Q&A: U.S. Senate Candidate Ben Ray Luján
- NAME: Ben Ray Luján
- POLITICAL PARTY: Democratic
- OCCUPATION: Congressman
- CITY OF RESIDENCE: Nambé
- RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: Congressman 2009-present, member of the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission 2005-2009
- EDUCATION: New Mexico Highlands University – Bachelor’s degree in business administration
- CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: BenRayLujan.com
What is your opinion of justice in policing legislation introduced in Congress recently after protests following George Floyd’s death?
I supported the Justice in Policing Act because we need a holistic strategy to address police brutality in this country, and this bill is a positive step forward. This legislation helps provide accountability by requiring body and dashboard cameras and bans dangerous chokeholds and no-knock warrants.
What is your opinion of the use of federal law enforcement officers in operations such as Operation Legend in which additional officers were sent to Albuquerque?
Crime in Albuquerque is a serious problem – and that’s why I’ve pushed to secure funds to help make our city safer. I won’t stand for what happened in Portland but if these federal agents are here in good faith, I will work with them and keep working in Congress to invest in community policing efforts and creating opportunities for America’s youth.
What is your opinion of the coronavirus response packages passed by Congress and signed by President Trump? Is there anything you would have done differently?
I helped craft the coronavirus relief packages that passed the House to invest in health care infrastructure, support workers and small businesses, and to expand broadband access to underserved areas. I would like to see more support for essential workers and the unemployed and provide funding for state and local governments to keep essential services running.
What actions to restore the economy, if any, do you feel Congress should take once the outbreak has been contained?
For too many families today, wages are not keeping up with expenses, which has only worsened due to COVID-19. In order to strengthen New Mexico’s economy, we need to diversify. I support raising the minimum wage, protecting unions, and expanding apprenticeship programs at our national labs to create pathways to good-paying jobs.
What is your position regarding climate change? What actions should Congress take, if any, regarding the environment?
Climate change is an existential threat to our way of life. Congress should work to reduce our carbon footprint, increase clean energy production, and create jobs. That’s why I introduced the Clean Energy Standard Act, which has the support of environmental and labor groups because it would move our nation’s towards carbon-free electricity generation and create jobs.
What is your opinion on energy initiatives that have been introduced both on the federal and state level such as the Green New Deal and the New Mexico Energy Transition Act?
These initiatives lay out clearly that the climate crisis is real, it threatens our public health, our air, our water, and our way of life in New Mexico, and that it requires an immediate response. In crafting this response, we can combat the climate crisis, create good-paying jobs in the renewable energy sector and ensure New Mexico’s economy is ready for our energy future.
Fracking bans have been introduced in Congress by Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren… Where do you stand on the issue?
Our energy landscape is changing and we have work to ensure that the future of our energy supply …. I have never supported a fracking ban because I don’t think it is the best policy for our country. We can and should protect our oil and gas workers while creating new energy opportunities for New Mexicans.
What is your position on the leasing of federal land for oil, gas and mineral development? Do you agree with the removal of energy development in a 10-mile radius around Chaco archaeological sites? Are there other areas of the state that should be considered for similar treatment?
There are places where production makes sense and there are places where it doesn’t. That’s why I introduced legislation to remove federal land from development in the area around Chaco Canyon to protect sacred sites while respecting the rights of tribes.
What are the most important actions Congress should take regarding people now living illegally in the U.S.? What about for those who want to come in?
Congress needs to finally pass comprehensive and compassionate immigration reform that protects Dreamers, improves border security and provides undocumented immigrants the opportunity to pay taxes and earn their citizenship. Our immigration system should be reformed so that it is fair, humane, and keeps Americans safe.
Do you believe the borders are secure enough? If not, what do you propose to increase security?
I believe there is more work to be done to secure our borders. As part of a comprehensive and compassionate immigration reform package, Congress should use technology and smart strategies to strengthen our border, increase monitoring for drug trafficking and criminals, particularly at our ports of entry.
Do you favor a federal ban on the sale of military style semi-automatic rifles? If so, what would you do about the millions of such weapons now legally owned by American citizens? What other, if any, gun law reforms would you support?
Weapons of war have no place on our streets. We also need to pass common sense gun violence prevention measures in this country to protect New Mexicans, like passing universal background checks to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill, while still respecting law-abiding gun owners.
Federal spending plays an important role in New Mexico’s economy. What should be done to increase other economic drivers here?
Expanding economic opportunities is top priority for me in Congress. I support efforts to accelerate commercialization of technologies developed at our national labs, increased manufacturing in New Mexico, protections for traditional agriculture and promoting value-added agricultural products, and expanding our renewable energy sector to bring new jobs to rural New Mexico.
Congress passed the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement as a replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement. Are there any other trade initiatives you’d like to see Congress pass if you’re elected?
I would support trade agreements that would help New Mexico grow its private sector and exports. New trade agreements must include protections for New Mexico workers and the environment.
Do you favor or oppose a national single payer health system?
Every American should be able to see a doctor when they are sick. That’s why I voted for the ACA but we have to finish the job. I’ve supported multiple health care proposals – like my State Public Options Act – all with the goal of reaching universal health care coverage.
Do you favor or oppose limits on late-term abortion, and do you believe tax dollars should or should not be used to fund abortions?
I support a woman’s right to choose. Every woman should be able to access the care she needs regardless of how much money she has or what ZIP code she lives in. These are decisions that should be between a woman and their doctor.
What should be done at the federal level to address the crisis of opioid addiction? Any other drugs?
In Congress, I have been fighting to ensure our country has the resources to fight the opioid epidemic. I was instrumental in passing the bipartisan Support for Patients and Communities Act, which is now signed into law and contains my proposals to increase substance use provider capacity in Medicaid and utilize telehealth ….
Why do you want to be a member of Congress?
I grew up on a small family farm in Nambé. My father, a union ironworker, and my mother, a public school employee, taught me the value of hard work and protecting neighbors. Dad eventually died from toxic chemical exposure, and I needed to fight for workers. I’m running to fight for New Mexico, bring people together, and solve problems.
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.