Q&A: House District 21 Candidate Debbie Sariñana

  • NAME: Debbie Sariñana
  • POLITICAL PARTY: Democratic
  • OCCUPATION: Public school teacher
  • CITY OF RESIDENCE: Albuquerque
  • RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: I was raised in House District 21. I come from a strong family committed to health care, law enforcement, education and military service. I served six years in the Air Force Reserves as a medical service specialist and I’ve been a math and science teacher in my district for over 19 years.
  • EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree in education, New Mexico State University; master’s degree in secondary education-mathematics, University of New Mexico; National Board Certification, early adolescence mathematics
  • CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: debbieforabq.com

What steps should the Legislature take to ensure New Mexico has a balanced budget amid falling oil prices and an economic downturn prompted by the coronavirus outbreak?

We need to protect critical programs like public education and health care, then reverse the tax cut for the wealthiest New Mexicans so they go back to paying their fair share. We also need to utilize our sun and wind resources to move toward renewable energy.

What more, if anything, should the Legislature do to address a court ruling that found New Mexico is failing to provide a sufficient education to all students?

I see the impact high quality Pre-K has on students later in life. We need to expand early childhood programs, create equity in math and English for students of color and low-income students, recruit well-trained teachers, and pay them a salary comparable to surrounding states so they stay in New Mexico.

What changes, if any, should New Mexico make to its gross receipts tax code?

We need to implement gross receipts taxes uniformly and fairly. That means closing numerous loopholes that have been put into place by special interests over the years. I will not support taxing food and medicine, however.

Do you support or oppose legalizing recreational marijuana use in New Mexico and taxing its sales?

I support legalizing cannabis and believe we need to right racial inequities created by the unequal enforcement of marijuana laws created by the failed war on drugs. We need to work together to decriminalize possession and create a safe and fair system.

Do you believe changes should be made to the emergency powers held by a governor during a pandemic or other time of crisis. If so, do you believe such powers should be expanded or reduced and in what specific ways?

Our emergency powers are sufficient. In this instance, the governor has done a tremendous job of leading with science. It’s up to New Mexicans to follow the guidance during this, or any, time of crisis.

Do you support or oppose repealing a long-dormant 1969 state law that outlaws abortion, except in limited circumstances?

I strongly support repeal of this outdated law. We must keep the government out of all personal decisions between a woman and her health care provider.

Do you support or oppose enacting a new state law that would allow police officers and other public officials to be sued individually by abolishing the defense of qualified immunity?

Police officers and other frontline public servants have a difficult job to do. We can better balance holding police officers accountable, and part of that equation is revising current qualified immunity laws that are too restrictive.

In recent years, New Mexico has steadily increased spending on early childhood programs, such as home visiting, prekindergarten and child care assistance, and created a new early childhood trust fund. 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 ?

I support utilizing the Land Grant Permanent Fund to increase early childhood services. I’ve voted in favor of this bill numerous times because New Mexico is 49th out of 50 in early childhood education and we must do better.

What changes, if any, should New Mexico make to its election laws and primary system? Do you support or oppose opening the state’s primary elections to voters who aren’t affiliated with either major political party?

I support opening the state’s primary to independent voters. This strengthens the democratic process. New Mexico voters are smart enough to make their own choices on whether to join one party or another, or be independent.

Would you support a merit-based evaluation system to determine how the state spends its capital outlay funding? Should each legislator be required to disclose which projects he or she funded?

I’d be open to a merit-based evaluation system when criteria for the decision-making process is guided by legislation and transparency, and considers the unique needs of rural and low-income areas. I strongly support the disclosure of capital outlay funding. My district’s capital outlay funding is posted on my Facebook page.

New Mexico is highly reliant on the oil and natural gas industries to generate revenue to fund state programs, as evidenced by recent oil boom and bust cycles. What steps should the state take to diversify its economy and revenue base?

New Mexico is on the cusp of diversifying our economy. Film and tourism industries have made great strides. We’re quickly expanding wind and solar energy and there’s a plan to modify our electric grid. We can add cannabis, eco-tourism, local food production, and other industries that take advantage of New Mexico’s strengths.

Would you support or oppose a moratorium on fracking? And should the state impose additional renewable energy mandates as a way to address climate change concerns?

We cannot unilaterally declare a moratorium on fracking without first answering how to replace oil and gas revenue and jobs. I strongly support regulating oil and gas more forcefully to reduce methane and water pollution.

What steps should the Legislature take to address crime and improve public safety?

  • I am a big believer in tackling the root cause of most crime: treating mental health and addiction. In the long-term, better schools and more economic opportunity are the best ways to reduce crime.
  • Do you support or oppose the public’s right to inspect footage taken by cameras worn by law enforcement officers? Under what circumstances, if any, should police video be withheld from the public?

    I support the public’s right to inspect law enforcement camera footage. Videos containing footage of victims, including child victims, witnesses or other persons could be withheld to protect them.

    Members of New Mexico’s business community contend some state laws and regulations need changing so the state can better compete with Texas and Arizona when it comes to attracting companies. What steps do you believe should be taken to improve New Mexico’s economic Competitiveness?

    The best way to attract companies is to have a world class education system, starting from early childhood services through higher education. We also need to reasonably streamline the process for companies wanting to do business in New Mexico.

    Personal background

    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.


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