.

Candidates Reverend Warren L Robinson veres John R Secrest lll face off for Otero County Magistrate Division One (2nd Life Media AlamogordoTownNews.com)

Locally in Alamogordo, Otero County, New Mexico

In Otero County, it appears the Republican stronghold is strong and in place and most races are a given to swing to the Republican candidate with ease. 

However, there are three races of interest this mid-term election that could be seen as competitive for a variety of reasons.

The position of magistrate judge in Otero County is typically a snooze as to what to expect of an outcome. However, this midterm election for magistrate Division One and Magistrate Division Two there are interesting dynamics at play.

The position of magistrate is one that does NOT require a law degree, and candidates typically, are individuals well embedded in the local political party system.

 The position of magistrate in Otero County has historically been made up of candidates that come from the “political machine” and as such, the position has been riddled with controversy, the last several years with political games alleged locally and via former Governor Martinez…

April 2022-

Most recently Otero County Magistrate Judge Steve Guthrie agreed to resign the Division I seat April 25, 2022, ending further disciplinary proceedings related to a judicial inquiry by the New Mexico Supreme Court which began in 2021. Guthrie’s resignation became effective April 25, according to New Mexico Supreme Court documents when the court granted a petition for permanent resignation “in lieu of further disciplinary proceedings.

In September 2021 the Judicial Standards Commission asked the court to open a disciplinary inquiry related to a slew of alleged misconducts by Guthrie. The Commission had conducted its own inquiry into the allegations beginning in January 2021. Among the allegations were improper sentences and incarceration for defendants, improper bail issuance, failure to complete required paperwork, engaging in judicial activities without proper jurisdiction, judicial misconduct and violation of a defendant’s right to due process. 

 Guthrie was censured prior to that incident in 2019 by the New Mexico Supreme Court for misconduct related to a spat he had with a neighbor.

Link to 2019 Judicial misconduct case: https://www.nmjsc.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/2018-031-Pet-to-Accept… 

December 2017- 

Otero County Magistrate Judge Scott Newton officially resigned from the bench and withdrew his candidacy for 12th Judicial District judge. Newton said he was tired of the politics being played at the local and state level because of him taking a leave of absence due to a medical issue. Newton said he was not going to have his good name destroyed or put his family through it. “They’re attempting to use this legal absence that I took for a basis that I am unfit to do my job,” he said to the Alamogordo Daily News in 2017 “It’s a total lie. There’s nothing wrong with me. I do have my own personal health issues to deal with, but it’s not an issue in terms of being a judge. It’s just somebody wants to make it an issue. I am not going to stick my neck out there and get it chopped off. It’s just not worth it. Especially with the medical issues that I’ve been dealing with, I don’t have the energy or stamina to fight that fight or put my family through that fight.

Newton was elected to the Magistrate Court Division I judge’s seat in 2010 after Judge Richard Stokely retired from the bench.

April 2016

Otero County Magistrate Court Judge Gene C. Galassini hung his robe up in April 2016 also under a cloud of criticism.

Per the Alamogordo Daily News at the time, “Galassini, 59, decided to resign or in his case retire from the bench because of health reason but more importantly to spend time with his three grandchildren. He and his wife, Rocky, also just celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary,” at the time of his resignation.

“It’s the stressful nature of the job,” Galassini said. “I’ve got three grand babies plus one on the way. It’s just time to start spending some time with them.”

He was first elected Magistrate Court judge in 2006 then took the bench in January 2007 after 23 years of being an officer with the New Mexico State Police in Las Cruces, Roswell and Alamogordo. Galassini retired as a lieutenant from State Police District 8 in Alamogordo.”

However, records with the State Supreme County show that the resignation may of had more to the story; then stress and health issues. 

The New Mexico State Supreme Court granted the State Ethics Commission’s Petition to Accept Stipulation in Light of Permanent Resignation from Judicial Office concerning Otero County Magistrate Judge Gene C. Galassini, Supreme Court Case No. S-1-SC-35791, JSC Inquiry No. 2015-074. “The Supreme Court order made Judge Galassini’s retirement permanent effective 02/29/16, forever barred him from holding judicial office in New Mexico, and unsealed the Supreme Court’s file in the matter. 

A link to the Supreme Court File and Mr. Galacini’s resignation letter is below:

https://www.nmjsc.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/2016-1-Galassini-Order…

Mr. Galassini was hired in 2021 to serve Congressional  Representative Yvette Herrell as her law enforcement liaison and has been paid a salary and other compensation since appointment of $34,833.33 as a member of staff.

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The 2022 Mid Term Otero County Magistrate Matchup:

Magistrate Judge Division One has turned into a very competitive race with the Reverend Warren Robison competing against John R Seacrest III, both candidates have deep roots in Otero County, both have professional, volunteer and business experience and both have campaigned with professionalism, dignity and mutual respect with no negativity in their race for office.

Reverend Warren Robinson Experience: “Reverend Robinson has 20 years of teaching, counseling and community service in Alamogordo to include 3 years’ experience with Juvenile Justice Board helping youth with reconciliation for criminal offenses, a wide range of local board experience with non-profit service organizations, Chaplain for both Alamogordo City Police and the Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center, knowledge of the community business leaders and deeply involved in local history and historical preservation” according to his responses to the League of Womens Voters.

John R Secrest III Experience: “What I bring to the courtroom is real life experience and vast knowledge. I am an entrepreneur/small business owner since age 18 with 21 years in Landlord/tenant rights, business contracts, and well versed in DWI/DUI laws. I have also been a plaintiff on several appearances in Mag. Court. To further prepare, I have been mentoring with previous Mag. Judges as well as studying the NM Criminal/Traffic Law manual and NM Constitution. I am a constitutionalist, from the people for the people’s court. I live with unwavering morals, integrity, and honesty. I am UNBIASED and fair.” according to his responses to the League of Womens Voters

The League of Womens Voters asked both candidate what they would do about the backlog within the Magistrate System?  Their response was…

Reverend Warren Robinson: “Once within the system I’ll be thoughtful in listening to staff and reviewing the existing processes, then use my experience interfacing with multiple constituencies to influence process changes to end any backlog.”

John R Secrest III: “It is my understanding that Otero County Magistrate Court does NOT have much of a back log. If there is a back log it is primarily due to covid restrictions impeding the court’s ability to operate per usual and in that instance, I would say more cases will need to be handled telephonically. There is always room for improvement.”

Both candidates demonstrate a passion for community and a sense of ethics that the magistrate’s office needs to rebuild its reputation in Otero County.

Magistrate Division 2

The race is between well-known Alamogordo MainStreet and arts advocate and realtor, Claudia Powell, verses Michal Ryan Suggs, the incumbent who was appointed to the Division II Magistrate Judge’s seat Feb. 20, 2018, by Gov. Susana Martinez after Judge James Scot Newton resigned from the bench.

Claudia Powell’s Experience per her website:” Claudia Powell has been part of this community working tirelessly as a relator since 1986 serving our military with impeccable service since 1986. Mrs. Powell has received the Military Relocation Specialist designation from the National Association of Realtors, Past President Alamogordo MainStreet, Director of the Tularosa Basin Historic Society, Otero County Habitat for Humanity, Past President Otero United Way and Past Director of the Flickinger Center for the Performing Arts.

Michal Ryan Suggs Experience per the League of Women’s Voters: Juris Doctor- Master’s degree in criminal justice from New Mexico State University, a graduate of the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia, 21 years law enforcement experience, 6 years adjunct professor of criminal justice and 4 years incumbent as Otero County Magistrate.”

When asked what they would do about the backlog within the Magistrate System? 

Claudia Powell: My understanding is the backlog that was created during the Covid-19 crises is now cleared. However, if I were on the bench, I would work with the staff, within the legally bound confines, utilizing my years of collaboration and partnership skills to ensure we did all within our means locally to ease any backlog.”

Michal Ryan Suggs Experience per the League of Women’s Voters: “I can proudly say, there is no backlog of court cases in Otero County Magistrate Court. The court continued to operate throughout Covid. All of the Judges in the 12th Judicial District work tirelessly to serve the people. Whatever adjustments were needed to the docket to ensure timely access to justice were and continue to be made. Under my leadership as Presiding Judge, the speedy and fair resolution of cases has been and always will be a priority of the Otero County Magistrate Court. Our rights deserve this level of experience, knowledge, and continued commitment.”

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The other race that has proven, interesting, is the race for Otero County Commissioner District Two, formerly occupied by the controversial Couy Griffin. The two candidates to win the primaries are Amy Barela on the Republican side, verses Stephanie Dubois, on the Democratic side. Both candidates won a contested primary.

The race was considered initially an easy win for Amy Barela given the district leans heavily Red and heavily conservative. However, politics, judicial rulings and an appointment by the Governor of Ms. Dubois into the seat of which Couy Griffin was removed by judicial order has created many interesting dynamics into the race.

Political scientist and pollsters watching the district competition believed it an easy win for Ms. Barella. Speculation was that there would be a backlash, due to the judicial removal of Couy Griffin, thus a wave of Republican voters activated and to the polls.

Ms. Barella has easily outraised, outspent and outpaced Ms. Dubois in advertising, door knocking and overall visibility. 

Ms. Dubois on the other hand, received an appointment to the vacant position by the Governor with swearing in to occur on 10/28/22.

Ms. Dubois has been much more visible in the recent weeks and attended several events with the Congressional Democratic Candidate and others. Yesterday in Tularosa, a Get Out the Vote event was sponsored by Ms. Dubois, and Independent Candidate Elaine Allen seeking the position for District 56 State Representative was also present.

The campaign within Tularosa has become very competitive with some rumors of foul play, but thus far the campaign has been, overall civil. 

Ms. Dubois appointment by the Governor, received a respectful response by Ms. Barella. However, the response to the appointment by the Republican Party and by the Candidate for State Representative District 51, was aggressive in tone, and filled with negatives that did not benefit candidate Barela, who has shown a level of respect and decorum during the race. 

Several independents and moderate Republicans questioned, said they were leaning toward Ms. Barela but after the Republican Party response, and that of the candidate for District 51, they “opted for Ms. Dubois.” One cited, “I’ve had enough hate from that office, Couy was an embarrassment and brought nothing but trouble to Otero County, the vigor of hate that was espoused by the Party response made me decide to break the party line and vote for Ms. Dubois,” a respected and well-known Republican that asked that his name not be used said he really likes Amy but “maybe it’s time to shake things up on the commission, and end the rubber stamping of the Steve Pierce mandates, the county budget is a mess, obviously what we have in place is not working.”

Will there be a backlash from the Republican Party response to the appointment of Ms. Dubois, will Ms. Dubois be able to elicit enough moderate Republicans, motivated Democrats and Independents to the polls to carry her over to remain in the district 2 seat? Will the curse of mid-terms and the economy play into the results of the local elections? We will know in about 2 weeks.

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The mid-term elections in most states are traditionally, a completely different animal and can lead to all kinds of unexpected results. The mid-term election of 2018 was the year of the woman.

2018, women candidate had broken the records for the number of candidates for governor, U.S. House and U.S. Senate. The U.S. House of Representatives elected a record number of women, with at least 90 women expected to make their way to Washington, D.C. in January.

In 2018 Deb Haaland of New Mexico broke the barrier and became one of the first Native American Women elected to congress. Democrat Deb Haaland, the former chairwoman of New Mexico’s Democratic Party, won New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District in the 2018 midterms. 

Haaland, a member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe, became one of the first Native American women elected to Congress alongside Democrat Sharice Davids, who won Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District. Two Native American men — both Republicans — served in the U.S. House of Representatives prior to 2018.

Expectations for this mid-term election…

It’s true that the polls have shifted somewhat toward Republicans in certain key races. On September 15, FiveThirtyEight’s forecast gave Democrats a 71 percent chance of holding the Senate, as of midday Wednesday, that number is 61 percent. In other cases, forecasts haven’t changed much: FiveThirtyEight has the GOP’s House takeover chances still above 70 percent. And there have been some contrary indicators, with surprisingly good poll results for Democrats in redder states like Iowa and Oklahoma.

Yet what amounts to a relatively minor poll shift has been greeted with a sense of impending Democratic doom, for reasons mostly unrelated to the polls themselves. The bad economic news, the historical trend of the president’s party performing poorly in midterms, and the tendency of polls to understate Republicans in certain key cycles (especially Senate races) can all be read to suggest that the smart money is on the GOP to do well.

This underlying assumption that Republicans should be the favorites and will end up the favorites means that small poll shifts in the GOP’s favor get interpreted as devastating for Democrats. And that assumption could well be correct — there are good reasons to believe it. Alternatively, it remains possible the polls are basically on target, or that election night results could deliver a surprise in the other direction.

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The state of the battle for the Senate

Democrats remain the favorites in the battle for the Senate, according to FiveThirtyEight, but their advantage has shrunk in the past month. When you look under the hood of FiveThirtyEight’s model to see why, it mostly comes down to shifts in four contests:

  • In Nevada, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D) dropped from a 61 percent favorite to a 49 percent slight underdog.
  • In Pennsylvania, the chances of John Fetterman (D) winning dropped from 83 percent to 68 percent.
  • Meanwhile, the chances of challengers Mandela Barnes in Wisconsin and Cheri Beasley in North Carolina winning each dropped from about 40 percent to 27 percent.

Other Democratic candidates, like Sens. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) and Raphael Warnock (D-GA), haven’t seen similar drops in the past month. Kelly is a 78 percent favorite to win, and Warnock is a 57 percent favorite. In Ohio, Tim Ryan remains a 28 percent underdog.

With the Senate split 50-50, the basic math is that so long as Fetterman picks up that GOP seat in Pennsylvania, Democrats can afford to lose one seat of their own. So, they could lose Cortez Masto or Warnock, but not both. And if Fetterman loses (and no other Democrats campaigning for GOP-held seats win), even losing one Democratic incumbent would flip the chamber.

 Georgia, Nevada, and Pennsylvania look like the most important states in determining Senate control. But there’s a problem. Only one of those contests — Georgia — has been frequently polled of late. And it’s unclear how useful those polls are, since if neither candidate tops 50 percent of the vote next month, Warnock and Herschel Walker will just head to a runoff in December.

Public polling in the other two key states has been sparse. In Nevada, we’ve gotten only two public polls conducted in October — one showing Cortez Masto up 2, and one showing her trailing by 2 among likely voters. Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, the two public polls have both shown Fetterman up just 2. One of those polls is from the Trafalgar Group, while another is a joint effort from one Republican firm and one Democratic firm.

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Since Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s sweeping four-term presidency, every president has fallen victim to the “midterm curse.”

The “curse” is considered political shorthand at this point—the opposition party to the incumbent leader will wrest control of the House of Representatives or the Senate from the leadership. In fact, the sitting presidential party has lost seats in the House in every single midterm election since FDR’s first term, save for three: FDR himself in 1934, Bill Clinton in 1998 during his second term in office, and George W. Bush in 2002 fresh off a hotly contested victory in the 2000 general election. In each of these instances, the presidents had remarkably high approval ratings—around 70%—often due to historic moments that offered an opportunity for landmark leadership, such as FDR’s New Deal, Clinton’s federal budget surplus, and Bush’s handling of the aftermath of 9/11.

There are a variety of explanations as to why parties often face defeat in the midterms after sweeping the floor in the presidential election. Voter apathy and presidential approval ratings play a large part, but voters are not the only ones who sway the outcome of elections. Midterm elections are susceptible to impacts from the re-drawing of districts and gerrymandering that may occur after a presidential election and can work to disenfranchise a party’s voting block. This is not a phenomenon isolated to the U.S., either: The parties of political leaders across the globe tend to strengthen early in a presidential term before diminishing later.

With the 2022 midterm elections fast approaching, it can be helpful to look back at the past century of midterms and gauge what patterns may suggest an outcome to this year’s election. Stacker used data compiled by The American Presidency Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the U.S. House of Representatives to visualize outcomes of midterm elections on the president’s political party in Congress.

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The President’s party has only gained seats in the House three times since 1934

The incumbent party lost control of either the House or the House and Senate six times since 1934. Only three presidents—FDR, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush—gained seats in the House of Representatives for their parties at midterms.

In FDR’s case, this was thanks to his swift decisions steering the country out of the Great Depression, including the New Deal and various economic relief measures. Clinton’s second term in office marked the first Democratic president to gain a second term since FDR. Though his popularity was beginning to falter due to emerging personal scandals—including the Monica Lewinsky situation, which saw Clinton face impeachment for lying to Congress—it hadn’t yet hit the low that would follow. Bush’s midterms were a narrow race to win an easily swayed power balance, marked by gerrymandering and expensive campaigns that ultimately favored the incumbent party.

The Senate has faired similarly

Statewide Senate races are not impacted by redistricting but still often suffer the same outcome for the president’s party. For most of the 20th century, Senate races were often won by the opposite party than the state in question had gone for in the presidential race. In 1986, for instance, the “mismatch rate” of U.S. Senate races was around 59%, meaning over half of states voted into office senators of the opposite party than they had voted for president most recently. This has waned in intensity recently—particularly during Obama’s presidency—but still generally held. However, the 2022 election cycle may mark a departure from this tradition, with only 4% of registered voters claiming they planned to vote for a senator from a different party than they had endorsed for president.

Presidential approval rating is often the clearest predictor of seat changes

Midterm elections tend to be considered referenda on the party in power. As a result, the electability of Congressional members is increasingly tied to the public’s attitude toward the president. Swing seats have consistently gone to the nonincumbent party when public approval of the current president is low, and the inverse when the public believes their administration is doing well.

Since FDR’s presidency, presidents with a low public approval rating have lost an average of 37 congressional seats during midterms. Only two presidents—Bill Clinton and George W. Bush—have had a public approval rating above 60% during midterm elections; consequently, they have been the only two presidents in recent history to avoid the “midterm curse.”

Voters may be motivated more to turnout when their party is not in power

Voters generally turn out in lower numbers for midterms than for presidential elections. In the 2010 and 2014 midterm elections, respectively, only 4 in 10 eligible voters turned up to the polls, whereas 6 in 10 voted in the 2016 general election. However, the drive to overturn the actions of an unfavorable president can be a powerful antidote to voting apathy. A good example of this was the 2018 midterms, in which, according to an analysis by Catalist, “young voters and voters of color, particularly Latinx voters, were a substantially larger share of the electorate than in past midterms.” These voters were majority Democrats, voting in opposition to the Republican incumbent, Donald Trump. That year, midterm surge voting leaped up, and it was “clear that both mobilization and persuasion were critically important in producing this scale of victory for Democrats.”

What does this mean for 2022?

In sum, the 2022 midterms will likely follow the patterns laid out here. All seats in the House of Representatives are up for the taking and a third of those in the Senate. President Joe Biden’s approval rating—40% as of Oct. 20—is on the lower end of historical midterm rates for an incumbent president, suggesting that, if historic precedent holds, Republicans will gain seats on Nov. 8. However, some factors may exert outside influence on the midterm results. 

The Democratic Party has been experiencing the same mobilization that spurred a midterm surge during Trump’s presidency, this time regarding issues such as abortion rights and inflation. Voters in Kansas recently turned up in record numbers to vote down measures that would restrict abortion access; elsewhere in the country, local and state legislatures have taken up steps and earmarked funds protecting the right to choose in repudiation of the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade. 

On the other hand, Republican-sponsored extremists are doing what they can to stem this tide, threatening election workers so convincingly that there is a feared shortage of people to work the midterms. Moreover, one recent poll suggests that Democrats’ momentum may have begun to stall, particularly among women, who in 2018 turned out to vote in greater numbers than men

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Written by: Andrea Vale National Coverage, local coverage by Chris Edwards and Rene Sepulveda

Description: Stacker used data compiled by The American Presidency Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the U.S. House of Representatives to visualize outcomes of midterm elections on the sitting president’s political party in Congress.

Supreme Court Upholds ADA for a 3rd Time

The Supreme Court on Thursday tossed out a closely watched legal battle targeting the Affordable Care Act, rescuing the landmark health care law from the latest efforts by Republican-led states to dismantle it.

The court ruled 7-2 that the red states and two individuals who brought the dispute do not have the legal standing to challenge the constitutionality of the law’s individual mandate to buy health insurance and ordered the case to be dismissed.

Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch dissented. Justice Stephen Breyer delivered the majority opinion for the court.

As originally enacted in 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act required most Americans to obtain minimum essential health insurance coverage. The Act also imposed a monetary penalty, scaled according to in- come, upon individuals who failed to do so. In 2017, Con- gress effectively nullified the penalty by setting its amount at $0. See Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, Pub. L. 115–97, §11081, 131 Stat. 2092 (codified in 26 U. S. C. §5000A(c)).

Texas and 17 other States brought this lawsuit against the United States and federal officials. They were later joined by two individuals (Neill Hurley and John Nantz). The plaintiffs claim that without the penalty the Act’s min- imum essential coverage requirement is unconstitutional.  The court concluded they had no standing. 

To read detail of the ruling visit

https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/20pdf/19-840_6jfm.pdf

Thursday’s 7-2 ruling was the third time the court has rebuffed major GOP challenges to former President Barack Obama’s prized health care overhaul. Stingingly for Republicans, the decision emerged from a bench dominated 6-3 by conservative-leaning justices, including three appointed by President Donald Trump.

“The Affordable Care Act remains the law of the land,” President Joe Biden said, using the statute’s more formal name, after the court ruled that Texas and other GOP-led states had no right to bring their lawsuit to federal court.

At the time of printing no statement has been released by the New Mexico Republican Party concerning the ruling. 

The lawsuit, initially fashioned as Texas v. United States, was filed in February 2018 by 20 Republican state attorneys general and Republican governors. The plaintiffs wanted to revisit National Federation of Independent Businesses v. Sebelius (NFIB), where the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 vote, upheld the mandate as constitutional. In that decision from 2012, Chief Justice Roberts construed the mandate as a tax, concluding that it was valid under Congress’s authority to tax and spend.

The challenge in Texas is related. The plaintiffs argued that the individual mandate is unconstitutional after the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, in which Congress set the penalty for not purchasing “minimum essential coverage” coverage to $0. That bill was adopted in December 2017 using the budget reconciliation process after Congress repeatedly tried and failed to repeal the ACA throughout 2017. Without the penalty, the plaintiffs argued, the mandate is unconstitutional. They further argued that the mandate is so essential to the ACA that it cannot be severed from the rest of the law, meaning the entire ACA should be struck down. At a minimum, they asked the court to strike down the law’s guaranteed issue and community rating provisions alongside the mandate.

The state plaintiffs were later joined by two individual plaintiffs who live in Texas and purchased unsubsidized marketplace coverage. These individuals objected to having to comply with the mandate but intended to purchase ACA-compliant coverage in 2019, even after the penalty was set to $0, because they wanted to follow the law. The individual plaintiffs were likely added to the lawsuit to bolster the states’ weak standing argument in the lawsuit—which we now know was to no avail.

Democratic state attorneys general from (initially) 16 states and the District of Columbia—led by then-California Attorney General (and now Department of Health and Human Services Secretary) Xavier Becerra—were allowed to intervene in the case to defend the ACA. These states sought to protect their interests in billions of dollars in federal funding under the ACA, to ensure that their residents have access to health care, and to prevent chaos in their health care systems if the ACA was found to be unconstitutional.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) partially agreedwith the plaintiffs and declined to defend the constitutionality of the mandate and other key ACA provisions. This was a highly unusual position: historically, the DOJ has defended federal statutes where a reasonable argument could be made in their defense. Then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions informed Congress of the DOJ’s position that the mandate was unconstitutional and that the ACA’s provisions on guaranteed issue, community rating, preexisting condition exclusions, and discrimination based on health status were inseverable and should also be invalidated. At that point, the DOJ had drawn the line there, arguing that the rest of the ACA was severable and should remain in effect.

In December 2018, Judge O’Connor, a federal judge in the Northern District of Texas, agreed with the plaintiffs and declared the entire ACA to be invalid. He reaffirmed this decision in late December when issuing a stay and partial final judgment. Many of district court’s legal conclusions, from standing to severability, were criticized by conservative legal scholars, the Wall Street Journal editorial board, and the National Review editorial board, among others. 

The Fifth Circuit

The DOJ and Democratic attorneys general appealed Judge O’Connor’s decision to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Democratic attorneys general from an additional four states and the U.S. House of Representatives were allowed to intervene to defend the ACA while two plaintiff states withdrew from the case. On appeal, the DOJ under then-Attorney General William Barr took the new position that the entire ACA should be declared invalid. From there, the DOJ changed its position twice more, suggesting first that the district court’s decision applied only to the plaintiff states and two individuals, and second that the court’s remedy should be limited only to the provisions that injured the individual plaintiffs.

After oral argument, the Fifth Circuit, in a 2-1 decision, partially affirmed the district court, agreeing that the mandate is now unconstitutional. However, instead of determining what this meant for the rest of the ACA’s provisions, the court remanded the case for additional analysis on the question of severability. One judge disagreed with these conclusions and filed a lengthy dissent arguing that the plaintiffs lacked standing and that, in any event, the mandate remains constitutional and severable from the rest of the ACA. She opined that there was no need to remand, especially on severability.

At The Supreme Court New Mexico Joined The Argument the ACÁ Should Stay Intact

The Democratic attorneys general and the House appealed the Fifth Circuit’s decision to the Supreme Court. They initially asked for expedited review, which was denied. However, the Court agreed to hear the appeal on a non-expedited basis and also granted a conditional cross-petition filed by Texas, which asked the Court to uphold the district court’s decision. By granting both petitions, the Court considered the full scope of legal issues in Texas—from whether the plaintiffs have standing to whether the rest of the law could be severed from the individual mandate.

During the briefing and oral argument, 18 Republican attorneys general and governors, two individuals, and the Trump administration argued against the validity of the ACA, which was defended by 21 Democratic attorneys general and the House. The 18 challenger states were Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, and West Virginia. The 21 intervenor states were California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, and Washington. Republican attorneys general in Montana and Ohio were not parties to the case but filed an amicus briefarguing that the mandate is unconstitutional but severable from the rest of the ACA. And a bipartisan group of governors from Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin filed a separate brief arguing that the ACA should be upheld. All but four states took a formal position in the lawsuit.

Briefing was completed in mid-August, and all filings are available here. Prior posts analyzed opening briefs from California and the House; amicus briefs from nearly 40 health care and other stakeholders; opening briefs from Texas, two individuals, and the Trump administration; amicus briefs from six organizations; reply briefsfrom California and the House; and reply briefsfrom Texas and the two individuals.

Oral Argument

Oral argument was held on November 10, 2020 by the full panel of judges, including then-newly seated Justice Amy Coney Barrett whom President Trump nominated after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. (The Texas litigation and oral argument loomed large over Justice Barrett’s confirmation process in the Senate.) All three core issues of the litigation were discussed during oral argument: whether the plaintiffs had standing to sue, the continued constitutionality (or not) of the individual mandate, and whether the rest of the ACA could be severed if the mandate is unconstitutional.

As discussed here, much of the oral argument focused on standing. Many Justices seemed troubled that the penalty-less mandate could not be enforced against the plaintiffs and that invalidation of the mandate alone would not address their alleged injuries. Many also raised concerns about the “standing through inseverability” theory advanced by the plaintiffs and DOJ. These topics were key in the Court’s ultimate decision, discussed below.

Post-Oral Argument

Following the 2020 election, the Biden administration formally changed its position in the litigation. In early February, DOJ submitted a letter to inform the Court that it had reconsidered its position and no longer adhered to the conclusions in previously filed briefs. Upon reconsideration, DOJ’s new position was that the individual mandate, even with a $0 penalty, remained constitutional: The 2017 amendment to the ACA to reduce the penalty to zero “did not convert [the mandate] from a provision affording a constitutional choice into an unconstitutional mandate to maintain insurance.” DOJ’s argument echoed the briefs filed by California and the Housebut did not address standing at all.

It is worth noting that Congress enacted the American Rescue Plan Act in March 2021. This new law expanded upon the ACA by temporarily enhancing marketplace subsidies for lower- and middle-income people through 2022. To the extent that the Court looked to subsequent congressional action, this would have showed that the current Congress believed the ACA remained sound and constitutional. 

New Mexico Health and Human Services Department estimated that over $1.7 billion in federal funding was at risk because if the Medicaid expansion went away, then that would have away too, and so underpinning all of the ACÁ is not just the coverage that people have. It’s also the money that comes into New Mexico from the Federal system.

There was also concern about people with preexisting conditions, which is a protection under the Affordable Care Act that prevents insurers from discriminating against those who have them. If it had been overturned those protections would have also gone away.

Yet serious problems remain.

Nearly 29 million Americans remained uninsured in 2019, and millions more likely lost coverage at least temporarily when the COVID-19 pandemic hit according to the Kaiser Foundation. In addition, medical costs continue to rise and even many covered by the law find their premiums and deductibles difficult to afford as inflation rises.

In response, Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package enacted in March expanded federal subsidies for health insurance premiums for those buying coverage. His infrastructure and jobs proposal being negotiated in Congress includes $200 billion toward making that permanent, instead of expiring in two years.

But his plan includes none of his more controversial campaign trail proposals to expand health care access, like creating a federally funded public health care option or letting Medicare directly negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies. While those proposals are popular with Democratic voters, they face tough odds in a closely divided Congress.

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Fun Fact: March 31st, National Crayon Day Unofficial Holiday- Adults & Kids Celebrate. What was your favorite Crayon Color?-2nd Life Media Alamogordo Town News

Fun Facts: Dateline Alamogordo New Mexico 3/31/2021 Celebrating National Crayon Day with color 

https://2ndlifemediaalamogordo.town.news/g/alamogordo-nm/n/26640/fun-fact-march-31st-national-crayon-day-unofficial-holiday-adults-kids

March 31st is the unofficial national holiday, that is a celebration of color its National Crayon Day. This national celebration of color and art is a perfect day for art teachers across Alamogordo, New Mexico, California and the nation to bring a little color and flare to the classroom. 

Here is an interesting fact as to why Crayons gain importance on this very day of March 31st. While this unofficial holiday is a great fun day to dust off your crayons and spend the day coloring, it can also be sort of a sad day for some people. That’s because Crayola has a tendency to retire old crayon colors on this day. From 1990 through March 2017, Crayola has retired over 50 different colors which include lemon yellow, blue gray, maize, violet blue, raw umber, orange-red, green blue and orange-yellow in 1990; magic mint, blizzard blue, teal blue and mulberry in 2003; and dandelion in 2017.

Coloring is not just for kids. As funny as it sounds the adult coloring craze took off in 2015. Prior to 2012 hardly anyone was even aware that adult coloring books existed. Though there have been adult coloring books in print for decades, they really didn’t experience massive growth until 2015.

The highest growth of the coloring books for adults was in early 2015. This is when the adult coloring books completely exploded in popularity. Many adult coloring books created by different artists and different publishers were side-by-side on the Amazon top seller lists for all book categories.

Something else that has fueled the coloring craze for adults is doctors are claiming there is an  actual benefit to people’s well-being. Many people claim that coloring reduces their day-to-day stress, to an astounding degree.

In fact many therapists, including Carl Young have suggested coloring to their patients because of the therapeutic effects. Some even claim that coloring is more effective than yoga, meditation and even antidepressants. Though there are many other reasons why adults are using coloring books besides the amazing anti-stress benefits that they offer, it is a great benefit to have for anybody in the 21st century.

There is a wider trend than just the coloring book craze. There is a trend where adults are buying things that they had in childhood. For example there’s a new study that 55% of young adult books are bought by adults. This trend in buying things that bring back good memories has spread into the coloring book area and has essentially created a market for adult coloring books.

But back to National Crayon Day and the history of Crayons…

Currently, no one really knows when crayons were invented. All that is known is that the word comes from the mid-17th century and is a conglomerate of two Latin words: “crale” which means chalk and “creta” which means earth. The practice of combining various pigments with oil goes back thousands of years. And it was a method that was employed by a wide range of different cultures – from the Egyptians to the Greeks and Romans. However, these early crayons were not intended as a writing or drawing instrument for school children and therefore, it wasn’t used in the classroom in these civilizations. It was a tool used by adults – mainly by artists. The types of crayons produced back then probably wouldn’t have stood up to the rigor of being used by children anyway. In order for that to happen, a more modern type of crayon had to be invented.

Modern crayons have their roots in the Middle Ages and was often a tool used by artists. These cylinders were shaped like crayons but didn’t have the same composition of the modern crayon. They were mainly composed of charcoal and oil and were more like pastels. Over the years, crayons would evolve as a cross between a pastel and a modern crayon and would be popularly used during the 18th century. Eventually, the charcoal in these crayons would be replaced with various pigments. The biggest breakthrough in crayon technology came about when Joseph Lemercier produced a crayon in 1828 that replaced the oil normally found in crayons with wax instead. This produced a stronger crayon that could hold up to more vigorous drawing.

By the beginning of the 20th century, there were several companies producing wax crayons in the United States. In 1902, Crayola brand of crayons was invented by Edwin Binney and C. Harold Smith. The name was created by Mr. Binney’s wife, Alice Stead Binney, who combined the French word for Chalk (craie) with the ole from oleaginous (the paraffin wax used to make the crayons). Crayola offered 19 different boxes with 30 different colors when they first hit the market.

Between 1903 and 1998, Crayola had produced 120 different colors. From 1998 through today, 50 crayon colors have been retired. Today, some of the other brands on the market include Dixon Ticonderoga and Rose Art Crayons. There are also a number generic brands on the market today as well.

Fun facts reprinted with permission from HolidayCalenders.com 

  • The smell of crayons is the 18th most recognizable scent for adults in the U.S.
  • Crayola makes 3 billion crayons a year
  • The favorite crayon color of most Americans is blue
  • The 100-billionth crayon was made by Fred Rogers of Mister Roger’s Neighborhood in 1996.
  • The color of crayon Fred Rogers created was “blue ribbon”
  • In 1962, Crayola changed the name of the color “flesh” to “peach”

So if you are a kid, and adult or an artist like the local artist Rene Sepulveda known for “colorishis” designs and textures we all should celebrate the fun that crayons have brought to each of us beginning as children and for some of us, continuing into adulthood. Today, think back..

What was your favorite crayon color? Did you have a jumbo 64 box with a sharpener? Fat crayons or skinny? Enjoy your crayon memories.

Author Chris Edwards 3/31/2021 2nd Life Media Alamogordo Town News

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Frenchys Cabin & Indian Wells of New Mexico 1800s

Photos of Frenchys cabin, Indian wells nearby and the 7 mile round trip hike up Dog Canyon…

One of the early settlers of the Dog Canyon area near Alamogordo and White Sands National Monument was a pioneer named Francois-Jean Rochas, known by everyone who knew him as Frenchy.

Rocha, or Frenchy, was born in France in 1843 and emigrated to New Mexico in the 1880s. Frenchy was a sort of recluse/mountain man who was very interesting, brave and a hard-working character.

French was a stubborn little Frenchman who lived like a hermit up in the wild hill country of the Sacramentos. He was perhaps the bravest man who ever lived in the Tularosa country and possibly even all of the Southwest.

He spoke broken English, was never very well-dressed, and seldom went to town. When he did, hardly anyone showed him kindness or even attempted to be friendly.

In the early 1880s, Frenchy had moved to Dog Canyon.

Advised not to move to the area Frenchy did anyhow. He packed his supplies in his old buggy and moved up through the San Augustin Pass and on across the desolate Tularosa sands toward the place in the canyon, some 65 miles west. He probably felt no anxiety or fear about what he was doing. In fact, his whole philosophy of living and dying showed that he wasn’t afraid of whatever fate had to offer.

He built mortarless stone walls to corral his livestock, portions of which snaked along the slopes at the mouth of Little Dog Canyon. Frenchy raised cattle and tended an orchard and vineyard.

The closest neighbor, Oliver Milton Lee, settled in Dog Canyon about the same time as Frenchy.

Lee was born in Buffalo Gap, near Abilene, Texas, on Nov. 8, 1865 and came to New Mexico Territory in the fall of 1884 with his half brother, Perry Altman. They were attracted to New Mexico by the open range, free land and a ready market for horses. Lee, already an established horseman and adept with the revolver, insisted on coming. He was only 18. Later, Lee brought his mother and servants and started the Dog Canyon Ranch.

Oliver and Frenchy jointly developed an irrigation system at Dog Canyon. Ditches carried the precious water to the ranch house and pastures. Ruins of the irrigation conduits still remain along the trail leading into the canyon. This was one of several irrigation systems Oliver established along the western escarpment of the Sacramento Mountains.

As competition for open range, land, and water increased during the late 1800s, violent rivalries sometimes ensued. Soon after Christmas 1884, Frenchy was found dead in his cabin at Dog Canyon. A coroner’s jury concluded it was suicide, but evidence and hearsay suggest it was murder. He was only 51 years old when he died. Some suggest Lee and Frenchy were disagreeing over the water ownership at this time. Other accounts suggest field hands did Frenchy in. No one was ever charged with the murder, and the mystery of his death has never been solved.

The Lincoln County War is an example of those violent times. Lee often became involved in these disputes and was accused by some of cattle rustling and stealing land. In 1896, A.J. Fountain, a prominent judge, local rancher and rival of Lee, was murdered along with his young son Henry in the Tularosa Valley. Sheriff Pat Garrett charged Lee with the murders. Lee evaded capture and refused to surrender, believing that he would not remain alive or receive a fair trial in Dona Anna County. This became known as the fountain murders.

No one knows for sure why Frenchy had left his father, mother, brother, two sisters and the peace of the mountains of France. However, more than likely it was his health that brought him to the arid mountains of the American Southwest, as he often talked about his “catarrh in the head” and “pains in the stomach.”

Frenchy always signed his letters as just plain “Frank.”

Frenchy’s life was not to remain so peaceful, however. His first trouble started on July 1, 1886, when he became involved in a little shoot out. He had suspected that a young man named Morrison, who had been working for him, was stealing from him. Frenchy went to La Luz in Otero County, swore out a warrant and had Morrison arrested.

In any event Morrison was soon free and on his way back to Dog Canyon. Long before daybreak he was behind a rock with his gun, waiting for Frenchy to come outside.

A trail of smoke was soon coming from Frenchy’s stove-pipe chimney as he cooked his breakfast. Later, he went outside and began his work as usual. Morrison waited until he had an opportune time then sent a slug from a Winchester into Frenchy’s body.

The Frenchman knew instantly what had happened and covered his wound with his hands, as he staggered toward his cabin. A second shot echoed among the canyon walls, the bullet hitting Frenchy in the arm, but the settler somehow made it to his hut where he crawled into his bed.

About 10 o’clock that night Morrison acted again, evidently deciding to finish his murderous task. He broke open the door and dashed inside, quickly finding his man. Frenchy, calm and steady, was ready and waiting. His gun was lined up on the intruder, and moments later, Morrison, carrying a bullet, took off for parts unknown.

Frenchy, in poor condition, eventually made it to the nearest ranch where he told his story. Soon a posse set out to get the would-be killer, and in good time he was in the Las Cruces jail.

In a short time, Frenchy’s wounds had healed and he was back on his place. With 500 head of cattle carrying his Scoop R brand, he was becoming quite prosperous. He did not put up with any nonsense. When neighboring ranchers cattle drifted up the canyon, he chased them off, and during each round up he carefully watched to see if anyone was stealing from him.

One of Frenchy’s neighbors didn’t like the squatter’s ranching methods, and told him how he felt. The Frenchman answered him in his crude English: “You are stealing my cows, if I catch you, I have you arrested!”

Frenchy knew what to expect from brave talk like that, but he was not afraid. The neighbor, a Texan, along with those who rode with him, were baffled by the coolness of the man. They rode off mumbling, “Somebody will get that fool Frenchman if he don’t look out!”

Frenchy stayed, but he began to worry about something else. He hadn’t staked out a claim on his land and he had no legal right to the place.

Frenchy ultimately died on his land. It was declared a suicide but all believe he was murdered and inquiry was inconclusive.

You can hike to see Frenchys cabin it’s a rugged 3100 elevation gain hike and is about 7 miles round trip via Oliver Lee State Park and into Federal Lands of the Lincoln National Forest:

M. Chris Edwards
Cedwards121788@icloud.com
Executive Operations Coach & Author of

1 Football Biography Track & Field Category Top 10 Bestseller

Coach Robert (Bob) Sepulveda: The Early Days

available on Amazon

Remembering the Challenger 35 years later – Author Chris Edwards

The Space Shuttle Challenger disaster was a fatal incident in the United States’ space program that occurred on January 28, 1986, when the Space Shuttle Challenger (OV-099) broke apart 73 seconds into its flight, killing all seven crew members aboard. The crew consisted of five NASA astronauts, and two payload specialists. The mission carried the designation STS-51-L and was the tenth flight for the Challenger orbiter. The Challenger disaster should best be remembered for the sacrifice of seven astronauts who died in the accident-  Judith ResnikDick Scobee, Capt. Michael J. SmithEllison Onizuka,  Ronald McNairChrista McAuliffe, and Gregory Jarvis.

But for those currently in leadership positions, it should also be remembered as a colossal failure of process – a process designed by the best and the brightest. By the people who sent men to the moon. That was a sobering thought on January 28, 1986, and it remains so today.

The space shuttle Challenger disaster remains one of the most evocative events of the American 20th Century—and for more than just the obvious reasons.

Certainly, the 35th anniversary of this tragedy returns to mind a multitude of images, memories and emotions that prompt pause. But it also reminds us of the crucial importance of informed decision making and risk oversight which are as relevant today as they were on January 28, 1986.

As some will remember, the specific, highly technical cause of the Challenger accident was the notorious “O-Ring”; i.e. the failure of the pressure seal in the aft field joint of the right solid rocket motor. The failure was due to a faulty design unacceptably sensitive to a number of factors, including the effects of cold temperature (launchpad temperature was 36 degrees on January 28).

But more important to remember is the decidedly non-technical contributing cause: the multiple risk management errors that fatally flawed the Challenger launch decision. As documented by the presidential review commission, these were not errors arising from system complexities, but rather from the erosion of once-effective and redundant safety protocols. 

Space, space exploration and the benefits are not without risk. The risk is worth the reward however we should never sacrifice safety protocols and redundancy further the governments legislative branch has a responsibility of checks and balances in oversight to ensure safety is in place, contracts are not awarded unfairly and the value to the American people in life and treasure is never taken for granted.

Our hearts continue to bleed for the errors of that fateful day but our quest for what is out there amongst the stars should always continue…

A Photo of the Space Shuttle Challenger lifts off – January 26, 1986 seen on authorchrisedwards.com website.

Our heart pour out to our hero’s of the space program but our minds always look up and forward in the quest forward for what lies above us. We are not alone!