Q&A: Senate District 19 Candidate Claudia Risner

  • NAME: Claudia Risner
  • POLITICAL PARTY: Democratic
  • OCCUPATION: Retired U.S. Naval officer
  • EDUCATION: Ph.D. international studies, ODU (2018); M.A. national security and strategic studies, U.S. National War College (1994); M.S. systems technology, Naval Postgraduate School (1990); M.S. systems management, USC (1987); B.S. marketing, UICC (1977)
  • CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: RisnerforaStrongerNM.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 must stimulate job growth and increase revenue by simplifying our tax code, adjusting our GRT rate, and cutting red tape. The government should operate leaner and more efficiently on a trimmed budget. Establishing a public bank holds promise by keeping our state revenue and interest here for needed investment.

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 believe every New Mexican wants to provide quality education to all children. Legislators can prioritize improving rural infrastructure to bring fast, reliable internet to all students, especially now with increased demand for virtual education. We can also enact legislation that enables diversifying our economy to stabilize revenue sources.

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

Many small business owners are frustrated with the current gross receipts taxes and feel it makes them uncompetitive with out-of-state businesses. I support changes that level the playing field, support our local businesses, and attract new businesses to strengthen and diversify our economy.

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

I support legalization with the recommendations of the New Mexico cannabis task force, such as testing and labeling requirements, taxing recommendations, and government dispensary control. Legalization reduces our incarceration rate, allows LEOs (law enforcement officers) to focus on violent crime, and is a source of revenue for education and health care.

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?

The pandemic has caused heartbreak and turmoil in our lives, our communities, and the economy. The governor must make difficult decisions during an emergency and should be empowered to do so. This may be a good time to review this issue, but I believe the safety of New Mexicans must remain a priority.

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

I hold my own moral views on abortion and respect a woman’s right to make her own very personal decision regarding abortion with her doctor without government interference. Yes, I support the decriminalization of abortion in New Mexico and women’s rights to reproductive health care and family planning.

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?

I support the law. Officers and public officials should be held accountable for their actions, just like everyone else.

In recent years, New Mexico has steadily increased spending on early childhood programs, such as home visiting, prekindergarten and childcare 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 an amendment that uses a small percentage of LGPF to make early childhood education accessible to all students. Studies show that early education is critical and that when children have access to early childhood services the outcomes are better for the them, their families, and their communities.

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 think same-day registration is a big step forward in offering people the chance to vote in elections. I oppose any legislation that would suppress voting rights for people and support programs to grow voter participation, especially in our younger or disenfranchised populations.

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 making capital outlay funding equitable and transparent. Currently, it is neither. Legislators should be required to report to the public where public money is spent, and marginalized rural communities should receive needed funding.

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 should support our other economic industries such as outdoor recreation, tourism, space and aviation, film, defense research and development, cybersecurity, and solar and wind manufacturing and design. This means upgrading our state’s grid and infrastructure system as well as rethinking the way we tax our people and businesses.

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?

A moratorium on fracking, as proposed in 2020 legislation, halts the issuance of new permits until a study on safety and environmental impacts is conducted. I support this and other measures that shift New Mexico’s focus toward renewable energy. It reduces pollution, is safer, and helps mitigate the causes of climate change.

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

I believe we have a moral imperative to make our communities safer. I support legislation and funding for mental and behavioral health services, drug treatment programs, and entry level and transitional job training. We also need a reentry strategy and programs for people coming out of incarceration.

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 this. LEO (law enforcement officer) body cameras increase transparency that protect both community members and our police in situations where there is an unclear or contested outcome to a police call. I believe the public has a right to view these videos.

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 support comprehensive tax code reform that closes loopholes, reduces exemptions, and levels the playing field for small businesses. I also support incentivizing job creation, reducing bureaucratic red tape, and providing assistance to our local businesses. They are our future to a stronger, more diversified economy.

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.

Yes, I was arrested for driving while intoxicated in August 1979, in Indiana, and paid the $125 fine. I was arrested for driving under the influence in September 1989, in California, but found not guilty in a trial.

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