Republicans look to turn Senate District 39 red

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Two Republicans – Joseph Tiano and Susan Vescovo – are vying in the June 2 primary election to face incumbent Democrat Liz Stefanics in the general election this fall to represent New Mexico State Senate District 39.

The almost vertically shaped district runs from Ruidoso in southern New Mexico almost to Mora in the northern part of the state, bypassing Santa Fe. While it is primarily a rural district, it includes the tourist towns of Lamy and Madrid.

“Personally, I think it’s gerrymandering,” said Susan Vescovo, one of the two GOP candidates in the primary.

Vescovo and her husband ran a Toyota dealership in Las Cruces for 24 years before passing it down to their son and moving to Alto, near Ruidoso, in 2014.

The retired educator said she was driven to run for political office for the first time because of the abortion issue. Vescovo said she was born after 6 months in the womb and is still alive 66 years later.

“I can support early-term abortion, especially in cases of rape. But what we allow in this state is criminal,” she said, referring to late-term abortion.

Vescovo notes her little sister was adopted and said there are many people in the state who would welcome the chance to adopt if the mother is not in a position to raise her child.

A practicing Catholic, Vescovo said not enough is being done to educate people about the morning-after pill, which is available without a prescription and is eligible for Medicaid reimbursement.

Vescovo said she is opposed to Democrat Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s plan to make college free for everyone.

“I’d rather see that funding go toward tutoring in high school so we can get our juniors and seniors reading above a junior-high level,” she said. “Not everyone needs to go to college. The technicians at our son’s dealership make a very good living.”

A past president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Vescovo said she doesn’t want to see New Mexicans with behavioral health issues fall through the cracks. She noted her cousin, designer Kate Spade, committed suicide in 2018 and that her son is a schizophrenic who lives in a boarding house in Albuquerque, so mental health concerns are close to home for her.

Vescovo’s opponent, Joseph Tiano, also has a hot-button issue: gun rights.

A graduate of the New Mexico State Police Academy and a retired law enforcement officer, Tiano called the state’s red flag gun law, which took effect Wednesday, May 20, “unconstitutional” and predicted it will be struck down by the courts.

Formally known as the Extreme Risk Firearm Protection Order Act, the law allows temporary seizure of guns from individuals who are deemed to be a danger to themselves or others.

“Sheriffs and police officers cannot enforce that law because it violates people’s constitutional rights,” said Tiano, who is also running for office for the first time.

Tiano, an independent consultant for Legal Shield who helps clients protect themselves against identity theft, said he decided to run in the primary because “things are so bad in New Mexico. We’re last in the nation in everything good and first in everything bad.”

Like Vescovo, Tiano is opposed to the state’s abortion law, which allows late-term abortion to be paid for by Medicaid.

“We’ve got to get government out of the baby-killing business,” he said.

Describing himself as a “real rule of law guy,” Tiano said he is concerned about government funds subsidizing “illegal aliens” and also wants stricter oversight of voting.

Alleging malfeasance in the county clerk offices of both Santa Fe and Doña Ana counties, Tiano said he wants to see one vote for one legal citizen.

Santa Feans may recognize Tiano’s name because family members ran Tiano Sporting Goods on the site currently occupied by Seret & Sons downtown, as well Tom’s Sporting Goods Center, where Posa’s is now located on Rodeo Road.

He said both retailers were driven out of business by big-box stores and said it is essential that more aid be funneled to New Mexico small businesses that were forced to shut down temporarily during the coronavirus crisis.

Summing up his platform, Tiano said, “I’m a New Mexican for New Mexico. My great-grandparents came to the U.S. in 1895 from a socialist country, Italy. They didn’t think they were bringing their family to another socialist country.”

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