Q&A: House District 43 Candidate Christine Chandler

  • NAME: Christine Chandler
  • POLITICAL PARTY: Democratic
  • OCCUPATION: Lawyer (retired from Los Alamos National Laboratory, Office of General Counsel, practice group leader)
  • CITY OF RESIDENCE: Los Alamos
  • RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: Completing first term in the New Mexico House; former Los Alamos County councilor and council chair; former probate judge; former analyst, New Mexico Senate Judiciary Committee.
  • EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree, Smith College; J.D., Boston College; L.L.M., international and comparative law, Georgetown University Law Center.
  • CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: christine4statehouse.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?

The budget will be balanced with a combination of strategic spending cuts while protecting education, deferred projects, federal funds and reliance on reserves.

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?

The state must invest in early childhood and pre-K programs on a sustained basis. A constitutional amendment that would allow an additional increment of interest (not tapping the principal) on the Land Grant Permanent Fund would ensure that these programs could be consistently maintained.

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

The code needs to be simplified by eliminating the litany of deductions, exemptions, credits and other tax expenditures that have not fulfilled the purpose for which they were designed. By doing so, the state will be positioned to lower its GRT rate and broaden its tax base.

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

Under strict controls and regulations, I support the sale of cannabis to adults and taxing those sales. This will ensure greater controls on the adult use of cannabis and provide critical economic diversification and revenues. All stakeholders must be included, with law enforcement and existing medical marijuana providers.

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?

Yes. Current law was not designed to address a long and sustained emergency like a pandemic. Although the governor must have latitude to ensure the health and safety of our citizens, greater legislative oversight needs to include timelines and stronger control over how monies are spent.

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

Yes, I support repeal of this law that criminalizes abortion in nearly all cases. I, like most New Mexicans, recognize that this is a personal decision best left to a woman in consultation with her doctor. The government should not insert itself into a person’s private health care decisions.

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?

Recognizing that “qualified immunity” is a federal defense that cannot be eliminated by the New Mexico Legislature, I support including in state law a means by which individuals whose civil rights have been violated are ensured legal remedies against public officials, and that does not include a similar defense.

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?

Yes. Revenue volatility undermines sustained funding sources for early childhood initiatives. For example, during the interim session monies intended for these programs were trimmed back due to the budget crisis. A small percentage of the interest on the fund would allow sustained support for early childhood programs.

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 primary and general election systems that encourage maximum voter participation. Mail-in ballot systems have been shown to enhance voter participation. We need to further discuss greater participation in the primary system, as the recent change forcing independent voters to change their voter registration is not the answer.

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 support legislation requiring disclosure of each legislator’s capital outlay allocations. I post my list on my website and I have instructed staff to provide it to any requestor. The current system works relatively well, particularly in rural areas, with legislators working with their district’s local officials on infrastructure priorities.

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?

We must diversify our economy to be less reliant on oil and gas. Improving job training opportunities, replacing/upgrading decaying infrastructure, and developing statewide internet is critical to expanding New Mexico’s economy.

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?

Strong environmental and operational regulations relating to oil and gas production, including fracking are essential. Policies that push the state toward more renewable energy options are also critical. The state must continue to diversify its economy but until it has done so, a moratorium is not economically sustainable.

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

We need to adopt laws that ensure strong penalties against repeat, violent criminals and we need to offer robust treatment and diversion programs for low-level and drug-related offenses. In addition, we must eliminate the many unnecessary barriers to re-entry faced by offenders when they have done their time.

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?

Body cameras are an important component for supervising the police. They are also very useful in prosecuting crimes, and in defending police officers from unfair accusations. The resulting videos should be public record except in very limited circumstances such as protecting the privacy of victims.

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?

New Mexico will become more competitive when it has developed a trained workforce and offers solid infrastructure that includes reliable internet. Changes in laws and regulations that do not adversely affect the environment or public safety and health should be considered.

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?

No

2. Have you ever been involved in a personal or business bankruptcy proceeding?

No

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.

No

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