Congressman Steve Pearce, a Republican, is a self-made millionaire who knows how to create jobs and has been a steady, fiscally conservative voice.
Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham is a moderate Democrat with boundless energy who has worked as a cabinet secretary for three governors, earning a reputation as someone willing to go to great lengths to get to the bottom of a problem.
Regardless of who prevails, New Mexico is losing two strong voices in Washington, and that’s truly unfortunate for our state. And given what each of these candidates brings to the table, it’s also unfortunate this race has devolved into mudslinging and dueling claims of corruption and incompetence, none of which holds much water.
Instead of wasting energy on cheap shots, it’s critical voters take a step back, look at where we are as a state and which candidate is best equipped to build on the opportunities at hand.
Let’s look at our choices:
It’s hard to imagine a bigger American success story than Pearce’s. His childhood home had a dirt floor and no running water, yet he became a successful businessman in Hobbs. A Vietnam veteran and combat pilot in the U.S. Air Force who defied all odds on his path to becoming a millionaire, Pearce served in the state Legislature from 1997 through 2000 and has been a congressman for 14 years, representing the southern N.M.-based 2nd Congressional District.
In Congress, he has been willing to work with Democrats, one example being a 2014 immigration bill he co-sponsored with U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas. And he has a record of being fiscally conservative, a quality that will serve this state well and one that whoever prevails should embrace.
Meanwhile, Lujan Grisham has her own personal story of overcoming challenges. She is a native New Mexican who suddenly found herself a widowed mother of the sandwich generation, also caring for her own mom. She was a Cabinet secretary for 16 years, and has served in Congress for three years. She is a relationship-builder who knows many in any room she enters and soon befriends those she doesn’t.
Smart use of $1.2 billion surplus key
Whoever is governor is inheriting a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with the state’s projected surplus of $1.2 billion due to a surge in oil production in southeastern New Mexico. We must use every penny responsibly, and that means thinking long and hard before using any on recurring expenses, since they will be difficult to cover when oil and gas revenues plummet, as they are prone to do.
Based on that criteria, we recommend Steve Pearce for governor. He would push for using the money for one-time expenses, like infrastructure improvements including broadband access, improved roads, bolstering the state’s cash reserves and perhaps earmarking a portion for pension-related legislation. He realizes that using the money for recurring expenses could land us back where we were just two years ago – when oil prices slumped and lawmakers and agency heads were slashing programs and budgets.
He supports early childhood education initiatives and investing more money in education, but he understands that pulling a higher percentage out of the Land Grant Permanent Fund is the wrong way to do it. Going down that road will result in less money from the permanent fund going to education in the long run, and that’s simply not responsible. Instead, Pearce favors targeting administrative waste and getting more of the $2.8-billion-plus we spend on K-12 a year into classrooms.
Room to grow on education, environment
We acknowledge that Pearce has an uphill climb to the governor’s mansion, combatting the anti-Trump sentiment Republicans are facing, the state’s higher number of registered Democrats and polls showing him behind Lujan Grisham.
And we don’t agree with all of his positions. His plans for education, which include giving greater control to school boards, are problematic given that many of the districts in our state haven’t done a very good job and the reforms instituted in Santa Fe are bearing fruit in higher student proficiencies and graduation rates. But we agree with his stance of getting more assistance for children who need it so teachers don’t have to address serious behavior problems while teaching the rest of the class.
And we have grave concerns about Lujan Grisham’s plans to tap the permanent fund for early childhood education and to use some of the $1.2 billion windfall for recurring expenses.
We disagree with Pearce on some environmental issues. We would hope he would be willing to take up a sensible state methane rule that would protect both our oil and gas industry and our environment, as Colorado has instituted.
But it’s his position on fiscal responsibility that shifts the endorsement in his favor.
Putting more of New Mexico to work
Pearce pledges to put his business experience to work diversifying the economy – from seeking more high-tech jobs to putting people to work thinning forests and improving the health of our watersheds. He understands that while there are dirty jobs, “work” is not a dirty word. He wants to expand apprenticeship programs, realizing plumbers, electricians and other trade workers make very good livings without a four-year degree. And he would push to make Spaceport America near TorC a success, because “I will not accept failure on a $220 million investment.”
And, he opposes tax increases and doesn’t want to grow the size of government. New Mexico needs a governor like Steve Pearce, especially in these times of plenty.
With that in mind, we urge our next governor – whomever he or she may be – to be fiscally responsible for the future generations of New Mexicans.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.