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House District 43 Q and A with the candidates

HOUSE DISTRICT 43 DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATES

Christine Chandler

POLITICAL PARTY: Democratic Party

OCCUPATION: Attorney

Christine Chandler

CITY OF RESIDENCE: Los Alamos

RELEVANT EXPERIENCE:

Los Alamos County Council Vice Chair & two term Councilor

Legislative Analyst for the New Mexico Senate Judiciary Committee (four sessions)

Former Los Alamos National Laboratory Attorney

Former Probate Judge

Licensed New Mexico Attorney

EDUCATION: Smith College, A.B. Economics; Boston College Law School, J.D.; Georgetown University Law Center, L.L.M., International & Comparative Law

CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: www.christine4statehouse.com

Issue questions

1. What are the top two things you would do to improve the economy in New Mexico?

Businesses look to the quality of the workforce and infrastructure when considering locating in a state. We need a coordinated framework that supports occupational/trade training, certification and four and two year colleges. We must invest in infrastructure such as roads, utilities and broadband in order to recruit and retain businesses.

2. What are the top two things you would propose to address the state’s high crime rate?

The certainty of being caught deters crime, but increasing the level of penalties does not. We must improve the effectiveness of the police and courts. Encourage triage: imprison serious and violent offenders; divert low level offenders to treatment and education, and provide effective rehabilitation for the incarcerated.

3. How would you address the state’s high DWI rate?

New Mexico has some of strictest DWI laws in the country. A high percentage of DWI arrests do not lead to a conviction. We need to increase street level enforcement and provide the necessary resources to law enforcement and the courts to ensure prompt conviction of those who are guilty.

4. New Mexico now spends about $270 million a year for early childhood programs, such as home visiting, pre-kindergarten and child care assistance. Do you support or oppose a constitutional amendment that would withdraw more money from the Land Grant Permanent Fund to increase funding for early childhood services?

Despite New Mexico’s current level of funding, early childhood programs remain underfunded. Because investment in these programs have been shown to reap long-term educational and behavioral benefits, I support a constitutional amendment that would allow an additional, reasonable increase to support these important programs.

5. Do you support or oppose legalizing recreational marijuana use in New Mexico and taxing its sales?

I support the de-criminalization of the possession of small qualities of marijuana for personal use.

6. Do you support or oppose opening the state’s primary elections to voters who aren’t affiliated with either major political party?

Yes, I support opening primaries to allow Independents to participate.

7. Do you support or oppose raising New Mexico’s minimum wage, currently $7.50 per hour? If so, by how much?

Yes, ultimately to $12.00/hour, phased in over a reasonable period of time. Workers must be able to earn a living wage to support themselves and their families.

8. Do you support or oppose basing any percentage of a teacher’s performance evaluation on student test scores? Explain.

Many factors affect a student’s performance on standardized tests. There is little, if any, reliable correlation between student test scores and teacher performance. Therefore, student test scores are not a valid or fair evaluation criteria.

9. Do you support merit bonuses for teachers who do well on their evaluations? Do you believe unions should have the authority to block such bonuses?

Compensation, including the process and standards for awarding teacher bonuses, is best developed through the collective bargaining process. Local school boards, working with teacher union representatives, are the best means to address this issue.

10. Do you think having 32 state institutions of higher education is too many? What would you propose to make higher education more efficient?

The state must provide ready access to colleges and trade schools. Many students are of limited means and many live in rural areas. Institutions placed throughout the state allows access for those desiring an education who might not otherwise be able to avail themselves of the opportunity.

11. How should the state’s lottery scholarship program be kept solvent into the future?

The intent of the lottery program was and should be to encourage New Mexico residents to attend an institution of higher education. Any changes to the program should be directed toward an equitable distribution of the funds that meets the underlying goals of the program.

12. Do you support or oppose making New Mexico a so-called right-to-work state, by changing state labor laws so that nonunion employees would not have to pay union fees as a condition of employment?

Unions negotiate the wages, benefits and terms and conditions for employees whether or not those employees are union members. Employees benefiting from the union’s negotiations should pay a fee to help cover the cost of those negotiations; however, non-union workers cannot and should not be compelled to pay dues.

13. Do you favor making New Mexico a sanctuary state?

The term sanctuary state means different things to different people depending on perspective. State officials must and should follow applicable federal law; however, it has been held by the federal courts that the federal government cannot require state officials to enforce federal laws.

14. If an Ethics Commission is approved by voters, at what point do you think ethics complaints should become public?

Complaints should be made available to the public after an initial prima facie review has been done and the complaint found likely to have a reasonable factual basis. A balance is needed to ensure that unfounded complaints cannot be leveraged to gain a political advantage.

15. Do you believe the initial police incident reports and videos of arrests and crime scenes should be public?

Incident reports, body camera videos and crime scene photos are public records.

16. The state faces balloon payments on its Rail Runner debt in 2025 and 2026, a federal requirement for tens of millions of dollars in safety upgrades for the train, and declining ridership. On the other hand, the train is popular with the commuters who rely on it, and the Rail Runner may seek federal funding for the safety changes. Do you support continuing operation of the Rail Runner?

Yes. We should look to ways to increase ridership and seek alternate funding sources, such as federal funds to address identified upgrade needs.

17. Do you favor imposing a gross receipts tax on all internet sales?

Yes. Such a tax would not only provide an additional, relatively stable tax revenue source, it levels the playing field for our brick and mortar stores.

18. New Mexico has more than 100 exemptions and deductions in its gross receipts tax system. Would you favor eliminating some or all of them as part of an attempt to lower the base rate? If so, which ones? If not, why?

Our tax code includes many poorly conceived provisions that evolved incrementally. A comprehensive review of the tax code is needed to evaluate the code as a whole including the myriad of deductions and exemptions with the aim of establishing fair and equitable tax policy and stable revenue sources.

19. What would you support to make New Mexico schools safer? Would that include changing New Mexico’s gun laws? If so, what specific changes to the gun laws would you support?

Many schools require improved perimeter and access controls as well as enhanced training for staff, students and parents. We also need greater availability of behavioral health resources in the schools and elsewhere. Requiring universal background checks is an important first step to changing our gun laws.

Personal background

1. Have you or your business, if you are a business owner, ever been the subject of any state or federal tax liens?

No.

2. Have you ever been involved in a personal or business bankruptcy proceeding?

No.

3. Have you ever been arrested for, charged with, or convicted of drunken driving, any misdemeanor or any felony in New Mexico or any other state? If so, explain.

No.

———————–

Peter T. “Pete” Sheehey

POLITICAL PARTY: Democratic

OCCUPATION: Retired Physicist, Los Alamos County Councilor

CITY OF RESIDENCE: Los Alamos

Peter Sheehey

RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: Los Alamos County Councilor, 2013-present (elected 2012, re-elected 2016); NCRTD (North Central Regional Transit District) Board Member, 2014-2016, Finance Subcommittee Chairman, Environmental Sustainability Subcommittee Co-Chair; NCNMEDD (North Central New Mexico Economic Development District) Board Member, 2017-present; Los Alamos County Planning and Zoning Commissioner, 2008-2012, Vice Chairman, 2008-2012; LANL (Los Alamos National Laboratory) scientist 1986-2012; USAF veteran, 1976-79; President, Los Alamos Committee on Arms Control and International Security.

EDUCATION: NM Edge “Certified County Commissioner” and “Certified Public Official” training completed, NM State University; MS and PhD Physics, UCLA; MS Chemical Engineering, UC Santa Barbara; BA Aesthetic Studies, BS Chemistry, UC Santa Cruz.

CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: www.petesheehey.com

ISSUE QUESTIONS

1. What are the top two things you would do to improve the economy in New Mexico?

I will work to improve education and infrastructure. Well-educated people are ready to create and fill new jobs. A well-planned and maintained public infrastructure (including broadband throughout the state) creates the conditions in which businesses can thrive and grow. Affordable health care for all would further boost the economy.

2. What are the top two things you would propose to address the state’s high crime rate?

Reduce crime by prevention and rehabilitation. Early intervention programs to help troubled youth will lead to more people working and fewer into drugs and crime. Addiction and behavioral health treatment and job training programs for incarcerated offenders are proven to result in fewer repeat offenders.

3. How would you address the state’s high DWI rate?

I support local DWI Council efforts to prevent DWI through education and coordination with behavioral health providers. We can prevent DWI by making convenient affordable rides home wherever alcohol is consumed. We need stronger enforcement to keep drunk drivers off the roads, including more evasion-proof ignition interlock devices.

4. New Mexico now spends about $270 million a year for early childhood programs, such as home visiting, pre-kindergarten and child care assistance. Do you support or oppose a constitutional amendment that would withdraw more money from the Land Grant Permanent Fund to increase funding for early childhood services?

I strongly support the proposed amendment to allow 1% of the Permanent Fund (more than $150 million per year) to be used each year for early childhood education. Pre-K educational and home visiting programs have been proven to improve child well-being and educational achievement.

5. Do you support or oppose legalizing recreational marijuana use in New Mexico and taxing its sales?

I support legalizing recreational marijuana use in New Mexico and taxing its sales, for those 21 and over. At least half of the taxes raised should be used for drug and alcohol prevention education and rehabilitation programs.

6. Do you support or oppose opening the state’s primary elections to voters who aren’t affiliated with either major political party?

I support semi-open primaries, in which unaffiliated voters may vote in any party’s primary election. It should be every citizen’s right to vote in primary elections. This would obligate candidates to be responsive to more of the people they propose to represent.

7. Do you support or oppose raising New Mexico’s minimum wage, currently $7.50 per hour? If so, by how much?

I support raising the minimum wage to at least $10 per hour to start, with indexing to keep up with inflation.

8. Do you support or oppose basing any percentage of a teacher’s performance evaluation on student test scores? Explain.

I oppose any student test score-based ratings of teachers because test scores are dependent upon many factors outside the teachers’ control. Performance evaluation should be fair, objective, and negotiated and accepted by the unions, school boards, and school administrators.

9. Do you support merit bonuses for teachers who do well on their evaluations? Do you believe unions should have the authority to block such bonuses?

I do not support merit bonuses unless teacher evaluations, salary, benefits and bonuses are fair, objective, and negotiated and accepted by the unions, school boards, and school administrators. The right to negotiate the terms and conditions of employment is fundamental and must not be violated.

10. Do you think having 32 state institutions of higher education is too many? What would you propose to make higher education more efficient?

Having 32 institutions is acceptable, as long as they match local needs and are efficiently run. Local community colleges, offering the first two years of Bachelor’s degree programs, business development and two-year vocational training programs, are appropriate and efficient. However, we must minimize local duplication of Bachelor’s degree programs.

11. How should the state’s lottery scholarship program be kept solvent into the future?

Lottery income today only provides enough funds to cover 60% of tuition, down from the original 100%. This program is a good investment in the people who will make New Mexico’s future, and should be funded from general revenues if lottery income is insufficient.

12. Do you support or oppose making New Mexico a so-called right-to-work state, by changing state labor laws so that nonunion employees would not have to pay union fees as a condition of employment?

I oppose making New Mexico a so-called right-to-work state. If an employee receives the wages and benefits negotiated for workers by a union, the employee should pay a fair share of the cost of negotiating these contracts.

13. Do you favor making New Mexico a sanctuary state?

I believe the United States is a sanctuary country by the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees all persons due process and equal protection of the law. If the Constitution is upheld, there should be no need for “sanctuary states.” New Mexico is a state of many cultures; all should be welcome.

14. If an Ethics Commission is approved by voters, at what point do you think ethics complaints should become public?

Transparency is the key to an effective and prompt ethics investigation process. The sooner the public hears all the facts about an accusation, the sooner the issue will be resolved. Secrecy should be maintained only in exceptional circumstances.

15. Do you believe the initial police incident reports and videos of arrests and crime scenes should be public?

Yes. It is unfortunate that such material is at times used inappropriately, but the rights of all are protected by complete transparency on police actions.

16. The state faces balloon payments on its Rail Runner debt in 2025 and 2026, a federal requirement for tens of millions of dollars in safety upgrades for the train, and declining ridership. On the other hand, the train is popular with the commuters who rely on it, and the Rail Runner may seek federal funding for the safety changes. Do you support continuing operation of the Rail Runner?

I support continuing operation of the Rail Runner if a sound long-term financing and operations plan can be made and implemented. The plan should include seeking federal funding for the safety changes.

17. Do you favor imposing a gross receipts tax on all internet sales?

Yes. This would help level the playing field for local businesses that must pay GRT. Modern computerized accounting would make collection and payment of GRT, including local GRT options, simple for the overwhelming majority of internet enterprises.

18. New Mexico has more than 100 exemptions and deductions in its gross receipts tax system. Would you favor eliminating some or all of them as part of an attempt to lower the base rate? If so, which ones? If not, why?

I favor eliminating the exemption from GRT on internet sales, re-evaluating all exemptions and deductions, and GRT changes to minimize “pyramiding” in business transactions. I do not favor increasing GRT on most non-profit organizations. GRT reform must not be used as an excuse to cut funding for needed programs.

19. What would you support to make New Mexico schools safer? Would that include changing New Mexico’s gun laws? If so, what specific changes to the gun laws would you support?

I support in-school police officers, and in-school health care offices including mental health, to provide early treatment of mental health problems that lead to violence. I support thorough background checks on all sales of guns, using an improved national instant criminal background check system (including mental health information).

Personal background

1. Have you or your business, if you are a business owner, ever been the subject of any state or federal tax liens? NO

2. Have you ever been involved in a personal or business bankruptcy proceeding? NO

3. Have you ever been arrested for, charged with, or convicted of drunken driving, any misdemeanor or any felony in New Mexico or any other state? If so, explain. NO

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