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Democrat Lujan Grisham takes oath as New Mexico governor

January 2, 2019
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Democratic New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham urges greater state spending on public education during her inaugural address on Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019, in Santa Fe, N.M. The top job in New Mexico passed from one Latina governor to another Tuesday as Michelle Lujan Grisham succeeded termed-out Republican Susana Martinez. (AP Photo/Morgan Lee)

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The top job in New Mexico passed from one Latina governor to another Tuesday as Michelle Lujan Grisham took the oath of office, announcing it was time to spend more money on education and address climate change through the regulation of a booming oil industry and promotion of renewable energy.

Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, took over from Susana Martinez, a term-limited Republican, following a wave of Democratic victories for statewide office, top judiciary seats and Congress in the November election.

Lujan Grisham campaigned on promises to reform public education, provide universal access to preschool and modernize an oil-dependent economy.

In her inaugural speech, she said it was time to rebuild the morale of educators and students.

“We will be tenacious. We will not quit until we have delivered the investment our public schools and our teachers and our students deserve,” Lujan Grisham told several hundred spectators at her inauguration in the state’s capital city.

The new governor said efforts to spend portions of a budget surplus on higher salaries for government workers and educators were urgently needed.

“For the first time in years we have a checkbook to go with our credit card, and we can afford it,” Lujan Grisham said.

She also returned repeatedly to increasing the minimum wage and included global warming as a top concern, which is a sharp departure from her predecessor.

Lujan Grisham said she wants New Mexico to provide a “national example of what a clean energy revolution looks like,” endorsing a goal for the state to produce 50 percent of its electricity from renewable sources such as solar panels and wind turbines by 2030.

The state’s renewable energy quota now is set at 20 percent starting in 2020.

Nationwide, Democrats will hold 23 governorships after inaugurations. In addition to New Mexico, Democratic governors are replacing Republicans in Nevada, Wisconsin, Kansas, Illinois and Michigan.

Lujan Grisham previously served as state Cabinet secretary for health-related agencies before forming a business that oversaw New Mexico’s medical insurance pool for high-risk patients. She served three terms in Congress starting in 2013.

Spectators filed into the inauguration at Santa Fe’s downtown convention center to the sound of mariachis and northern New Mexico folk music. Teen country music singer Chevel Shepherd, a recent winner on NBC’s “The Voice,” belted out “God Bless America.”

Deann Garcia of Santa Fe arrived early with her husband and two children to catch a glimpse of a governor she hopes will help broadly legalize marijuana to ensure full access for medical patients. The 30-year-old child care worker also wanted to see increases in teacher pay.

Lorna Samraj, a campaign volunteer for the new governor, said she wants to see action on efforts to combat gun violence.

“She has talked about climate change and gun control,” Samraj said. “Those are dear to me.”

At the state Capitol building, a long list of newly elected or re-elected Democrats began new terms in statewide offices. Among them, Stephanie Garcia Richard was sworn in as the state’s first female land commissioner to oversee energy and mineral development leases across thousands of square miles (square kilometers) of state trust land.

Second-term Democratic State Treasurer Tim Eichenberg highlighted the unique opportunity for Democrats to set the agenda in state government. “Now we’ve got out chance, and we’re going to make the best of it,” he said.

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