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Editorial: Recommendations For N.M. House Dist: 12, 13, 14, 15, 17

Here is the first of three installments of Journal endorsements for candidates in contested elections for the New Mexico House:

District 12 — Ernest Chavez

Since 2004, Democrat Ernest H. Chavez has quietly served as representative of the rural district that covers the far South Valley, Pajarito Mesa and a remote area west of the Rio Puerco. He is a member of the House Economic and Rural Development Committee and the Mortgage Finance Authority Act Oversight Committee.

Chavez’s answers to a Journal questionnaire were terse, but Chavez did indicate he supports civil unions but opposes same-sex marriage in New Mexico and believes parents and legal guardians should be notified if their child is going to have an abortion.

Chavez represents the views of his constituents, and the Journal feels he is the better choice for House District 12.

District 13 — Jose Orozco

The decision by the incumbent in state House District 13 to run for the state Senate leaves an open seat in this district that includes much of the West Mesa south of Interstate 40, including Westgate Heights. The open seat is an opportunity for residents who are tired of the status quo in New Mexico to try a new direction, and Republican candidate Jose Orozco offers that choice.

Orozco became involved in politics in 2010 when he volunteered in the campaign of Gov. Susana Martinez. He studied criminology, military science and Spanish at the University of New Mexico, where he was in the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps.

To keep the state’s pension funds solvent, Orozco favors raising the retirement age for new employees but says steps involving current employees would require negotiations with the unions.

The Journal recommends Jose Orozco for House District 13.

District 14 — Clara Peña

While Clara Peña has not served in the New Mexico Legislature, she is no novice to legislative campaigns or the issues facing the state. She says she is running again to give voters in this redistricted South Valley district an alternative to the longtime incumbent’s support of the status quo and his focus on pet projects.

Peña, a Republican and longtime community activist, says she will take a districtwide and long-term view of capital outlay so all her constituents have something to be proud of 10 years down the road, rather than the current piecemeal approach to funding that feeds political egos but results in projects that can’t be completed and/or staffed.

Peña is a pragmatist who believes the Legislature should move into the technology age to save lawmakers’ time and taxpayers’ money. The Legislature could use her common-sense approach.

The Journal recommends South Valley voters select Clara Peña to represent House District 14.

District 15 — Christopher T. Saucedo

Christopher Saucedo is running for House District 15 because he wants to improve education and the business climate in New Mexico and help advance the governor’s reform agenda.

A Republican, Saucedo says he was encouraged by people in both parties to run for public office. His small law firm employs from 12 to 15 people. He pledges to run state government like a business, balance the budget by reducing spending and not raising taxes and work to repeal New Mexico’s driver’s license law that allows illegal immigrants to obtain licenses. He said the state’s tax system needs to be revised to eliminate multiple layers of taxes that drive businesses away. Active in the community, Saucedo is a youth league coach and is chairman of the National Hispanic Cultural Center board of directors.

The Journal endorses Christopher Saucedo for House District 15.

District 17 — Edward C. Sandoval

Edward Sandoval, a retired real estate agent, has represented New Mexicans in the Legislature since 1975, first in the Senate, and since 1983 in the House. He has chaired the Voters and Elections Committee for about 20 years, and also chairs the Taxation and Revenue and Revenue Stabilization and Tax Policy committees.

Sandoval, a Democrat and one of the most senior members of the House, has been re-elected by his North Valley and northwest mesa constituents for more than 30 years and has a wealth of experience in how the Legislature works. He has a reputation for civility and listening to both sides of the argument.

Back before the economy tanked, Sandoval was able to obtain $8.5 million for the University of New Mexico’s new George Pearl Hall, the School of Architecture and Planning and Fine Arts and Design Library. Located at Cornell and Central NE, it is considered the gateway to UNM.

In 2010, when the state faced a $260 million budget shortfall, Sandoval told the Journal, “I think come January we have to take off our ‘R’ caps and ‘D’ caps and look at this realistically because we are in a jam.”

The Journal recommends voters keep Sandoval’s experience and pragmatism in the District 17 seat.

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.