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U.S. Senate Debate: Divided By Energy Policy

Former Republican Rep. Heather Wilson, left, and incumbent Rep. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., discuss energy policy and other issues Sunday night in a U.S. Senate candidate debate sponsored by KOAT-TV and the Albuquerque Journal. (Adolphe pierre-louis/Journal)
Former Republican Rep. Heather Wilson, left, and incumbent Rep. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., discuss energy policy and other issues Sunday night in a U.S. Senate candidate debate sponsored by KOAT-TV and the Albuquerque Journal. (Adolphe pierre-louis/Journal)
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Republican U.S. Senate candidate Heather Wilson called Rep. Martin Heinrich’s energy policy a “green dream” Sunday night while the Democrat insisted that wind, solar and other renewables are important energy sources of the future.

The two candidates faced-off in a civil and often substantive hourlong debate sponsored by KOAT-TV and the Albuquerque Journal, touching on immigration, gay marriage and other subjects. One of the most pointed exchanges came early when Heinrich and Wilson discussed their stances on New Mexico’s energy economy.

Wilson, a former U.S. representative, described herself as “an all-of-the above energy gal” who supports oil, coal and natural gas, as well as some renewable energy sources. But she said clean energy doesn’t provide enough power or enough jobs to justify heavy federal investment.

Wilson said there is a stark difference between herself and Heinrich on energy policy.

“You’re pursuing this green dream,” Wilson said. “You keep advocating for companies like Schott Solar or Advent Solar or Johnson Tower and Control, and touting how many jobs they’re going to bring, and then they go bankrupt.”

Heinrich, now in his second term in the 1st Congressional District, said the clean energy industry is already employing thousands of New Mexicans and vowed that the numbers will increase.

“Those things aren’t a green dream, as my opponent likes to say, they’re putting people to work right here in New Mexico today,” Heinrich said. “Four times as many people — close to five times as many people —work in renewables directly today than in some of our traditional sectors like coal. We need to … be thinking about our energy future in the long term.”

Wilson said she supported extending the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast, reasoning that it would create jobs. Heinrich has opposed the pipeline because of the environmental risks.

“It won’t create a single job in New Mexico,” Heinrich said.

The two candidates clashed over the proposed DREAM Act, which would provide children of illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. by their parents with citizenship opportunities.

Heinrich challenged Wilson take a clear position on the proposed legislation, but she neither endorsed or opposed the idea. Wilson said “real lives are at stake” and the nation should find a “permanent solution” to the question of what to do with children brought to the U.S. illegally. She also suggested any fix come as part of a comprehensive immigration bill, not as stand-alone legislation.

“We need a bipartisan solution that addresses this problem, but not just this problem,” Wilson said. “Right now, you can get a visa to come to the United States based on a lottery. I think that’s the wrong way to do our immigration system.”

Heinrich pressed harder on the DREAM Act.

“I have a much simpler answer to this question: Yes, I support the DREAM Act,” Heinrich said. “My opponent has a very long answer to this question because she won’t take a position.”

The two also parted ways on gay marriage.

Wilson said marriage is the “union of one man and one woman” and said she supports legislation, such as the Defense of Marriage Act, that describes marriage as such.

“Marriage deserves a special place not only in our law but in our society and culture because of the potential for children,” Wilson said. “They are better off in stable two-parent family.”

Heinrich said: “I just don’t believe that’s a viable reason for telling people they shouldn’t have the same legal rights under the Constitution and the law that other people have. I support marriage equality.”

Heinrich said he would support continued federal funding for Planned Parenthood, which provides women’s health services, including abortions. Wilson said she would discontinue federal funding of Planned Parenthood.

Wilson and Heinrich are seeking the seat of retiring U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M. Wilson has trailed Heinrich in the Journal Poll.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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