Weekly Alibi helped commence the primary election season with a candidate forum held last Thursday at ye old Albuquerque Press Club. That’s the hidden fifth estate headquarters at the top of the hill that’s right behind a former asylum turned toney boutique hotel.
The club is in a log cabin that was built more than 100 years ago and so the whole area has its share of ghosts I am sure, but none of them were about on the late winter day of the candidate event. It was still warm but windy yet springlike when I hiked up the hill from my parking place to meet with six contenders for the post to be vacated by gubernatorial candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham.
Grisham is running for governor this year, and in her stead a bevy of progressive candidates is awaiting voter approval to send one lucky legislator to Washington. Although some of the candidates who appeared at said forum—including presumed frontrunner Pat Davis—have yet to formally qualify for the election, and in fact fell below the threshold of signatures and delegate support needed at the Democratic Party of New Mexico pre-primary convention held a couple of weeks ago, all those who appeared were ready to do battle for democracy.
Disclosure: This is a progressive, anti-Trump newspaper, but we gotta tell you that there are at least two other politicos in the race: Republican Janice Arnold Jones is a former state representative who currently works as an immigration lawyer. She says she wants to “bring back morality.” Libertarian Lloyd Princeton wants “New Mexicans to take personal responsibility for their part in the outcomes they desire.” Bootstraps, folks, bootstraps. So whatever those grandiose statements from other parties mean, you still oughta vote Democrat; they’re much more grounded and they won’t be about mindlessly saluting a megalomanic, if elected. Here’s a briefing on what that excellent field of candidates talked about at the Albuquerque Press Club on March 15, 2018.
The evening’s discourse began with candidate introductions, followed by a lengthy, but relevant question from Alibi news editor August March about the specifics of a hypothetical relationship our new Congressperson might have with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the US Department of Justice, especially where immigration matters are concerned. The question set the tone for what followed. It was a given that these contenders would take issue with the draconian politics being pursued by the DOJ and ICE, but each used the opportunity to discuss plans and proposed policies they would individually follow upon being elected.
An affable, informed and seasoned politico, Davis is currently the District 6 Councilor for the city of Albuquerque. A former police officer, he was attired in a light colored linen jacket, though it was still five days before springtime when the forum occurred. This anticipatory move led to a personal presentation that was friendly and forward-looking.
As a City Councilor, Davis introduced legislation limiting the agency ICE agents have in their interactions with local law enforcement, and has stated that Trump’s immigration policies are “cruel.” Davis is also on track as a progressive who owns guns. With regards to federal laws requiring a background check, pre-purchase, he would co-sponsor legislation to make that simple remedy happen while protecting the rights of responsible gun owners.
Seeming serene, yet totally passionate and knowledable in her appearance at the Press Club, Haaland says she has a record of standing up to Donald Trump. She intends to hold the orange one and his supporters in Congress accountable for the damage they’ve done to our republic. Another responsible human against the proposal for a border wall, Haaland says US immigration policy must “recognize this country’s dependency on immigrant labor, and treat with dignity and humanity those who work and build their families here.”
On gun control, Haaland continues to strike a progressive tone, arguing that background checks are part of a solution that also includes stripping the “power of the NRA, with committments from elected officials to not accept [their] campaign contributions.” Haaland is an enrolled member of the Laguna Pueblo. Both of her parents served with distinction in the US armed forces. She is a graduate of the UNM Law School.
Heitner’s youthful exhuberance and optimism were clearly manifested at last Thursday’s forum. A member of the Christian left, Heitner has a doctorate in public health from Harvard. He believes in “empowering minorities, acting with compassion and helping the poor and refugees.” Though Heitner admitted he had less experience than others on the ballot with regards to the American immigration experience, he earnestly believes that “using funds to arrest Dreamers, break up families and terrorize communities is not only cruel, but a wasteful application of funds.”
On the subject of guns in this nation, Heitner’s plans are less detailed than his cohorts, but he obviously empathizes with living humans (he’s a doctor, Jim!). Conseqently, such issues are often framed in Heitner’s expansive, very detailed healthcare plans, which include support for a single-payer system via medicare for all and stopping the opiod crisis by employing continuing education and research to equip doctors in better pain management techniques.
The youngest child of an immigrant family from southeastern New Mexico, Lara is a graduate of Brown University who spent his early life working as a farm hand in the potato and onion fields in the eastern part of our state. His first hand knowledge of immigration and his passion and commitment to equality, despite immigration status was the keystone of his overarching message of justice and equality for all. As part of his immigration stance, Lara says we must end the militarization of police and the privitization of prisons, two sources of institutional racism.
Lara believes Trump’s wall would be a monument to racism. Further, his views on gun control, like Heitner’s are part of this candidate’s platform on healthcare. Lara wants to “treat the epidemic of gun violence in the US as a public health issue” and hopes to sponsor legislation that will, consequently, allow the CDC to begin substantive research into the phenomenon, leading to treatment-based solutions.
A tried and true social justice advocate, Sedillo Lopez served as a professor of law at UNM for 27 years. She recently served as the director of Enlace Commentario, a nonprofit that advocates for domestic violence issues among the Latino immigrant community of central New Mexico. Given such bona fides, it’s no wonder that Sedillo Lopez’ views on immigration are acute and well-researched. Speaking to the gathered audience at the forum as one might approach a jury, this candidate believes that federal immigration policies “should strive to bring the undocumented workers in our community out of the shadows, reunite families and provide protections to exploited immigrant workers.
On the subject of gun control, she would like to see through legislation that closes the gun show loophole, require universal background checks and reinstate the federal assault weapons ban. Sedillo Lopez also feels that repealing liability laws that shield gun manufacturers would serve to disempower the NRA, leading to a reduction in gun violence and congressional support of the organization’s lobbying efforts.
A UNM graduate, Damon Martinez was one of the US attorneys unfairly sacked by Trump, Sessions and their minions when the former took office in 2017. Martinez views himself as a public servant, not a politician; his policies will be informed, he says by his first-person experience as a federal prosecutor. And this is what his experience tells him about Trumps immigration policy: “Republicans are determined to squander taxpayer dollars, fueling fear and pandering to extremists who seek to turn us against one another, but our country is stronger than that. I won’t allow Republican leadership or Donald Trump to tear small children from their parents, unlawfully detain legal residents, or violate anyone’s civil rights because of the color of their skin.”
Candidate Martinez is equally eloquent about gun control, writing that, like Heitner and Lara, he’d like to see the epidemic of gun violence in this nation treated as a public health threat; he also wants to close the gun show loophole, expand background checks and go after common sense reforms that will ensure that the NRA gun lobby no longer holds “our lives in the palms of their hands.”
Candidate Paul Moya did not attend this forum.