Q&A: Senate District 31 Candidate Joseph Cervantes

  • NAME: Joseph Cervantes
  • POLITICAL PARTY: Democratic
  • OCCUPATION: Lawyer
  • RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: Senator 2013-20; representative 2003-2012; county commissioner Doña Ana County 2001-2003
  • EDUCATION: BA Architecture UNM 1985; Masters Architecture Cal Polytech 1985; Juris Doctorate UNM 1991.

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?

In the short term we must make best use of federal funding made available to aid states. Recent budgets unrealistically assumed revenues based on oil and gas prices and encouraged fossil fuel dependence. We need to re-establish a budget based in reality. Our tax based must be diversified and reliable.

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?

Continuing to litigate these issues is the wrong solution. NM leaders need to bring advocates to the table, assess resources available, the needs that can be met within those resources, and put our time and money to better use than more lawsuits, or expecting judges to make education policy.

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

Immediately eliminate the tax exemptions that have been created over the many years, which promised jobs and economic opportunities, but which ultimately served only to exempt the privileged few who knew how to avoid paying taxes.

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

New Mexico continues to rank worst for alcohol deaths, child poverty, education outcomes, economic opportunities, public health and highest crime rates anywhere. Legalizing marijuana is not going to improve these conditions, but more likely make some of these conditions worse.

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 existing powers have been adequate and not excessive. The Legislature needs changes allowing it to meet more quickly, and on its own initiative, to pass emergency changes to state laws. Congress doesn’t need Presidential authority to govern and neither should NM.

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

I fully support choice. There should be no laws which outlaw the private decisions regarding pregnancy.

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?

Existing law already allows officers and public officials to be sued. Government pays for damages awarded in these lawsuits. Immunities should be extremely limited.

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?

The law prohibits this now so there would not be “more money” from the LGPF. The LGPF is restricted to funding public education including colleges and universities. Any change to fund social services would require statewide voter approval, and perhaps Congressional approval in Washington. Doing so will reduce funding available for 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?

Yes I support changing election laws to recognize the increasing number of particularly younger voters who reject both major parties and chose to remain independent, but nevertheless are well informed and deserving to vote.

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 have repeatedly introduced reforms to how capital outlay projects are funded and prioritized. I have had some success doing this for statewide water projects funding. We have almost $1 billion sitting idle at any time because projects were not planned completely.

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?

Politicians always talk about diversifying NM’s private sector economy but never manage to do so. Political leaders need to do a better job of communicating with and learning from the private sector employers. We export too many of our best and brightest to other states.

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?

Oppose a moratorium and NM must remain flexible and adapt as market conditions dictate prices. The state should adopt real mandates for renewable energy requirements as opposed to aspirational only goals and targets.

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

First recognize that other cities and states have confronted and succeeded in dramatically reducing crime. Currently parts of NM appear resigned to accepting the worst crime in the country. In Las Cruces and El Paso we enjoy some of the lowest crime rates. The solutions require leadership and accountability.

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 sponsored and passed the policy body camera law so support this policy. Video should be withheld only when allowed by court order, and when publication would jeopardize an ongoing investigation, or risk harm to others.

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?

My business and personal time take me often to Arizona and Texas where economies are booming. Business that formerly thrived in Las Cruces are putting their investment and resources into El Paso instead. To better compete NM should focus efforts on its permanent assets like renewable energy, agriculture, border trade and tourism.

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.