A Lincoln County Democrat is making a bid for a local legislative seat in 2020, but could face a challenging path to victory in a district that has long been loyal to Republicans.
Kimble Lee Kearns — a member of the Capitan Board of Trustees and owner of Lincoln County Realty Inc — spoke to a crowd Monday at the monthly meeting of the Democratic Party of Chaves County about his campaign for the House District 59 seat in the New Mexico House of Representatives.
The district — composed of parts of Chaves and Lincoln counties — is now represented by Greg Nibert, a Republican from Roswell and former member of the Chaves County Board of Commissioners.
Nibert has not declared publicly whether he will run for a third term, but Kearns Monday said he believes he is more aligned with the needs of the district than Nibert.
“I think that Mr. Nibert is out of touch with the realities of life and regular working people and I would like to replace him,” Kearns told the crowd.
According to data from the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office, Republicans have won District 59 seat in every election at least since 1990. However, Kearns said he believes that with enough effort, the seat is a potential pick-up for Democrats who already hold a majority in both chambers of the New Mexico Legislature.
“There’s a lot of voters here. We need to get them registered, OK? We need to get them to the polls and we need to explain ourselves about why the Democratic vote is the best vote,” Kearns said.
He said after speaking to the crowd, that Democrats can win in rural areas if they focus less on cultural issues and more on policy ideas such as education and clean energy.
“And those are ideas that supersede culture. So I think that would be the idea: to get past those cultural divides,” Kearns said.
He applauded Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, and the Legislature for their work in the recent 60-day legislative session.
In all, 309 bills passed both chambers of which 281 were signed into law by Lujan Grisham, according to information posted on the website of the New Mexico Legislature.
“Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has set the pace for that Legislature and the Democrats having a majority in both houses just blew the top off. I mean we really need to be proud,” he said.
A retired teacher, Kearns said he was especially excited about the large increases of funding to public education provided. He also expressed enthusiasm for Lujan Grisham’s recent proposal for an Opportunity Scholarship.
The plan would cover the cost of 100% of tuition and fees for in-state resident students who attend an institution of higher learning in New Mexico.
Kearns said the rise in funding and the higher education plan will help boost the quality of New Mexico’s education system and make the state a more attractive place for companies to locate to.
In his remarks, Kearns also expressed support for legislation that can help curb the threat of climate change.
“I am going to vote for anything that comes down the turnpike to improve our struggle against climate change,” he said.
The last legislative session also saw a bill passed and signed into law requiring background checks for just about all private gun sales conducted within the state of New Mexico.
Critics of the law, including many county sheriffs say the law is unenforceable, inconveniences law-abiding gun owners and would not curtail violent crime.
Kimble, a self-identified gun owner, said he does not think the new measures pose a problem for gun owners and would oppose any effort to roll back the law.
And although he thinks abortion should be “legal and rare,” Kimble said he backs a law to decriminalize abortion within the state of New Mexico.
The Legislature at the urging of the governor last legislative session attempted to enact legislation to replace a dormant 1969 state law banning abortion. Although it passed the New Mexico House, the measure was later defeated in the New Mexico Senate.
Kearns said while he is not “pro-abortion,” he believes a woman should have the right to make her own health decisions without government interference.
Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at email@example.com.