Four Democratic candidates seeking the gubernatorial nomination met in Taos last week to speak to voters at a forum hosted by the Taos County Democratic Party. All four candidates—US Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, businessman Jeff Apodaca, alcohol prevention teacher Peter DeBenedittis and state Sen. Joseph Cervantes—criticized Gov. Susana Martinez' administration and disapproved of her education policies. Special consideration was given to the efficacy of the Public Education Department's PARCC tests, which are used to evaluate student performance and have become a hot topic for education officials in recent years, as well as state funding for education. All four candidates promised to place more emphasis on improving the state's public education system. Apodaca said he wants to remove PARCC and create a new test to take their place; Lujan Grisham spoke about addressing childhood poverty and its effect on development in children; DeBenedittis advocated for state-provided early childhood education and fostering entrepreneurship programs in school, and Cervantes spoke about digitizing schoolbooks. When asked whether the candidates were in support of President Donald Trump's plan to build a wall along the border of Mexico, all four confirmed that they are not in favor of the plan. The candidates also agreed on supporting women's rights and fighting for tribal sovereignty. When the subject of fracking was raised, only DeBenedittis explicitly stated a desire to ban the practice in the state, claiming the other candidates were not in a position to do so because they had accepted contributions from oil and gas companies. Apodaca refused to speak against fracking, suggesting instead that the state work with its “oil and gas brothers and sisters” to invest in renewable energies. Lujan Grisham also avoided supporting a ban on fracking, but spoke about increasing accountability for oil companies. Cervantes avoided mention of fracking, speaking instead about efforts to stop the use of coal and increase the use of renewable energies. The only candidate running for the Republican gubernatorial ticket is US Rep. Steve Pearce. The election to determine the state's next governor will take place on Nov. 6.
Democrat Nominees for Governor Speak at Forum
Libertarians Gain Traction in State Elections
State Libertarians have launched election campaigns for attorney general, secretary of state and all three congressional districts, due to an elevation in party status. In 2016, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson ran for president as a Libertarian and managed to receive 9.3 percent of the popular vote—surpassing the 5 percent required—winning major party status for the Libertarians. The new status means Libertarian candidates no longer have to gather signatures to run for office due to their minor party status, which has led to a relative surge in Libertarian candidates running for public office in New Mexico this year. State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn, formerly a Republican, recently announced that he has registered to vote as a Libertarian. Dunn's son A. Blair—a Libertarian who is running for state attorney general—confirmed that his father is running for US Senate last week. Former Democratic state Rep. Sandra Jeff also changed her party affiliation to Libertarian recently, and is running for secretary of state. Libertarians Grady Owens and Chris Manning are running for Congress in the state's 2nd and 3rd congressional districts. In New Mexico's 1st congressional district, which includes Albuquerque, business consultant and Libertarian Lloyd Princeton is running. No congressional seat or statewide office in New Mexico has ever been held by a member of the Libertarian Party.