NAME: Elaine Sena Cortez
POLITICAL PARTY: Republican
OCCUPATION: Nonprofit executive director — MyPower Inc. and professor of business — University of the Southwest
CITY OF RESIDENCE: Hobbs
RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: 35 year resident of Hobbs; background as a reacher, principal, overseas director, nonprofit executive director, and professor of business
EDUCATION: Doctorate — business administration, master’s degree — business administration and bachelor’s degree — business administration
CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: elainesenacortez.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?
The Legislature must support the oil and gas industry first. The profits from the oil and gas industry will afford the state the opportunity to invest in other industries — rather than inflate the state budget as they’ve done in 2022 — which in turn will lead to economic diversity.
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?
Yes. In 2016, the Legislature sold New Mexicans a promise that a constitutional amendment to Article 2, Section 13, would keep dangerous criminals behind bars pending trial. This promise has proven false. The language of the amendment places an untenable burden on the prosecution and must be changed.
3. What steps should the Legislature take to address crime and public safety amid a rise in violent crime rates?
The Legislature must end its war on law enforcement. New Mexico must embrace and welcome the men and women that willingly sacrifice their lives for complete strangers. The Legislature must commit to both investing in training for our law enforcement and holding criminals accountable for their acts.
4. What changes, if any, should New Mexico make to its gross receipts tax code?
New Mexico should amend HB 6 (2019) to remove “services” from destination-based taxing. Additionally, the Legislature should require transparency from the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department, especially related to “clawbacks” following amended returns. Both of these measures strip local governments of millions of dollars — funds which could be used to directly support public safety.
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?
The choice to have a salaried Legislature should remain with the voters alone. I support their will, however, if legislators are paid, I am firmly in support of placing term limits on legislators. This measure would protect the public from the proliferation of “career politicians” in New Mexico.
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?
The Legislature must give educational control back to local school boards. Attempting a “one-size fits all” model promulgated by the state has landed New Mexico consistently last, or near last, in education year after year. The Public Education Department should serve only to support local school boards.
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?
New Mexico must incentivize hospitals to come to the state. Neighboring states have proven that this measure works to establish hospitals in rural communities. Additionally, the establishment of more than one medical school in the state would serve to increase young health care professionals available to work in the state.
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?
It is a false premise to believe that throwing money at a problem will solve that issue. Our state is experiencing a crisis of the family. No matter how well intended, the government cannot provide the moral trajectory our youth need to become successful adults.
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?
A state that spans over 121,000 square miles with only 2 million people cannot itself solve the global problem of climate change. While nations pollute the atmosphere freely, it is abundantly clear that the goal of zero emissions will serve only as a market shift benefitting green energy companies.
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?
The Cannabis Regulation Act must be amended to allow local governments to have more authority over the industry. A local community should be able to decide whether or not to allow cannabis establishments near amenities such as ball fields, parks, recreation facilities, and residential neighborhoods.
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?
Unequivocally, yes. The law should establish a time limit in which the governor can exercise emergency powers during a public health emergency or time of crisis. Thereafter, the governor’s powers should be limited to only those powers authorized by the Legislature. This establishes a necessary separation of powers.
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?
I am opposed to open primaries. Allowing voters not affiliated with a party to vote in that party’s primary only opens the door for political gamesmanship. Each party should present its best and brightest candidates from which the public can choose in the general election.
13. Would you support a merit-based evaluation system to determine how the state spends its capital outlay funding?
A “merit-based evaluation system” is illusory. Not all capital outlay projects serve the same purpose. A fire truck in rural New Mexico may be a bigger need than a building upgrade elsewhere. Each government entity should receive just consideration for funding of their capital projects.
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 scope of the “authorization” of a redistricting commission is material. In 2021, the redistricting committee proved to have no authorization as the Legislature disregarded the months of work done and instead opted to take a partisan approach to redistricting. I would support a bipartisan and truly independent commission.
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.