Q&A: Senate District 9 Candidate Brenda Grace Agoyothé McKenna

  • NAME: Brenda Grace Agoyothé McKenna
  • POLITICAL PARTY: Democratic
  • OCCUPATION: Field representative for Congresswoman Deb Haaland
  • RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: I proudly serve as a field representative for Congresswoman Deb Haaland. I have also served as chair of the former Nambe Pueblo Gaming Enterprise Board; examiner for Quality New Mexico; public relations director for the League of Women Voters, Central New Mexico; and as co-coordinator for the Nanbé-Tewa Language Revitalization Program with the University of New Mexico Department of Linguistics on the development of the program’s first dictionary and grammar handbook.
  • EDUCATION: M.S., organization development, Central Washington University B.A., psychology, Syracuse University, Pojoaque High School
  • CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: brendamckennaforsenate.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 end our dependence on the boom-and-bust cycle of oil and gas. I support reasonable tax revenue increases, such as the capital gains tax, while developing sustainable budgets and diversification of our economy, including renewable energy.

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 must increase overall funding for public education, including increasing educator pay to attract the best qualified to our state, invest more in early childhood education, and include high-quality, full-day pre-K. There are few things better than high-quality, early childhood programs to improve educational and life outcomes.

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

We need to eliminate the numerous loopholes in the gross receipts tax code and also ensure that food and medicine are not subject to the tax.

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

I support legalization of cannabis as part of an overall economic diversification and jobs strategy, and ceasing incarceration of those who have been convicted for minor possession. Other states have legalized cannabis and resulting tax revenue serves those states well.

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 believe the emergency powers worked well under Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s leadership. We must follow the science: wear your mask, maintain social distancing, and hold off on large gatherings until it is safe to do so.

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

I strongly support repeal of the 1969 anti-abortion law. I am an ardent supporter of a woman’s right to choose the health care decisions that are best for her. Government should not insert itself in anyone’s health care choices.

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?

The current qualified immunity law should be revisited and revised to better balance allowing police officers to do their job, while protecting residents from abuse.

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?

I support drawing 1% from the Permanent Fund for early childhood needs. There are few investments better than creating universal access to high-quality, early childhood programs. Every dollar invested in early childhood programs creates over $7 in savings in reduced crime and remedial 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 opening up primary elections because all registered voters should be permitted to vote for candidates regardless of their political party. We need to increase voter participation – not depress it.

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 support a merit-based evaluation system for capital outlay and also strongly support full disclosure and transparency of capital outlay projects.

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 state can both increase tax revenue through measures such as increasing the capital gains tax and ensuring the wealthiest pay their fair share; and diversify our economy through clean industries that meet our strengths, such as ecotourism, local foods and agriculture (including cannabis and hemp), and clean, renewable energy.

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?

Fracking in culturally significant/environmentally sensitive areas should be forbidden. I’m indigenous; my ancestors’ home is in these areas. The Energy Transition Act is a step toward 100% clean energy by 2040. We must do more: passing electric vehicle credits, affordable home conversions to solar power, and increasing energy efficiency.

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

The best crime solution is a strong education, starting with early childhood education programs – abundant, better-paying jobs; and more treatment and addiction programs. We must start focusing on the root causes of crime to truly solve the problem and increase public safety.

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 body camera footage being made available to the public. There may be circumstances – like protection of witnesses or the victim – where it may be appropriate to withhold footage, and a judge can make that determination.

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?

The best way to make New Mexico more competitive is to ensure we have a world class education system.

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.


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