NAME: Karen Whitlock
POLITICAL PARTY: Democratic
OCCUPATION: Social worker
CITY OF RESIDENCE: Mimbres
RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: I represent the National Association of Social Workers at the state Legislature; teach as an adjunct professor at Western New Mexico University; serve on the Steering Committee for the Grant County Community Health Council; lead the effort to bring community schools to Grant County; and volunteer as the senior warden at my church, the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd.
EDUCATION: Master of Social Work, Western New Mexico University, Silver City
CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: karenforhd39.com/
1. 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 Legislature take to diversify the state’s economy and revenue base?
New Mexico’s economy is changing. We must continue to diversify and grow in ways that increase good jobs in upcoming, clean industries like teaching, renewable energy, food production, film, tourism and cannabis. We can also do more on the taxation side like repealing the tax cut on the wealthiest and repealing the capital gains tax cut.
2. During the last regular legislative session, there was an unsuccessful push to make it easier to keep certain defendants behind bars until trial. Should New Mexico law be changed to make it easier to hold individuals charged with violent offenses such as murder and first-degree child abuse behind bars until trial?
The standard must be very high to hold someone behind bars until trial. For example, if there is strong evidence that a violent offender will hurt themselves or others or continue committing crimes I think there is an argument to hold them until trial. We must never hold individuals until trial simply for the inability to post bail.
3. What steps should the Legislature take to address crime and public safety amid a rise in violent crime rates?
We need to ensure police, fire and EMT services are fully funded. We should also fully fund mental health services around the state and ensure that we are addressing the root causes of crime and homelessness.
4. What changes, if any, should New Mexico make to its gross receipts tax code?
Gross receipts tax is a regressive tax with lots of loopholes. We should lower the gross receipts tax in general, fix the loopholes and replace that revenue with progressive taxation.
5. New Mexico is currently the only state that does not pay its legislators a salary, though lawmakers do get per diem payments and can qualify for a legislative pension. Do you support or oppose a salaried Legislature and, if so, how much should lawmakers be paid?
Strong support. Professionalizing the legislature would also ensure that we had researchers and analysts helping to develop policy. It would also open up who could run for office and represent communities.
6. 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, especially Native Americans and those who don’t speak English as a first language?
I applaud the great strides the Legislature has made in increasing educator salaries and funds for early childhood education. We must do more. We have to grow and recruit the very best teachers for our children and make sure schools have the best facilities and learning environments. We also must address equity issues in schools.
7. What should be the priority as New Mexico seeks to strengthen its health care system? How should the state address a shortage of nurses and other health care workers?
As we have done with teaching, we must offer competitive salaries for nurses, doctors, social workers and other health care workers. One of my priorities is ensuring access to high-quality health care and support for the Gila Regional Medical Center in Grant County. We also need to do more to lower the cost of prescription drugs.
8. 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 the proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would withdraw more money from the state’s permanent school fund to increase funding for early childhood services and K-12 education?
9. In order to address climate change and air quality issues, do you support or oppose legislation limiting greenhouse gas emissions and requiring the state achieve net-zero emissions by 2050?
10. New Mexico recently became the 17th state to regulate and tax recreational cannabis sales? What, if any, changes do you believe should be made to the existing law?
We can do more to support homegrown, local businesses so that they are on equal footing with multinational corporations competing in the cannabis space.
11. 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 current system is working well.
12. 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?
We have strong election laws in New Mexico but we can do more to make elections secure, convenient and safe. We need stronger protections of election workers, dropboxes for absentee voting and an option for automatic mail ballots. Everyone can vote in primaries — just register with a party that has a primary election.
13. Would you support a merit-based evaluation system to determine how the state spends its capital outlay funding?
The idea of a merit-based system sounds good, but I think it would be impossible to implement. I strongly support capital outlay becoming fully transparent.
14. Do you support or oppose authorizing an independent redistricting commission to perform the once-per-decade task of redrawing New Mexico’s political boundary lines?
The current system worked really well in its first year. I think we should give it a chance to succeed.
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.