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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Southern New Mexico Candidates Square Off at League of Women’s Voters Forum

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Contributing writer Stephen Jones checks in with another report from Southern New Mexico.

Candidates for Public Regulation Commission, State Representative, and District Judge addressed voters at the Las Cruces League of Women Voters candidate forum held at the Munson Senior Center in Las Cruces on Wednesday evening. While all of the candidates for Public Regulation Commission demanded accountability and ethics on an elected board noted for its mismanagement and corruption, candidates for the State Legislature from both parties stressed the importance of education and jobs to the future of the region, and called for greater efficiencies in government services.

State Rep Candidates
When questioned about what government waste should be cut, Republican candidates for State Representative called for “lower taxes, less regulation, and less spending,” but failed to provide specifics. Debra L. White, Republican candidate for State Representative in the 36th District, said she would “cut bureaucrats.” When pressed for areas she would cut, White responded, “I got nothin’,” adding, “I’m not sure, really, I’m new at this. Give me a day and I’ll get back to you.” Terry McMillan, Republican candidate for State Representative in the 37th District, stressed his commitment to protecting education and health, which he termed “critical to our future,” but suggested we must stop “the unrestrained growth of government.” To restrain growth he said New Mexico needed to “cut the waste out of Medicare and Medicaid,” which he termed “important resources,” but the “biggest strain on insurance companies.” Medicare and Medicaid are public, not private insurance programs.

Ricky Little, Republican candidate for State Representative, in the 53rd District, said cutting taxes was the key to economic stability. “When you add up State, Federal and local taxes it comes to 63%,” Little said. Little added, “Our taxes are more than other states, like Texas.” Nate Cote, Democratic State Representative in the 53rd District, countered that our top tax income rate is 5.3%. “We had the biggest income tax cut in state history in 2003,” Cote said, “down from a top rate of 8%.”

State Representative Joseph Cervantes (D-52) said, “We have to be honest about the costs of government.” Cervantes noted that the economic downturn had deeply stressed New Mexico’s treasury, but that the state was in much better shape than most other states, including “all of our neighboring states.” Responding directly to Little, Cervantes said, “Someone here raised the Texas example. Texas is facing bankruptcy.” Besides education, jobs and health care, Rep. Cote said New Mexico had to rebuild its infrastructure in order to keep employers in the State.

PRC Candidates
In the two hotly contested contests for Public Regulation Commission (PRC) from the southern tier, all four candidates agreed that the PRC must step in and take a direct role in overseeing insurance rates and utility fees, something they found “lacking” in the current board. All four candidates agreed that the elected members of the PRC should be responsive and responsible for insurance oversight, which is currently in the hands of the Superintendant of Insurance, an office which is supposed to be accountable to the PRC, but whose decisions the PRC members, as elected officers, have no veto power over.

The long history of corruption on the PRC was also a central issue raised by the candidates. “This election comes down to two things,” said Bill McCamley, Democratic candidate for PRC in District 5, “accountability and ethics.” Bill Hall, the Republican candidate for District 5, called on the PRC to “act responsibly” in decisions made by the board, “before the legislature abolishes it and it winds up appointed by the Governor.” Poor governance from Santa Fe was another issue raised by all four candidates. Bill McCamley promised to bring meetings of the PRC out into the districts to allow the public to participate.

“I have no DWI's, never sexually harassed anybody, and haven't hit anyone in the head with a rock!” said Stephanie DuBois, Democratic candidate for PRC in District 2, referring to legal, ethical and criminal lapses that have occurred on the current PRC. She promised that she would be a full time member of the PRC. “The job pays $90,000. Voters have the right to expect a full time representative,” she said. DuBois also promised to demand that utilities prove they need rate hikes before she agreed to vote for one.

Patrick Lyons, the Republican candidate for District 2, promised to bring the PRC “up to snuff.” He pointed to his record as Land Commissioner, the only state office to have “a flat budget” during his tenure, he said.

District Judge
District Judge Mannie Arrieta and his opponent Richard Wellborn vied with each other over who had the most experience. Arrieta, who is seeking re-election, has a strong background in civil law. Wellborn, an assistant District Attorney, also has a background in criminal cases. The vast majority of cases in the District Court are civil cases. Arrieta has 26 years of experience in legal practice, Wellborn has 15 years of experience.

Others Participating
Also presenting at the forum were State Representative Joni Gutierrez (D-33) and her Republican opponent Virginia Robertson. Representative Jeff Steinborn and Representative Andy Nunez were unable to attend due to family issues. State Senator Mary Jane Garcia is presently hospitalized due to a mugging in Albuquerque and did not appear. Other candidates on hand, but not presenting at the forum, were Andy Segovia, Democratic candidate for Doña Ana County Assessor, Jose “Joel” Cano for Magistrate Judge and Billy Garrett, Democratic nominee to Doña Ana County Commissioner.

Photos by Stephen Jones. To see more posts by Stephen, visit our archive.

September 23, 2010 at 10:53 AM in 2010 Judicial Races, 2010 NM Legislature Races, 2010 NM PRC Races, By Stephen Jones, Contributing Writer, Las Cruces | Permalink


Those republicans-chock full of good ideas. Not.

Posted by: Sean | Sep 23, 2010 1:56:56 PM

"Debra L. White, Republican candidate for State Representative in the 36th District, said she would “cut bureaucrats.” When pressed for areas she would cut, White responded, “I got nothin’,” adding, “I’m not sure, really, I’m new at this. Give me a day and I’ll get back to you.”

Tea Bagger power! Are you sure you didn't make this up? On second thought shes about as knowledgeable as most Tea Bagger candidates. Maybe we shouldn't be so hard on her tho because even Susana Martinez can't say what she would cut.

Posted by: Lancaster | Sep 23, 2010 2:33:05 PM

Well, now I know what the League of women voters is all about, a group of progressive liberals who enjoy making people look foolish.
How about the answer now, #1. Get rid of all the positions that the current administration provided for all their friends. #2. Quit wasting precious time on the committees that come up w/bogus bills to "Expand Regulations on Businesses" no joke, introduced by Rep Mimi Stewart(D) 26 Jan 2010(Passed), or a bloated budget of $5.4Billion w/a requests of the State Investment Council to give $1Billion to help NM Government Workers get Funds for Affordable Housing and/or BELOW Market-Rate Mortgages?(Failed) Yes, it's true but thank God that one didn't pass.
#3. Current State Retirees keep their current packages but re-negotiate the upcoming retirement packages in order to keep them at a manageble level so our children don't have to pay for them.

Posted by: Debra White | Sep 23, 2010 3:58:39 PM

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Posted by: Texas Taxes | Sep 24, 2010 1:50:27 AM

@Debra White,
Um, its NOT the League of Women Voters making candidates "look foolish" its fools unprepared as a Candidate making themselves look foolish by showing up to a forum to address voters without a clue.
Here is a hint, Campaigning is basically a job interview, your trying to convince voters that your the best person to represent THEM. Your ideas and plans will benefit the State and all the PEOPLE in the State. Government OF there People, BY the People and the real biggie IMO, FOR the People. When your telling voters your going to work for the benefit of businesses (less regulation) your telling them that they don't matter and someones PROFIT is more important to you.

If your unprepared to answer basic questions your going to come across as unprepared to represent your constituents. If the three "answers" you provided represent what your all about, GOOD LUCK, you'll need it, better hope that voters in your district are even more clueless than you.

Posted by: VP | Sep 24, 2010 7:47:37 AM

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