Q&A: Senate District 28 Candidate James Williams

  • NAME: James Williams
  • POLITICAL PARTY: Republican
  • OCCUPATION: Rancher/business owner
  • CITY OF RESIDENCE: Quemado
  • RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: President of New Mexico Association of Conservation Districts, board member of National Association of Conservation Districts, board member of New Mexico Cattle Growers Association, former president of Quemado Independent School Board, former president of Catron County Farm Bureau, board member of the New Mexico Junior Livestock Foundation
  • EDUCATION: Bachelor degree in AXED (agricultural and extension education) from New Mexico State University
  • CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: jameswilliamsfornm.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?

The downturn in oil and gas should be a wake-up call to politicians in Santa Fe who want to spend like their life depends on it. We cannot keep depending on our reserves. The best thing we could do right now is get our economy back on its feet.

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?

There’s a problem with redirecting funds that are meant to go to education. We need to understand what each school needs in both urban and rural areas based on current budgeting, spending and student population in those schools.

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

The GRT tax on services is killing businesses and creating a tax pyramid structure that is not sustainable. I’d be willing to explore more business-friendly options like a sales tax structure.

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

I am open to looking at all avenues of revenues to help diversify income for the state.

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 shown us that the more unchecked power one entity has, even in times of emergency, the less the people have a say in matters of their lives. Measures need to be in place that limit time frame an emergency order can remain in place without legislative input. We have three branches of government for a reason, and I feel it’s important to utilize all three when having to make decisions of this nature.

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

I oppose repealing the law, as I believe all lives are worth protecting, especially when it concerns taking a life just moments before birth, something that ultra-liberal lawmakers, like those who back my opponent, advocate for.

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 abolishing qualified immunity because it would effectively tie the hands of police trying to do their jobs to protect our communities. There are other ways to enact transparency such as body cams and a statewide reporting tool that keeps someone with a bad record from jumping precincts unnoticed.

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?

We need to be mindful of our spending, including the money that comes out of the LGPF. We definitely need to better fund our classrooms and make sure the money is going to the right places, we cannot afford to increase the distributions of the LGPF.

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 would support opening the state’s primary system. With a closed primary system, we exclude the many independent voters in the state and shut them out of the process. I would also like to see more transparency in dark money spending by out-of-state special interests.

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 would support a transparent, merit-based system for capital outlay projects. Implementing a committee or independent board to be advised by experts and state agencies on priority projects to create an appropriate and transparent infrastructure funding bill would be far better than the system we have now.

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?

New Mexico doesn’t currently offer the kind of business environment that is attractive for companies to invest here. The best thing we could do to bolster our economy is get rid of unnecessary regulations and make changes to the cumbersome tax structure.

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?

I oppose a moratorium on fracking. The oil and gas industry has been a blessing to our state in bringing in revenue. Fracking has been proven to be a safe and effective method of extraction of natural gas. We do not need more energy regulations. We already have too many.

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

I will advocate for the “catch-and-release” courts to find better solutions to keep the most violent criminals off our streets and provide rehabilitation opportunities for individuals who need the help. I will ensure law enforcement has the most up-to-date tools so they can do their jobs.

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?

Law enforcement should have early access to body camera footage before the public, and certainly not all footage should be available for public release as it is a violation of one’s rights and privacy. Access should be determined by an unbiased party, like the court, based on certain criteria including where the incident took place (public or private), and whether or not there was a question of police misconduct.

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?

Aside from eliminating regulatory burdens and restructuring the tax code, the Legislature must invest in opportunities within our communities before we invest in out-of-state special interest groups. We also need to push for rural development to provide the entire state the same edge in building sustainable economies of success.

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?

Yes. We had a period where the IRS payroll tax and New Mexico CRS taxes were inadvertently not paid by my bookkeeper at the time. We contacted the IRS and the state and set up a plan to pay them back and we have paid the IRS and the state of New Mexico in full, the liens have been released and we have remained in compliance since then.

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.

No

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