U.s. Congress: District 1

Democratic Primary

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Job Description: The federal representative for New Mexicans living in the First Congressional District. Drafts and votes on legislation.

Term: Two years

Salary: $169,300

Office Held By: Heather Wilson, who’s vacating the seat after a decade to run for U.S. Senate.

Martin Heinrich

It’s mainly Heinrich’s time in the City Council that earns him our endorsement. That time was relatively brief—he was voted into office in 2003 and served a four-year term, one year of which as Council president. But during those four years, Heinrich accomplished more than some two- or three-term councilors, and through it all managed to hold on to his integrity.

Heinrich always demonstrated a vast reserve of knowledge and accountability on city issues. And he did an admirable job of never backing down against the Mayor’s Office.

These things matter, because we believe the exceptional qualities Heinrich displayed in his previous office will translate into the next.

We’d like to take this opportunity to address an article that was published in this paper by columnist Jim Scarantino
[Re: The Real Side, "The Heinrich Maneuver," Feb. 14-20]. In the article, there was an accusation that Heinrich has never had a full-time job. It should be made apparent that the accusation was made, in a quote, by one of Heinrich’s opponents, Robert Pidcock. We have no evidence that this is the case, and Heinrich states that he worked full-time as the executive director of the nonprofit Cottonwood Gulch Foundation, an organization that teaches youth about the environment and natural sciences through wilderness expeditions. Heinrich also says he founded a public affairs consulting firm that served the nonprofit and education sectors, in addition to working at both Phillips Laboratories (now Air Force Labs) and AmeriCorps.

During his time as councilor, Heinrich sponsored (and passed) legislation to protect the
Ojito Wilderness. He also played an important role in protecting the Valle Vidal. He was a voluble and passionate supporter of the minimum wage increase and public financing. The issues he focused on in the Council give us a good idea of the kinds of issues he’d focus on as a congressman.

We agree with Heinrich on most of his issue positions. Our main contention with him is that we don’t think he’s specific enough on what he plans to do with regard to those issues. In his candidate interview, he told us he wanted to bring the troops home from Iraq, but his strategy only went so far as to say Congress should set a deadline for withdrawal. On the economy, he said we need to clean up the mortgage market. He’s not too concerned with Social Security and says Medicare is a bigger priority.

On energy, Heinrich wants to create a nationwide renewable portfolio standard, a minimum of a 10-year commitment to solar tax breaks and increase research and development of renewable energy sources at Sandia National Labs. Those things are great, but we don’t think they’re enough. When it comes to immigration, he believes in securing the border with personnel instead of "a monument to a political ideology;" holding employers accountable for hiring undocumented workers; and he’d like to sort out
NAFTA to be easier on northern Mexico ranchers and farmers. On health care, Heinrich supports expansion of the children’s health insurance program, requiring pharmaceutical corporations to negotiate prices with Congress and opening up Medicare to younger people, as well as "incentivizing prevention and early intervention."

In the end, we think Heinrich would make an excellent congressman. He’s demonstrated that he can work with people from a wide political spectrum and stand out among a crowd. He’s proven himself a true progressive. He strikes us as honest. And it is with great pleasure that we give him our endorsement.

Robert Pidcock

We love this guy. And if circumstances were a little different, we might have endorsed him. Robert Pidcock isn’t a politician. He’s spent the last 18 years running a law practice in civil litigation (something he’s stepped away from to join this race). He’s never before run for political office, and it shows … in a good way.

Pidcock is all about the issues. A quick glance at his website makes this obvious. There, he divulges (both in text and video form) his position on nearly every major issue imaginable. And those positions are well-formed.

When Pidcock came into our office, we weren’t expecting much. A lawyer with no name recognition and a minimal campaign war chest, we figured he was one of those out-of-the-woodwork, one-issue candidates. We couldn’t have been more wrong. On practically every issue we threw out to Pidcock, we got an education in response. Pidcock has a lot to say, and it’s all stuff we were glad to hear.

We were most impressed by his plan for health care. His strategies include forcing employers and employees to contribute to health insurance, mandating that companies pool their members to reduce premiums and requiring insurance companies to offer a basic plan at no profit (this is how Japan does it, where insurance companies make money off higher plans). Pidcock fought insurance companies for almost two decades in his practice, and he obviously knows a lot about the industry.

On other issues, Pidcock comes across as a solid progressive. He wants to end the war. He’d like to see Sandia and Los Alamos National Labs weaned off weapons and onto renewable energy research. He supports states, the federal government and corporate America partnering to improve education—giving corporations a place at the table in exchange for financial contribution. He wants to raise the national minimum wage and tie it to inflation. He’s also not afraid to state openly on his website that he supports gay marriage—like we said, we love this guy.

We find Pidcock’s lack of political experience refreshing, but it does have its pitfalls. There’s no telling whether he’d be able to work effectively in Congress. Would he be able to push and sell his ideas, or would he end up just one vote out of many? Sadly, our biggest qualm with Pidcock is also something we admire about him, which is that he isn’t comfortable accepting donations. He won’t accept any money from
PACs, and admits that he’s bad at asking for contributions. As a result, he’s raised a pittance compared to the other candidates. And, unfortunate as it is, you need money to win an election. If he wins the primary, he’ll be blown out of the water come November unless his strategy changes.

It’s this last point that keeps him from getting our endorsement. In order to get anything done in politics, you need to know how to play the game. We think it’s possible to do that and still hold onto your ideals. As it is, Pidcock is a smart, articulate and impressive candidate. We love his ideals, but he’s also in need of some pragmatism when it comes to his campaign.

Michelle Lujan-Grisham

Democrats are fairly blessed in the CD1 primary—their options are infinitely better than what exists in either of the two Republican primaries. We also think Michelle Lujan-Grisham would make a good congressperson, we just don’t think she’s as strong as Heinrich or Pidcock.

Lujan-Grisham has 20 years of experience working in health care and senior services and was appointed to state positions by three governors—most recently by Gov. Bill Richardson to serve as secretary of the State Department of Health. Through that career, she’s shown that she can get things accomplished amid heavy government bureaucracy.

Still, her time as the health secretary wasn’t seamless. She was publicly questioned for her firing of infectious disease specialist Dr. Gary Simpson, an award-winning, nationally recognized Oxford and Harvard grad. Other employees also left during Lujan-Grisham’s tenure, citing “unrealistic expectations” as their reason. So a question remains: Is Lujan-Grisham strict, or is she unreasonable?

She advocates a two-pronged approach to energy, emphasizing a slow reduction on non-renewables while investing in new energy policies. She, along with the other candidates, wants to see our state labs diversify to include energy research. Due to her background, Lujan-Grisham is most well-versed on the topic of health care. She supports a national health policy that reforms all government programs (such as Medicaid and Veterans Affairs), regulates the insurance market so companies can’t discriminate against pre-existing conditions and provides incentives for patients such as no co-pays for primary care.

When it comes to the war, she says Congress should halt funding except for budgets that would directly safeguard soldiers (unfortunately, that’s a pretty nebulous statement).

Lujan-Grisham has a number of good ideas—from providing work opportunities to retired people to ease the Social Security crunch, to investing nationwide in mass public transit. She isn’t our first pick, but if Lujan-Grisham were elected, we’d feel just fine about it.

Rebecca Vigil-Giron

Most of you should recognize Rebecca Vigil-Giron as our previous secretary of state. She’s been out of the public eye for the last two years and has re-emerged to run in her 10 th statewide election (for those who are counting, she’s won seven of nine to date).

Considering Vigil-Giron’s record with abysmal elections in New Mexico, there’s no way we could endorse her. Voting in New Mexico has seemed like a joke the last few major election cycles—from missing votes to running out of ballots at precincts to being one of the last states in the union to turn in final tallies. There’s just no excuse. And if Vigil-Giron can’t get statewide elections right, why should we trust her with a whole host of other issues?

That said, she’s a pleasant person. She has nice ideas, although most of them are pretty milquetoast. She’s in favor of increasing the national minimum wage; she thinks we should either fund
No Child Left Behind or revamp it; she wants to locate jobs back in the U.S. and put money into research and development of new technologies (What new technologies? We don’t know.); she supports getting soldiers out of Iraq and providing them with health care and education; she wants to nationalize health care, require pharmaceutical corporations to bid for what they want to charge for drugs and have the government pay for prescription medications. She didn’t give us details.

We agree with many of Vigil-Giron’s policy stances, but everything she told us was vague and along the party line. We get the feeling she may just be a career politician looking for her next gig. There are worse people to elect to Congress, but there are also candidates who would be a lot better.

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