Alibi V.27 No.44 • Nov 1-7, 2018 

News Interview

You Go, Grrrl!

Michelle Lujan Grisham gets ready to rock

Michelle Lujan Grisham
The candidate meets with citizens
Corey Yazzie

In awareness of the political trajectory this republic has taken since November 2016, we here at Weekly Alibi have given up on the cruel pretense that certain members of the Republican party, their platform or their vision for America may be salvageable. They are not.

We don’t believe in giving quarter to a political organization that has caged children, continued to utter insults at women, excuses itself from complicity in the violence of its most dedicated followers and generally mocks American values while waving a nationalist flag.

What’s the purpose of pretending that such un-American behavior is acceptable? The Republicans are complicit in Trump’s dark triumph. They’ve allowed Trump to take on faux-heroic, authoritarian proportions, directly lashing themselves to the man or otherwise turning their eyes and ears away while he and his cronies dangerously deconstruct the republic.

The GOP must be voted from office—must be rendered ineffectual, impotent and unmemorable—so that our nation can progress. That progress begins with a national Congress and a state leadership enabled to check the president’s misadventures and the ruling party’s freedom to operate in such despotic chaos.

Committing to this dutiful process means embracing the Democratic party for this election and the next one in 2020, too.

For those in such a position, think about it this way: Rarely, citizens come into possession of the tools necessary to drive out the parties that either surely signify or at best abet darkness. This is one of those times. Vote them out, vote Democrat.

That is not to say that the bright-eyed, brilliant, blue-wave forming Donkeys will get a pass from this newspaper. Far from it, we’ve been openly critical of their group and individual politics before and will do so again. But right now, compadres, they are the best hope we have.

This year, the group representing the Democratic Party in New Mexico is an exceptional collection of humans. At the nexus of this community of tuned-in, radiant public servants, policy makers and political personages is the candidate for governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Recently, Weekly Alibi chatted with the Democratic candidate for the state’s top spot. With less than a week to go before the election happens, Grisham is confident and enthused. She’s up in the polls and ready to rock.

Weekly Alibi: Because of your deep connection to New Mexico, I understand that you might have had experiences or feelings that are particular to citizens of the Land of Enchantment. What are the most important issues to you then, issues that may also be affecting others in this state?

Michelle Lujan Grisham: You’re right, family is very important. As New Mexicans, we are very proud of this state and of our family’s connections. I am a caregiver for my mother; I’ve got two grandchildren. And I get asked or told this in every single community I visit, every single day I campaign: “Please tell me my children can stay here. Tell me my grandchildren can stay here.” So we are going to invest in the sorts of things that bolster the economy but we are also going to pay attention to those issues that are family-oriented … otherwise, we end up losing our talent pool. We’re a small state, we have to have that talent pool. I think about my own family: my own daughter, an engineer, she left the state. It took her two years to get back and find a meaningful career here. Many of the New Mexicans I talk to are worried about that. [Hearing those family stories] gives me the opportunity to talk about my economic ideas. That strengthens our families, that beautiful segue where we can talk about leadership, policies and plans and relate it to people who are worried about their families.

Since these family issues seem to boil down to economic issues, I am wondering what are your plans for addressing such problems?

Sure, let’s talk about the economic components, but first let’s make sure that people have integrity, that there’s justice, that there’s compassion. Because if we think about the economy just for the sake of the economy and don’t actually lift people up at the same time … you’ve got a disconnect in your work. … You could use the [New Mexico] procurement code in a way that really shores up small business investment. We’re not investing the interest from the permanent fund in a way that bolsters the economy. We are not starting with renewable energy. All of that begins to shift how we structure our economic investments. Now, here’s the compassionate component: Lift people out of poverty with a working families tax credit. Do more to insure that folks have meaningful access to healthcare and childcare. We want to get rid of the thing called the cliff effect, which means that if you get a $200 raise and you are on public assistance, for say, housing or childcare, you stand to lose $600 in benefits. So we crack this cycle that you [otherwise] can’t get out of by investing in the resiliency of New Mexicans and by building our own healthcare system. We’re going to start by leveraging Medicaid, making sure that we have Medicaid buy-in because too many folks cannot afford insurance products on the exchange or the networks are too narrow. These are the kinds of things that create economic sustainability and take care of New Mexicans at the same time.

We took a look at the Medicaid buy-in moving through the local level a couple of weeks ago, so it’s good to know that progressive proposal is on track. I was also interested to read that you favor re-implementing the methane rule, another issue Weekly Alibi looked at recently. Tell our readers a bit about that, please.

The methane rule, first of all, is a job creator. It will create hundreds of jobs for New Mexicans. That’s exactly what we want. And it addresses the fact that we are serious about climate change, about greenhouse gas emissions. Methane [from natural gas production] is one of the very worst [polluters]. We are going to make money for the fossil fuel industry and we are going to protect New Mexicans from climate change. We are going to protect the environment and people in the affected communities. Colorado has demonstrated unequivocally that you can do this: You can bring the oil and gas industry together with the environmental community. We can put that practice together, have people work together. That’s the kind of leadership New Mexico deserves.

How do you feel about a contention about oil and gas revenue that the N.M. Legislative Finance Committee made in a report earlier this year? They said that relying on income from such a volatile industry should be approached with great caution. How do you feel about that?

They’re right. And this is what has hurt the state. In a boom cycle, such as the one we are currently experiencing, folks who do not really have a vision—who aren’t really thinking about our future—are sitting on their laurels saying “we don’t have to do anything.” And if you do anything to this booming industry, it’s a signal to oil and gas that you are going to tell them to stop producing. My opponent says that about my plans all the time. But no, responsibly working in this state and giving back the tools we need to create a sustainable economic future are things everyone should want. That’s why I am talking about transforming New Mexico. We can’t waste any more time. We have to think about climate change. We’ve got a decade; New Mexico has the worst methane hotspots in the nation. We have to lead in these areas. We can do that productively. We’ve been meeting with experts in the oil and gas industry, being clear about our objectives about what’s right for New Mexico.

How does what is happening with regards to Trump and immigration affect New Mexicans? How are you going to work on ameliorating that ill effect?

I’m the chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus; it’s been an incredible amount of work given this administration. His is an administration that is promoting fear and racism and he isn’t taking any of the responsibility for making the kinds of changes and investments that would redirect the migration of people that are fleeing [their own countries]. New Mexicans get that. We’re insulted for the most part by the notion that a wall is the way to go. We reject that. But New Mexicans also know there’s a downside to immigration. I want to be clear that we want a secure border; we want to do everything we can to take out nefarious characters engaged in crossing the border. As a border state we need to stand up against family separations; we are still appalled by those sorts of actions. We want security but not the hateful fear-mongering.

Is the legalization of recreational cannabis a realistic goal for New Mexico?

The Legislature has been working tirelessly on that issue. I’ve signaled to the Legislature that if they bring me a recreational cannabis law that deals with the unintended consequences [like] workplace intoxication, driving intoxication issues and the whole public safety gamut: prevention, highly regulated edibles—and here’s one of the leading issues, the law must protect medical cannabis, we don’t want patients to be priced out of the market, … if I get a bill that addresses those issues … then I’m a likely signatory on a recreational cannabis bill. But I want us to be smart about it.