Q&A: Senate District 24 Candidate Leighton C. Cornish

  • POLITICAL PARTY: Republican
  • OCCUPATION: Retired military
  • CITY OF RESIDENCE: Santa Fe
  • RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: Analyst with the 2018 Legislature
  • EDUCATION: B.S. in medical management
  • CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: cornishnm.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?

Start reopening businesses safely. That will generate revenue. Then spend less where we can afford to.

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?

Simply appropriating funds year after year is not working. Fifty out of 50 is our national ranking and this is unacceptable. I would support terminating the department heads, principals, and district superintendents who are failing to produce the outcomes our state needs.

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

New Mexico must be competitive in attracting industry, replacing GRT with responsible sales tax would make New Mexico more competitive.

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

I believe marijuana has medicinal benefits, but I oppose legalizing recreational use until field sobriety tests are available and officers receive proper training on how and when to use the tests. At that point, I would welcome the revenue from sales of marijuana.

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?

Some powers need to be delegated to the mayors and county health departments. Lea County and Rio Arriba county don’t need a one-size-fits-all mandate. If the mayors and health departments aren’t able to effectively deal with the issue then the governor should step in.

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

Quite honestly, either seems like a waste of legislative time. Personally, I am pro-life. However, I support federal law, and because of that, I believe Roe v. Wade is sufficient.

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 oppose police officers being sued individually, if that should happen it would be hard to retain any police officers.

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 oppose taking money from the Land Grant Permanent Fund for social services.

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?

Absentee ballots should have to be requested. Some form of ID needs to be required at the polls. I don’t support unaffiliated voters participating in primaries because votes could be cast to suppress a candidate. I would support legislation to get and keep our voter rolls clean.

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. Roughly $1 billion was spent in 2019 and the taxpayers have a right to know on what.

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?

A competitive sales tax. Then pair interested industries with vocational-technical programs, community colleges, and universities. By doing this we can have a workforce ready to work.

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?

New Mexico needs revenue so I would oppose a moratorium on fracking, while we move forward with renewable energy. Solar panels and wind turbines need more research. Our landfills are full of these renewable energy parts. Global population needs to be addressed as a contributor to climate change.

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

A law that mandates all municipalities have enough officers to fulfill the ratio of officers to citizens.

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 the public’s right to know if taxed-paid police officers are doing their jobs correctly. I do think there would be incidents that would require video being withheld. One example would be if an informant or undercover officer would be exposed, then that video does not need to be public.

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?

A responsible sales tax and elimination of GRT would make us look as promising as any other state. We have a lot of sunshine and land. I would like to see pharmaceutical companies establish here and grow the necessary plants and botanicals needed for medicines currently being made in China.

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.

I was arrested for shoplifting a 12 pack of Hamm’s when I was 19. I completed community service hours and paid fines. I was embarrassed for myself and my family.

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