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Candidates address NM Municipal League

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Three candidates addressed over 500 municipal officials during the New Mexico Municipal League’s 61st annual conference held at the Roswell Convention & Civic Center on Wednesday and Thursday.

Sen. District 28 Howie Morales, Democratic lieutenant governor candidate. (Alison Penn Photo)

Howie Morales, the Democratic lieutenant governor candidate, spoke after keynote speaker Dale Dekker on Wednesday during lunch. Morales said he and Michelle Lujan Grisham had been touring all 33 counties and that he came to address them in the spirit of partnership.

“Every single city matters, every single town matters, every single village matters, because we understand that if there’s going to be a strong state government — we have to have a strong local government,” Morales said.

After his speech, an attendee asked if Morales’ opponent would have the opportunity to speak and David Izraelivitz, NMML president-elect and councilor of Los Alamos City and County, said Congressman Steve Pearce, Republican governor candidate, would be present on Thursday. Morales’ Republican opponent is Michelle Garcia Holmes.

Congressman Steve Pearce, Republican governor candidate. (Alison Penn Photo)

During the general session lunch on Thursday, Pearce addressed the crowd to share his mission of creating jobs and his first-hand experience of rising out of poverty as a New Mexican. Pearce said he and administration have visited every county in the month of August for long-term meetings to discuss what they are needing in the future. At the end of his speech, Pearce received a standing ovation.

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“My commitment is to you, we’ll deal with the difficult issues,” Pearce said. “We’re going to protect our kids. We’re going to improve the schools. We’re going to go straighten up the crime. We’re going to help people out of poverty and we are going to grow and diversify this economy. You and I control the future of the state. Please, please commit to doing your part in your community to changing the direction. I’ll do what is needed in Santa Fe. We’ll make hard choices — the ones that are good for the long term of the state and we need every community to come along with us.”

State Rep. District-51 Yvette Herrell, Republican 2nd Congressional District candidate. (Alison Penn Photo)

After Pearce, State Rep. Yvette Herrell, Republican candidate for Pearce’s seat, also made a speech and thanked Bill Fulginiti, NMML executive director, and Regina Romero, intergovernmental relations director, for their support in the state’s Legislature.

“I just want to tell you that I appreciate so much the work you’re doing in your own communities and for the people in your community because it is messy in Santa Fe sometimes,” Herrell said to the municipal officials. “People don’t understand everything we’re working through, but I think if we can continue to work together and keep our shared values as far as what is important for our communities, for our families, for our industries and really at this point in time, where we see the revenues are going to be greater.”

State control 

“In order to have a strong state government, you’ve got to have strong local governments,” Morales said. “So I want to make sure that we recognize them and that’s why I am here today.”

Morales said he wants the elected officials to know the state trusts them to know what is best for their various communities. He also reminded them that they have a direct line of communication to him and Grisham.

Pearce said he “did not like Santa Fe controlling everything” and for education, he wants managements to be in the hands of superintendents. He said he would like the Public Education Department Act as a resource institution to help schools succeed and only have elements of compliance for the schools.

“In the same way, the state government will help your local governments and county governments succeed,” Pearce said. “I do not believe that Santa Fe knows best for every community.”

Internet sales 

“We are not going to let Amazon and all of the internet sales providers have an undue advantage,” Pearce said. “We lose small business, we lose the heart of New Mexico and the heart of your communities.”

For $1.2 billon surplus from oil and gas in the budget, Pearce said he thinks the funds should be appropriated to infrastructure, particularly with the sanitation and water systems and highways. Herrel said she agreed with Pearce on this statement. Another idea he has for the funds is for “every corner of New Mexico to have the freedom of the internet.”

“You were told that state government was proud because we did not raise taxes of any New Mexican across the state,” Morales said. “It was you as local leaders and municipalities who have bore the brunt of that — who had to raise taxes just to replace revenue that was taken away. I want to make sure that you know that these broken promises will not happen, that you have a safe government that is transparent and that is predictable.”

Morales said that when the decision on internet sales was vetoed that it was “not fair to small to businesses or the GRT that local governments are able to receive.” He said he and Grisham hope to partner with municipalities to ensure the revenues from internet sales reach the municipalities.

Education and jobs

Morales said he has concerns with the state’s low ranking in education and in child well-being stats and wants to see the state take on the attitude of senior Olympians or student-athletes taken to be “second to none.” He wants the state to be proud of the education system and consider job creation from the inside, not just attracting people outside of the state to come in.

Pearce said he loves the oil and gas industry, but recognizes its volatile nature and how it affects the state’s education system. He said 40 percent of teacher pay comes from oil and gas and it can be concerning when the prices fall.

Pearce shared his views on retaining those with high-tech degrees, blue collar and creating rural economies “to fix, grow and diversify” the state’s economy. With job growth, he said he wants to reestablish the timber industry and give every New Mexican the opportunity and choice to succeed.

Agriculture and tourism

“I want our kids to have organic fresh vegetables year-round, so we’re going to start a system of greenhouses throughout the state,” Pearce said. “My hope is that every community, every reservation, every chapter house will have a hydroponic organic greenhouse and produce the food for their schools, for their senior citizens, and their citizens year-round. There’s going to be tremendous numbers of jobs. I want New Mexico to be food self-sufficient. I want us to have the best quality food and we can do that and create a lot of jobs.”

Pearce also said his greenhouse idea has tremendous potential for rural areas as a tourism opportunity and he also referenced his idea for apprenticeships for those who chose a career path over college.

Morales also spoke of the state’s agriculture industry saying he supports all of those working in that industry. He said Grisham will advocate for all individuals in the agricultural industry across the state. With this, he included preserving the nature of New Mexico.

“I would like to see that we can work together to ensure that we can help local governments, increase our opportunities for tourism because it’s those activities that happen year after year that bring people in,” Morales said. “We want to make sure that we understand the importance of tourism, the importance of the outdoors that we have — the clean waters, the beautiful mountains and that we can work together to utilize our state budget to assist every one of you in promoting the programs that advance our economy.”

City/RISD reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.