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Locals respond to gubernatorial debate

People sit in the Roswell Country Club Tuesday night watching a televised debate between candidates for governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and Steve Pearce. The debate viewing was part of a watch party hosted by the Leadership Roswell Alumni Association. (Alex Ross Photo)

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Three weeks before votes are counted, area residents gathered at the Roswell Country Club to watch the televised debate for New Mexico governor and hear from several candidates in down ballot races.

The Leadership Roswell Alumni Association hosted the watch party. Elaine Mayfield of the Alumni Association later said 79 people were in attendance.

The debate between Republican candidate and U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce and Democrat U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, consisted of discussion of issues based on questions asked by New Mexicans in video clips gathered during town hall meetings this past September in Albuquerque, Española and Roswell.

The first question was asked by Tennise Lucas of Roswell, a teacher at Valley View Elementary School. Lucas asked how under the New Mexico Secretary of Public Education in each candidates’ administrations will include teachers in the decision making process.

Lujan Grisham said she would include public schools, educators and communities to help identify who is best to lead the department, but the person picked will have to be willing to invest in early childhood education, work to get teachers pay raises and create opportunities for teachers to participate.

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Pearce answered that he wants someone with background teaching in a New Mexico classroom but also has management experience. He added that too often teachers and the department seem in conflict and wants to move the department away from being a body that sees that schools comply with guidelines and more of a resource for them.

Lucas, who was at the watch party, said she did not feel like her question was answered.

She said although both candidates talk about getting away from student testing, she wants a clear direction about what they want to replace that with.

She said one of the reasons New Mexico is low in terms of the quality of its education system is because of a lack of continuity.

“Things are not perfect, but they are getting better and that is where a lot of us in education are, we want that to continue, that continuity,” she said.

After the debate, the opinions of audience members differed.

Tim Oracion of Roswell said he likes to get all the information he can before deciding who he will vote for, and in that regard the debate was helpful. Though he said he would not say he made up his mind, he said he did like Pearce’s comments about setting up toll booths to charge commercial truckers who drive from surrounding states in order to pay for infrastructure improvements.

“He’s a strong candidate let’s just put it that way,” he said. He added that he believed Pearce’s answers were more concise.

Lolly Zamora of Roswell and a Lujan Grisham supporter, said he reached his decision not through the debate but by the voting records of the candidates. He said he believes Lujan Grisham kept those values at heart.

As to who won the debate, Zamora said he did not know.

“That’s difficult for me to answer,” he said.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.

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