A hundred or so people turned out for the lieutenant governor forum at the Alamosa Community Center on the city’s southwest mesa. The audience included senior citizens, teachers and a handful of young mothers and fathers with their children.
The forum on Thursday, May 13, was limited to Democratic candidates: Brian Colón, Lawrence Rael, Jose Campos, Jerry Ortiz y Pino and Linda Lopez. The main topic of the panel discussion—the last scheduled in Albuquerque before the June 1 primary election as of press time—was early childhood education.
The candidates were jovial and friendly and avoided bashing one another. All agreed that increasing pre-kindergarten child care and education services is a top priority for a healthy state. And they all said it will be necessary to increase taxes. The tax restructuring of 2003 under former Republican Gov. Gary Johnson is a key factor in why the state is facing such a large deficit, the candidates said, and particularly in this area of citizen services.
Organizers from the nonprofit Land of Enchantment (OLÉ) Working Parents Association sponsored the forum. OLÉ members said they are part of the working class advocating for affordable, accessible child care. OLÉ members Luis Rivera and Mary Lee Ortega facilitated the forum. Ortega said her group is sick and tired of all children paying for the poor financial planning of politicians. (NPR reported on Friday, May 14, that a federal study funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development confirms kids who receive poor-quality day care do worse in school later on.)
Here’s what each of the candidates had to say:
Brian Colón, an attorney and former head of the state Democrat party, said he came from a working class family that relied on public assistance, but he worked hard and made it. His wife is a public school teacher, he said, so he knows that early childhood programs are important.
Lawrence Rael said he had hands-on experience as a former city administrator and as the Executive Director of the Mid-Region Council of Governments.
Linda Lopez, a 14-year state senator from the South Valley, said her legislative record shows clearly her commitment to education from birth through college.
Jerry Ortiz y Pino said he has seen firsthand the impact of inadequate funding for early childhood services in his 44 years as a statewide social worker and his five years as a state senator. He said the 2003 tax cuts need to be undone in order to fund these important programs, as well as for other state financial needs.
Jose Campos, former mayor of Santa Rosa and seven-term state representative, said he will focus on making better educational opportunities for children. The key to funding these necessary programs is a new statewide economy based on green, renewable energy.