Q&A: House District 31 Candidate Steven Penhall

  • NAME: Steven Penhall
  • POLITICAL PARTY: Libertarian
  • OCCUPATION: General manager
  • CITY OF RESIDENCE: Albuquerque
  • RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: 30 years managing medium to large business, six years law enforcement (detailed bio and resume on website)
  • EDUCATION: BS business; post graduate studies in business
  • CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: votepenhall.org

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 must define what essential services and departments are (and aren’t). There must be strategic and budget plans of at least five years to fund or defund those services. That plan must be incorporated into legislation that makes it difficult for it to be changed for partisan political reasons.

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?

My question is: who is running our educational system? Accountability, sound organizational and financial management is required to ensure we achieve the desired results. Unions or politicians should not be in a management role.

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

First, taxes should not be raised. I am sure a fair, nonpartisan and inclusive look at what and how we tax would reveal many areas for adjustment.

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

I support legalizing marijuana, but I do not support the state managing the sales.

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?

I am shocked at the lack of accountability required in this process. There was no plan. This power must be reduced, must be transparent, must be inclusive of all stakeholders and must follow all state laws and policies. Above all we must be fair and honest about it.

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

I support freedom of choice in most areas of an informed person’s life.

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?

Qualified immunity in all aspects should be abolished. I have worked as a cop before this was policy. I can tell you we operated much more carefully but were equally effective. We still responded to firearms calls, fights and domestic violence and never shot anyone or got sued.

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?

No. We need to manage those services more effectively.

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 do support opening elections for unaffiliated voters. And I support mail-in ballots and ballot boxes to receive them.

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?

This capital spending program is an outrage and voters should learn more about this. There must be clear guidelines for capital spending and every expenditure must be transparent and accounted for. All government expenditures must be available for review online by all citizens.

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?

In the short term the only answer is to cut non-essential services. Taking advantage of our border with Mexico, utilizing Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia Labs innovations and finding ways to market our rural areas are ways we can start.

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?

I oppose a moratorium on fracking. The market will phase out most fossil fuel use in the future and climate control should have been on the table for the past four years.

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

Who is running our law enforcement? Accountability, sound organizational and financial management is required to ensure we achieve the desired results. Unions or politicians should not be in a daily management role. Laws should keep violent offenders incarcerated and there should be uniform policies for all law enforcement in New Mexico.

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?

All video and audio not being reserved to aid an investigation or prosecution should be available on request to any person or entity with a valid reason, including the press.

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?

I believe an extensive review of our laws and regulations by an inclusive body including citizens, business and government would recommend changes that would relieve many bloated and onerous regulations and taxes. The big one is: we must improve our crime and education outcomes to attract more business.

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.