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House candidate’s district swap raises questions

Republican Brett Kokinadis’ decision to switch from the Congressional District 3 race to the District 1 race was the subject of chatter on Twitter last week.

Kokinadis jumped out of the crowded race in District 3 in the northern part of the state that’s being vacated by Ben Ray Luján to challenge U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, who represents the Albuquerque area.

Questions were raised about Kokinadis’ residency and eligibility requirements to run for the seat. Kokinadis told the Journal he lives in Santa Fe and noted a small corner of the county is in District 1. He also said he rents a home in Albuquerque and plans to move his primary residence to the district next year.

He isn’t actually required to live in the district. Candidates are only required to live in the state. About two dozen members in the 435-member House now live outside of their congressional districts, according to reports.

Kokinadis announced his decision to change races the day after the second quarter campaign contribution Federal Election Commission deadline.

He said he was encouraged by state and national Republican Party leaders to take on Haaland.

“Haaland has dropped the ball by not addressing the key issues that truly impact families here at home such as solid immigration and border security plans, sound approaches to health care and drug costs, real solutions to the opioid crisis and helping small business all which rest in the hands of Congress,” he said in a news release. “It appears Haaland is more focused on past issues and taking credit for other people’s efforts rather than focusing on affecting real change that impacts all New Mexicans.”

Haaland’s campaign countered that Kokinadis’ support for President Donald Trump “and his failed and racist policies, is a non-starter for New Mexico’s First Congressional District.”

“Over the last seven months – the Democratic-led House has passed the American Dream and Promise Act, the Equality Act, protecting access to affordable health care and lowering prescription drug prices, the Climate Action Now Act, it passed the reauthorization for the Violence Against Women Act, and background checks for all gun sales,” a release from her campaign said. “(Senate Majority Leader Mitch) McConnell has held up all of this progress and the president tweets racists comments about congresswomen of color.”

Haaland and Kokinadis are the only announced candidates in the race.

HEINRICH PUSHES “CADILLAC TAX” REPEAL: Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., applauded the U.S. House’s repeal of the “Cadillac tax” provision of the Affordable Care Act. The Cadillac tax levies a 40% tax on the most expensive employer-sponsored health insurance plans, those worth about $11,200 for individuals and $30,100 for families, starting in 2022.

Heinrich has been one of the leaders for the permanent repeal of the provision in the Senate.

“Eliminating this onerous tax on employees’ health coverage will protect important benefits for workers and ensure that businesses and families get a fair deal,” Heinrich said in a release. “I look forward to working with Senate Leadership and my colleagues to ensure millions of middle-class families who rely on employer-based health care aren’t unfairly penalized by this tax.”

The New Mexico Democrat and Republican Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota are both calling for quick action on the bill.

The House voted 419-6 to repeal the tax.

Scott Turner: sturner@abqjournal.com

 

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