Editorial: Journal continues 2020 endorsements for NM House

Today, the Journal continues its general election endorsements for the New Mexico House of Representatives. For information including candidate Q&As, district maps and news stories as they are published, go to ABQJournal.com/election2020.

District 17 – Democratic incumbent, Deborah Armstrong

Armstrong is a leading lawmaker on health care issues and has worked to make health care more accessible and affordable. The chair of the House Health & Human Services Committee says if re-elected she plans to re-introduce medical aid-in-dying legislation for the terminally ill. Her voice would again carry a lot of weight on the sensitive topic as a former Cabinet secretary of the New Mexico Aging & Long-Term Services Department and someone who has worked in health care for 40 years, including as a practicing physical therapist and health care manager.

Armstrong supports open primaries, making Election Day a holiday, reforming the state’s gross receipts tax system, revamping the capital outlay process and investing in early childhood education. We hope she will re-evaluate her support for a moratorium on fracking given the importance of oil and gas to the entire state.

She faces Republican Kimberly Kaehr-MacMillan and Libertarian Scott Goodman to represent the mid-North Valley district that is largely between Candelaria Road and Paseo del Norte Boulevard.

District 19 – No endorsement

The Journal has no endorsement in this race. The Editorial Board disagrees with Democratic incumbent Sheryl Williams Stapleton on most issues. She faces Republican Stephen Cecco, who has worked in the mortgage industry for more than 20 years and did not respond to the Journal or League of Women Voters surveys on his positions, and Libertarian Mark Austin Curtis, who told the Journal he could not cite any qualifications for the position but was running to give voters an alternative to the incumbent. The district includes parts of the Nob Hill and International District neighborhoods.

District 21 – Democratic incumbent, Debbie Sariñana

As a math and science public school teacher in the district for over 19 years, Sariñana brings a wealth of educational experience to the Legislature, which should be particularly helpful as school districts wrestle with remote learning for the foreseeable future. Sariñana says she’s had freshman students whose reading scores are between the kindergarten and fifth-grade levels and that the freshman year of high school is the most common year for dropouts. To remedy these shortcomings, she supports expanding early childhood programs, creating equity in math and English for students of color and low-income students, recruiting well-trained teachers, and paying teachers a salary comparable to surrounding states.

Sariñana also has considerable influence in other areas. She was instrumental in getting an amendment added to gun control legislation in 2019 that requires background checks on almost all private gun sales. She also opposes a moratorium on fracking without first answering how to replace oil and gas revenue and jobs.

She faces Libertarian Paul McKenney to represent the Southeast Heights district that extends from Louisiana to Tramway boulevards.

District 22 – Democrat, Jessica Velasquez

Married to a Republican, Velasquez told the Journal Editorial Board she doesn’t consider “compromise” to be a dirty word.

Velasquez, who has run a small family electroplating business since 1976, has a strong understanding of the current business climate and the unprecedented challenges resulting from the pandemic. And she’s pitched in during the pandemic, helping organize community relief efforts such as food drives.

Also a former public school teacher, Velasquez correctly says the top priority of lawmakers must be rebuilding the economy. She says it’s going to take a lot of good-faith compromising between Democrats and Republicans to come up with meaningful tax reform for small businesses. She also supports tax relief for low- and middle-income families, closing GRT loopholes and has a middle-of-the-road approach to fracking – supporting a ban in the Rio Grande Basin but not a statewide moratorium without a plan that generates new revenue for schools and that also creates new jobs.

She faces Republican Stefani Lord to represent the East Mountains district that includes parts or all of San Felipe Pueblo, Algodones and Placitas.

District 23 – Democratic incumbent, Daymon Ely

Ely says the pandemic has shown that state legislatures across the nation have ceded too much authority to their executive branches and he’s working across the aisle on bipartisan legislation to update the state’s Public Health Emergency Response Act. “Things that stick are bipartisan,” he told the Journal Editorial Board. Ely says it’s not healthy for the executive branch to have so much power. “The governor should have the power to mandate certain orders in the time of emergencies, but the Legislature needs to be involved in oversight and to make sure we properly exercise our authority over appropriations,” he said in his Journal Q&A.

As the chair of the House Rules & Order of Business Committee and vice chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Ely has considerable sway in the House and the ability to get things done. He has been a leading force in passing bills establishing a state Ethics Commission and enacting criminal justice reform.

Ely faces Republican Ellis McMath to represent the district that encompasses Corrales and part of Albuquerque west of the Rio Grande.

District 24 – Democratic incumbent, Elizabeth “Liz” Thomson

Thomson, a pediatric physical therapist, says the best crime prevention program is a good job. To that end, she’s a big supporter of investing in early childhood education to deal with crime and public safety in the long term. “In the short term, dealing with substance-use disorders, alcoholism and behavioral health issues will also help,” she said in her Journal Q&A.

The chair of the House Consumer & Public Affairs Committee also says special education needs to be reformed. “This is the area where I have concentrated my work, as I have many years of experience as a professional, a parent and a volunteer advocate,” she said in her Q&A.

Thomson was a co-sponsor of common-sense legislation in the 2020 regular session that raised the age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21. The new law also finally regulates the manufacture, distribution and sale of tobacco products – including e-cigarettes.

She faces Republican Amy Smith to represent the sprawling East Albuquerque district largely between Wyoming and Juan Tabo boulevards.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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