More than 60 people attended the recent Alameda North Valley Association Candidates Forum. The candidates from New Mexico House of Representatives District #15 and New Mexico Senate Districts #9 and 10 were all in attendance.
One of the surprises of the event was in the District 15 race were comments by democrat Ane Romero and republican Sarah Maestas Barnes. Both candidates spoke in support of Solar Energy Tax Credits for homeowners. The tax credit has expired and both candidates voiced support for its reinstatement in the New Mexico tax code. Maestas Barnes carried a bill supporting reinstatement of the tax credit, which passed in a recent legislative sessions, but it was vetoed by Governor Susana Martinez.
Romero said she is especially interested in state support of behavioral and mental health issues. She expressed concern for local residents who are afraid to open their doors to strangers in the wake of recent burglaries, and said she wanted to find a way to make the area safer. Romero also mentioned an interest in bringing long-term economic investment to New Mexico.
Maestas Barnes reiterated her ongoing interest in issues that involve children. She said she is especially concerned about child pornography and will support efforts to increase penalties for pornographers. She also discussed her work to expand the amber alert system. Maestas Barnes said she would address the financial shortfall lawmakers must soon solve by pulling money set aside for positions within state government that have not been filled. Maestas Barnes also mentioned that she is working with community members on North Edith to try to address infrastructure concerns about access to the Albuquerque Bernalillo County wastewater system.
In the Senate District 10 race, newcomer Aubrey B. Dunn, a republican, is running in his first political campaign. He said the state budget can no longer be done in the same way. He spoke about the need to emphasize vocational education and to give farmers and ranchers greater support. Dunn also voiced support for a vibrant logging industry. Dunn also said he supports term limit for lawmakers.
Incumbent Bill O’Neill, a democrat, said he is running again because he has unfinished business. He talked about the polarization in the New Mexico Senate and said that is why he plans to again carry a bill for an independent redistricting commission. O’Neill said he would also carry legislation to remove the question about prior felonies from job applications. He believes it is important to give people who have served their sentences a second change. O’Neill said he would also sponsor a bill that would prevent lawmakers from becoming lobbyists for four years after they leave the legislature. He believes the biggest priority for the North Valley is improved infrastructure.
In Senate District 9, republican Diego Espinoza is running against democratic incumbent John Sapien. Espinoza said the biggest problem in the district is the number of people who can’t find a job. That’s an important issue to him, he said because his family is from Mora, New Mexico but they had to move to the Albuquerque area because work is scarce in Mora. Espinoza said that experience showed him it was important for everyone to have better access to the job market. He said he does not have the experience his opponent does, but will look to people to help him answer the problems the state is facing.
John Sapien emphasized his experience as a small business owner and talked about the way he supports his employees. Sapien said he would like to find a way to turn the economy of New Mexico away from oil and gas and to build a stronger infrastructure for the state. He also spoke about his work as chairman of the Senate Education Committee. Sapien noted there are many problems with inadequate sports facilities for young people.
The meeting at the Raymond G. Sanchez community center adjourned early to allow members of the audience to discuss individual concerns with the candidates.