Q&A: Senate District 17 Candidate Mimi Stewart
- NAME: Mimi Stewart
- POLITICAL PARTY: Democratic
- OCCUPATION: Retired public school teacher
- CITY OF RESIDENCE: Albuquerque
- RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: I was orphaned at 17 years old but I put myself through college by waiting tables; 25 years of classroom teaching; six years of teaching teachers; 26 years serving in the Legislature – all of these experiences have made me an educated, well-rounded person still interested in serving the public by focusing on education, health, and good government.
- EDUCATION: B.A., Boston University, cum laude, sociology/history, 1971; M.S., Wheelock College of Education (now part of Boston University), 1977
- CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: mimistewart.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?
New Mexico needs a more diverse revenue source to adequately fund education, health care and needed state services. Our state is ripe for a renewable, clean energy industry, and with the passage of the Energy Transition Act, which I co-sponsored, we are enticing solar, wind and geothermal companies to New Mexico.
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?
We should continue working toward a more multicultural focus on student achievement by improving our curriculum and using high-quality, evidence-based teacher training. We must continue increasing salaries to attract, train, and retain all education employees, and focus on school climate improvement and ensure students’ social-emotional learning.
What changes, if any, should New Mexico make to its gross receipts tax code?
Our gross receipts tax code has too many exemptions and has a pyramiding effect on small businesses. The GRT should be broad based, with lower rates so that more people and businesses pay at a reduced rate. Now is the time to institute changes.
Do you support or oppose legalizing recreational marijuana use in New Mexico and taxing its sales?
I support this idea, with protections and education of young people and treatment programs for drug abuse. We have the experience of 12 other states that offer regulation and control of this industry. These states have set robust tax levels and are benefiting from the industry; we should follow.
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?
We are looking to change the law to clarify and simplify the use of emergency powers. Having said that, I support the leadership that our governor has shown to flatten the curve. We have to follow the science – it’s as simple as that.
Do you support or oppose repealing a long-dormant 1969 state law that outlaws abortion, except in limited circumstances?
I support repealing this law. Most Americans, regardless of their personal views, want abortion to be safe and legal and want the decision to remain between a woman and her health care provider, not intervention by the state or a judicial review committee.
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 play a critical role in our community. And when there are bad actors, they must be held accountable. We need to revise the old qualified immunity law so that it creates accountability while also allowing officers to fulfill their duties.
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?
With our collapsed economy, we will need to look at the solvency of our permanent funds and our current distributions. I certainly support increased funding for early childhood and I helped pass the new Early Childhood Endowment Fund, which provides for early childhood care and education.
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?
The best way to allow more voting is to allow same-day registration. If an unaffiliated person wants to vote in a primary, they can just make that change on Election Day.
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?
Yes, I would support that type of evaluation system, and yes we should all disclose. I’ve disclosed mine on my website.
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?
Our Energy Transition Act has set very high renewable energy standards; New Mexico is the second sunniest state in the nation. We could jump start our economy with a focus on solar, wind, geothermal, even hydro-electric energy that would attract clean businesses (Facebook), besides improving air and water quality.
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 do not think a moratorium on fracking is necessary. Our decadeslong experiment with oil production will reach a peak and drop off on its own accord, as it is doing now.
What steps should the Legislature take to address crime and improve public safety?
Provide adequate salaries, benefits and training to law enforcement; continue to encourage body cameras to regulate the use of force; and continue to address root causes by increasing the minimum wage and providing sick leave and good health care to all workers. We need substance abuse treatment centers and counseling.
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?
Absolutely. There may be limited circumstances to withhold police video – perhaps to protect an ongoing investigation – but these must be limited.
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?
We can become competitive through more STEM programs in schools, by encouraging more entrepreneurism and risk capital, and taking advantage of our strengths, like our culture, our environment, and our people.
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.
Twenty one years ago, I pleaded guilty to DWI, apologized to family, friends, and constituents, completed DWI drivers training, performed hours of community work and went to counseling. I continue to work with my colleagues on changing our DWI driving culture.