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 V.17 No.44 | October 30 - November 5, 2008 
Alibi’s Online Election Guide

Feature

New Mexico State Senate

Job Description: Writes budgets and crafts laws pertaining to schools, prisons and governmental agencies.

Term: Four years (no term limit)

Salary: $145 per diem for each day in session or an interim committee in addition to mileage reimbursement.

John C. Ryan, Republican (Incumbent)

District 10

Website: no campaign website, but here’s his legislative page.

Did not respond to questionnaire.

Victor Raigoza, Democrat

District 10

Website: victor4senate.com

1) What experience makes you qualified for this position?

Having been a financial advisor since 1994 qualifies me to deal with the harsh economic times we are facing.

2) What, if anything, should be done in our state to address ethics reform?

We need to make all discussions and decisions in the open. We can no longer have discussions concerning the taxpayers’ money behind closed doors. We need to encourage state-funded elections. It would keep the cost down and give a level playing field to anyone who wants to run.

3) How can we improve education in New Mexico?

We need to sit down and listen to our teachers to form policy. Teachers know what is best for their students and how to motivate and teach them. We need to ensure that "No Child Left Behind" is left behind.

4) What will you do to improve infrastructure in your district?

By encouraging savings in every state office, we will have money to improve infrastructure. I intend to make sure our schools are structurally safe for our children. I also want to help fix traffic along Alameda and make sure all of the roads in my district are safe. The Paseo pot hole was in my district.

5) What kind of energy do you think New Mexico can produce, and what can you do to further that industry?

I want New Mexico to be the leader in alternative energy. We have been blessed with every natural resource to lead the nation in this area. We need to use our resources and our minds to lead by example in wind and solar energy production. We not only have the resources, but we also have the experts to design and implement what we need.

6) What would you do to help solve the state's transportation problem?

We need to encourage mass transit; the current state of the economy is helping promote mass transportation. We need to make sure that within our metro areas, people have great public transportation. In our rural areas, we need to encourage alternative energy cars and trucks. As a state, we need to lead by example, and as the state's fleet needs replacement, we need to make sure all new vehicles are hybrid or alternative energy vehicles.

7) What local issue do you think is most relevant to your potential constituents, and how would you address it?

The state of the economy is in shambles. We need to provide our citizens with new jobs by creating a green economy. We need to make sure we are doing everything we can to save state money to avoid raising taxes. We need to be proactive in helping our citizens.

Linda M. Lopez, Democrat (Incumbent, Uncontested)

District 11

Website: no campaign website, but here’s her legislative page.

Did not respond to questionnaire.

Gerald Peter Ortiz y Pino, Democrat (Incumbent, Uncontested)

District 12

Website: no campaign website, but here’s his legislative page

Did not respond to questionnaire.

Dede Feldman, Democrat (Incumbent, Uncontested)

District 13

Website: No campaign website, but here is her legislative page.

Did not respond to questionnaire.

H. Diane Snyder, Republican (Incumbent)

District 15

Website: senatorsnyder.com

1) What experience makes you qualified for this position?

I’ve represented Senate District 15 since 2001, and I’m committed to serving my constituents and fighting for the issues they care about—increased access to health care, better schools, safer streets and lower state income taxes for the middle class. I’m a small businesswoman and I understand what it takes to create jobs in a tough economy. Finally, a key focus of my service in the Legislature has been on strengthening opportunities for our youth—so they don’t have to leave New Mexico—and protecting the livelihood of our senior citizens.

2) What, if anything, should be done in our state to address ethics reform?

As a state senator, I've supported legislation to open all legislative meetings to the public and limit gifts to legislators. I also voted to require campaign contribution disclosures from companies doing business with the state. I believe reforming ethics laws in New Mexico begins with electing ethical people to public office.

3) How can we improve education in New Mexico?

All children have dreams about what they will be when they grow up, and nothing is more important to making those dreams come true than a quality education. I'm committed to giving all of our children the education they deserve and need for a bright future. I have strongly supported improvements to our local elementary, middle and high schools and have fought to put more dollars into the classroom—not the bureaucracy. I have voted to increase teacher pay and to establish a cabinet-level Secretary of Education to provide real accountability for the first time in the governor's administration.

4) What will you do to improve infrastructure in your district?

Our ability to safely move people, supplies and goods to and from our neighborhoods is directly linked to New Mexico's economic and social future. The better our infrastructure, the brighter our future. Most importantly, I support dedicating all or some of the state's motor vehicle excise tax to addressing our transportation needs. Revenue from this tax, which raises about $130 million a year, is deposited into the general fund—not the State Road Fund. What better way to pay for infrastructure construction and repair than to use money that is already being collected from an existing tax?

5) What kind of energy do you think New Mexico can produce, and what can you do to further that industry?

While serving in the State Senate, I’ve proudly supported improved clean air quality through reduced carbon dioxide emissions, as well as increased alternative energy production in New Mexico through tax credits and incentives for solar and wind. At the state level, I know the most effective action the governor and the state Legislature can take to encourage alternative energy production is to create additional incentives for companies and organizations that seek to harness our state’s solar and wind energy and convert it into power.

6) What would you do to help solve the state's transportation problem?

In addition to dedicating all or some of the state's motor vehicle excise tax to addressing our transportation needs—instead of sending it to the “abyss” we call our state’s general fund—I also support redirecting the gross receipts tax revenue paid by highway construction companies toward addressing our transportation needs, which would raise an estimated $14 million a year. I would couple this with increasing compliance on the state's weight-distance tax paid by truckers, which would raise about $19 million a year. This option would ensure all trucking companies pay their fair share of taxes owed.

7) What local issue do you think is most relevant to your potential constituents, and how would you address it?

Clearly, economic recovery is issue No. 1 for my constituents. I believe New Mexico's working families should keep more of their hard-earned money. Simply put, families in Albuquerque are better at managing their money than politicians in Santa Fe. Since taking office, I have voted to cut personal income taxes across the board to create jobs, and I’ve fought against tax plans with hidden tax increases. I’m also a consistent sponsor of tax credits to encourage businesses to contribute to their employee’s health insurance plans, and I’ve supported tax credits for small businesses that voluntarily offer health insurance to their employees

Tim Eichenberg, Democrat

District 15

Website: eichenbergfornewmexico.com

1) What experience makes you qualified for this position?

I served two elected terms as Bernalillo County Treasurer where I earned a reputation for replacing traditional political cronyism with efficiency and professionalism. I am currently serving my 12th year on the Arroyo and Flood Control Authority (AMAFCA). As its chairman, I led the successful effort to cut residential property tax rates and expanded the walking and bike trail system. I served as director of NM Property Tax Division (2004-2007). I am a 56-year Albuquerque resident and have lived 22 years in the district, where my wife Sandra and I raised our two children.

2) What, if anything, should be done in our state to address ethics reform?

Special interest influence has shaped policy at the Legislature for too long, distorting our priorities, wasting taxpayer dollars, damaging our environment and blocking health care reform. Moreover, our state’s reputation has been hurt by corruption scandals and rampant conflict of interest. To address these issues, I support comprehensive ethics reforms, starting with the creation of an independent ethics commission to investigate complaints of corruption. I support imposing limits on campaign contributions and statewide “Clean Elections” legislation, like that passed in Albuquerque three years ago. I believe any elected official convicted of corruption should be denied state pension benefits.

3) How can we improve education in New Mexico?

Growing up in Albuquerque, I attended APS, as did my two children. Strengthening public education in New Mexico is essential to realizing an economic future with good-paying jobs. To be competitive, we need to pay our teachers well and invest in teacher training. I support smaller class sizes and pre-kindergarten, both proven to increase students’ chances of success. How to pay for it? The state Funding Formula Task Force, chaired by Rep. Mimi Stewart, has offered some sound recommendations identifying and addressing the shortfalls in education funding.

4) What will you do to improve infrastructure in your district?

My district is composed largely of older neighborhoods with aging infrastructure in need of rehabilitation—streets, water and sewer. Unfortunately, too much of our capital resources have been going to support new, fringe development. Our district desperately needs an effective advocate for its needs. Over the last eight years, my opponent has boasted of her sponsorship of many capital outlay requests, yet she has been unsuccessful in passing much of anything. Our district has suffered as a result. The Legislature needs to get serious about reforming the capital outlay process so we can prioritize our resources to meet legitimate needs and strategic planning objectives.

5) What kind of energy do you think New Mexico can produce, and what can you do to further that industry?

The financial crisis presents a tremendous opportunity to shift from fossil fuels to clean, affordable, sustainable power. Through a combination of incentives and mandates, New Mexico can become a leader in the new energy economy, creating thousands of good-paying green jobs.

Investment in wind energy is paying off. We must add solar power (both concentrating and distributed generation), geothermal and waste biomass to the mix. I support state investment in pilot projects for concentrating solar technology. Our active participation in the Western Climate Initiative and agreements to cap greenhouse gas emissions can spur greater investment in alternative energy sources.

Our energy policy must also focus on efficiency—a win-win for everyone.

6) What would you do to help solve the state's transportation problem?

For too long, transportation policy in New Mexico has focused on single-occupant vehicles, which impacts air quality, energy independence, commute times and public health. New Mexico is one of the few states that does not provide permanent state funding for transit. We need a State Office of Planning that brings together all of the land use, water and transportation planning initiatives. Although much can be done within the existing Department of Transportation to promote multimodal transportation, we need to integrate our transportation and land use planning. Other ideas for transportation policies include: pay-as-you-drive insurance and HOV lanes.

7) What local issue do you think is most relevant to your potential constituents, and how would you address it?

There’s real anxiety about the economy. That’s why we need to redouble efforts to strengthen education and speed the transition to a new energy economy. Health care costs are a crushing burden for individuals and small businesses. That’s why I’ll work for health care reform that focuses on reining in costs and making insurance available and affordable for all New Mexicans. Crime is an equally pressing issue. Recent home invasions are intolerable. The Legislature must support a court system that gets violent criminals off the street. We need to invest more in drug rehab and detox programs.

Cisco McSorley, Democrat (Incumbent, Uncontested)

District 16

Website: no campaign website, but here is his legislative page.

Did not answer questionnaire.

Tim Keller, Democrat (Uncontested)

District 17

Website: timkellerfornewmexico.com

1) What experience makes you qualified for this position? 

I bring a diverse leadership background. I spent two years in Cambodia after co-founding a social enterprise that created hundreds of jobs for landmine victims in Cambodia. Today, I am a business consultant; I construct strategic plans and economic models for nonprofits, governments and businesses. I also serve several groups that foster economic opportunities in the Southeast Heights and around the state, including the Southeast Team for Entrepreneur Development (STEPS) and Mesa Small Business. I am an active Democrat as a Ward Chair and Parliamentarian. I was born and raised in Albuquerque and have degrees from Notre Dame and Harvard. 

2) What, if anything, should be done in our state to address ethics reform?

Our state government needs strong ethics reform; without it, real change and improvement in our state is unlikely. New Mexico lacks campaign limits on contributions to candidates running for office. We also lack a watchdog guarding the Roundhouse in Santa Fe and standardized state annual “report cards” on key metrics like education, health care, crime, quality of life and job creation.

I support the following: an independent commission to investigate complaints against state officials, publicly financed campaigns for legislative offices, campaign contribution caps and annual government benchmarking to bring measurable accountability.

3) How can we improve education in New Mexico?

Education is about more than math and science; it’s about teaching our children how to problem solve, innovate and articulate their ideas. Our goal is to develop the building blocks of a better society. All state priorities start with a strong public school system. Our schools are underfunded, our teachers are underpaid and our curriculums need support.

Education should be a priority in our state. I support: making sure we attract the best teachers possible—especially bilingual and special education teachers—funding for classroom resources, extending the school year, expanding pre-kindergarten programs, and expanding curriculum options for students and teachers.

4) What will you do to improve infrastructure in your district?

Our district (East of San Mateo to Tramway between Lomas and Gibson) includes some of the most diverse and dense areas in our state and is in desperate need of infrastructure that will improve greater community health and safety. With proper planning, we can be a pride point for our city and state. 

I support new streetscapes; alley cleanup, public art and community gardens; bike- and pedestrian-friendly paths; curb extensions; sidewalk restaurant capacity; more reduced light pollution residential lighting; community land trust programs; neighborhood cultural landmarks; and making Expo NM a year-round asset for our community.

5) What kind of energy do you think New Mexico can produce, and what can you do to further that industry? 

We have the opportunity to lead the nation in renewable energy production and job creation. Our combination of wind and solar potential, a relatively small population coupled with our national laboratories and solar businesses are the ingredients for Apollo-like project for New Mexico renewable energy capacity. 

Rather than waiting for Washington to act, I propose a set of incentives and 10-year targets designed to enable our state to become a net exporter of renewable energy to the rest of the country. Renewable energy equates to more, better-paying, “green collar” jobs for New Mexicans.

6) What would you do to help solve the state's transportation problem?

Given our relatively small population and large geographic area, strong statewide transportation requires a balance of urban mass transit and rural infrastructure. I support regional mass transit planning and refurbishing our old and disabled buses. In Albuquerque, a two-line east/west, north/south light rail system would alleviate traffic, reduce pollution and help inner-city redevelopment. Additionally, our streets should be bicycle- and pedestrian-accommodating. We should learn best practices of other cities to ensure our system is effective and breaks even financially. As we grow, we should incorporate transportation solutions in our political decision making and private sector development planning.

7) What local issue do you think is most relevant to your potential constituents, and how would you address it?

Economic development. We must have a business environment that retains homegrown talent while embracing innovation and a diversified economy. New Mexico has made progress in recent years and now must expand these efforts to the broader economy. I will focus on not only increasing the number of jobs but also improving the quality and variety of opportunities for working families.

At the most fundamental level, I’m running for Senate to deliver change to New Mexico and renew public trust in state politicians’ ability to finds ways to make our state a role model for living, doing business and raising a family.

Mark L. Boitano, Republican (Incumbent, Uncontested)

District 18

Website: No campaign website, but here is his legislative page.

Did not answer questionnaire.

William H. Payne, Republican (Incumbent, Uncontested)

District 20

Website: No campaign website, but here is his legislative page.

Did not respond to questionnaire.

Bernadette M. Sanchez, Democrat (Incumbent)

District 26

Website: no campaign website, but here’s her legislative page.

Did not respond to questionnaire.

Spiro G. Vassilopoulos, Republican

District 26

Website: spirov2008.com

1) What experience makes you qualified for this position?

Over the past 30 years, I have dealt with city, county, state and federal legislators, commissioners of state and federal agencies, port commissions and NGOs. I have appeared as an expert witness for the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Senate, and I’ve consulted with the U.S. Department of Interior on public lands reform issues.

I understand the government process.

2) What, if anything, should be done in our state to address ethics reform? 

We should enact legislation similar to Federal RICO statutes. They should be aimed at New Mexico politicians and campaign contributors who have become overly fond of the concept of "pay-to-play."

3) How can we improve education in New Mexico? 

Market-driven teacher salaries; higher pay for support staff; competitive bid sub-contracting of all maintanenance and repairs functions addressing the problem of truancy; mandating 100 percent charter schools by 2020.

4) What will you do to improve infrastructure in your district? 

Provide for added capacity to the bus service; eliminate Martin Chavez' spy cameras; establish a police substation in the southernmost part of the district; rein-in the county-driven propensity for concentrating low-income housing in this district; improve the safety of drainage ditches.

5) What kind of energy do you think New Mexico can produce, and what can you do to further that industry?

This is a subject that cannot be adequately answered in two or three sentences. I have been in the energy industry for 30 years, and, at this juncture, I can without hesitation say New Mexico's capacity for all forms of conventional and alternative energy energy are, for all practical intents and purposes, without limit.

6) What would you do to help solve the state's transportation problem?

You have to define the "state's transportation problem." If you are referring to the Rail Runner, then my answer would be to abolish the scheme as it is pure economic folly for a low population density state such as ours. 

7) What local issue do you think is most relevant to your potential constituents, and how would you address it?

I believe in public schools. 

However, the current APS system of mega education factories is nothing more than a system of cheering our kids on to ambush.  

As I see it, Hispanic youth from low-income families have no chance of success within our economic system. 

I have had the opportunity to join an APS tour of District 1 that covers the southwest quadrant of the city. I can see many substantive changes that can be implemented. The two most important being small charter schools and the elimination of bilingual education.

 

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