- NAME: Joseph Cervantes
- POLITICAL PARTY: Democratic
- OCCUPATION: Attorney and Senator
- CITY OF RESIDENCE: Las Cruces
- RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: Senator of District 31 NM since 2012
- EDUCATION: BA, architecture, MA, architecture, J.D., law
- CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: joe4nm.com
1. What are the top two things you would do to improve the economy in New Mexico?
Our current funding model is inefficient; as a Senator, I have prioritized economic stability for families by passing legislation that brings jobs to New Mexico. I am also a strong advocate for unions and collective bargaining rights. Upon entering office, I plan to create hundreds of jobs by investing $1 billion in building and infrastructure projects. Additionally, I will prioritize the growth of small business success in our communities by promoting low-interest loans, start-up grants and incentives to propel and expand job-creating businesses.
2. What are the top two things you would propose to address the state’s high crime rate?
As an attorney, I have become familiar with the relationship between the justice system, law enforcement, crime and our communities and see a clear disconnect. As governor, I will prioritize funding and reform of our criminal justice system to ensure efficient and consistent penalties for crime and address the backlog of our courts. I will also start at the root of the problem and secure funding and support for community programs that keep our youth engaged in programs that serve as an alternative to drug abuse and crime. I will fully fund police departments across the state to offer community policing so law enforcement has the personnel and resources they need to keep New Mexico safe.
3. How would you address the state’s high DWI rate?
First and foremost I would fully fund our police departments across the state so police officers are present and available in all communities throughout New Mexico. I will fund rehabilitation and alcohol treatment so New Mexicans who need help can get help. I will ensure prosecutors have the funding and resources they need to keep habitual offenders off the road and decrease the backlog in our court system to get drunk drivers off the road immediately. I will use all tools at our disposal, including education and prevention, law enforcement initiatives and ensuring offenders are punished when they drive under the influence.
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?
Constitutionally, the Permanent Land Grant Fund can only be used for public school education and I intend to use it exactly for its purpose. Early childhood education studies support increased chance of success for a child; these programs should be available to children of all backgrounds. It allows all students the same opportunities for success at the earliest stages of their formal education.
5. Do you support or oppose legalizing recreational marijuana use in New Mexico and taxing its sales?
I am the only candidate that carried legislation to decriminalize marijuana in 2015 and 2017 and passed this bill on a bipartisan basis. I will immediately decriminalize marijuana. I am open to examining legislation and business models that show economic and regulatory viability in the legalizing and taxing of marijuana for production, medicinal and potential recreational uses.
6. Do you support or oppose opening the state’s primary elections to voters who aren’t affiliated with either major political party?
Throughout my 17 years in the legislature I have consistently supported legislation that expands participation in elections. I have also as supported reforming the voter registration process, which has been proven to disproportionately affect communities of color and income disparity. I support early voting, same-day registration, and automatic registration.
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 state minimum wage to $15 by 2020. I am also the only candidate that has voted to raise the minimum wage seven times. I will continue to support legislation that raises the minimum wage until all New Mexicans are earning a living wage, not a minimum wage.
8. Do you support or oppose basing any percentage of a teacher’s performance evaluation on student test scores? Explain.
I do not support evaluating our teaches based on test scores and attaching their pay to these test scores. It has negatively affected students, teachers and the overall integrity of the education system. It is time to stop blaming our teachers and develop a comprehensive teacher evaluation model that offers a road to real professional development, including leadership observation and mentorship programs.
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 will increase the overall salary of all current educators to account for years of stagnant salaries and provide high-quality healthcare packages as an incentive to attracting educations to New Mexico. A bonus-system would be up for discussion once a comprehensive teacher evaluation model is put in place. We would like to work with the union to help better understand the needs of the students across New Mexico and provide educators and schools as much autonomy, incentive and tools to meet those needs.
10. Do you think having 32 state institutions of higher education is too many? What would you propose to make higher education more efficient?
No. I’ll expand options for post-secondary education, like vocational programs and technical degrees, and seek out viable solutions for pursuing innovative ways to reduce college costs through refinancing options, cutting interest rates, and forgiving student loan debt for those start businesses that create and sustain positive impact on communities throughout the New Mexico. We support fully funded, free public education for every student from early childhood education through vocational and/or debt-free college education.
11. How should the state’s lottery scholarship program be kept solvent into the future?
Increase state funding of our colleges and universities while implementing solutions to reduce college costs for students. By reducing the cost of attending college, our scholarship program will spend less money per student. Additionally, universities must be held accountable, they must innovate and adapt to make college more affordable and implement programs to reduce overhead costs.
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?
New Mexico is not a “right-to-work” state and I will oppose any legislation any “right-to-work” legislation. As an attorney, I have had the privilege of representing labor in collective bargaining and contracts and have a strong appreciation and respect for that right. In the legislature, I have an unwavering voting record of over 17 years supporting collective bargaining including voting against “right-to-work.”
13. Do you favor making New Mexico a sanctuary state?
Yes. I will not allow New Mexico’s state resources to be used for federal immigration enforcement. I will also prohibit the use or acceptance of state or federal funds, equipment, personnel or resources to help find or apprehend undocumented people.
14. If an Ethics Commission is approved by voters, at what point do you think ethics complaints should become public?
15. Do you believe the initial police incident reports and videos of arrests and crime scenes should be public?
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?
17. Do you favor imposing a gross receipts tax on all internet sales?
Yes. I support the imposition and collection of sales taxes from online business. New Mexico has more than 100 exemptions and deductions in its gross receipts tax system.
18. 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 believe we need comprehensive tax reform and no single measure alone will fix our broken tax system. I have a strong, consistent record of comprehensive tax reform measures that are reflective of my platform: Voted to raise low income tax rebate (2010); honored by Chamber for opposing two tax-raising bills (2010); voted to exempt textbooks from gross receipts tax (2003); voted for bill to reward companies hiring New Mexico graduates with tax credits (2014); voted to create ag conservation credit (2003).
As governor, I will ensure that everyone pays their fair share in taxes and that there is clear transparency and accountability of those funds being invested into our communities.
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?
The frequency and severity of recent school shootings is unacceptable and needs to be immediately addressed through responsible gun legislation. I respect the importance of gun safety and I am a strong proponent of responsible gun ownership. I will institute sensible gun restrictions including a complete ban on military style weapons, to prevent further tragedies. I will continue support for universal background checks for guns, the removal of guns from adjudicated mentally ill individuals, and allow the court to take guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and criminals.
1. Have you or your business, if you are a business owner, ever been the subject of any state or federal tax liens?
2. Have you ever been involved in a personal or business bankruptcy proceeding?
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.
NM gubernatorial candidate Joseph Cervantes