Today, the Journal begins its endorsements for contested races in the Metro area for the New Mexico House of Representatives. For ongoing coverage of the Nov. 8 general election, including candidate Q&As, news stories and endorsements, go to the Journal Election Guide at abqjournal.com.
Democratic incumbent G. Andrés Romero
Romero is a social studies teacher at Atrisco Heritage Academy High School, has served in the Legislature for the past four terms and is chair of the House Education Committee. We agree with his view that “It takes experience and time to build institutional knowledge in order to be truly effective for a constituency.”
We hope in the coming sessions he uses his firsthand knowledge to demand better outcomes for students and other constituents rather than rationalizing the status quo.
In education, Romero emphasizes the long-term, saying “we have an immediate problem, but we’re trying not to have the immediate solutions be to the detriment of our long term goals, and that’s getting well-qualified and supported educators — special education teachers, ELL (English-language learners) teachers and tribal educators — in our classrooms that are well-prepared to work with our students and the innumerable needs that they have.”
Romero agrees the Children, Youth & Families Department needs reform, and he is not opposed to making it easier to detain defendants charged with violent offenses until trial, though he says increasing the number of officers on the streets will be more effective than increasing penalties or “stacking crimes” to address criminal behavior.
Romero faces Republican Mary Kay Ingham to represent the district that covers Albuquerque’s South Valley.
Democratic incumbent Javier Martínez
In just four terms, Martínez has risen to the No. 2 position in the New Mexico House of Representatives because of his intellect and congeniality. He took over the House majority floor leader’s position in August 2021 and is a leading contender for speaker.
Martínez, an attorney, supports the concept of rebuttable presumption to keep more violent offenders behind bars pending trial and getting them services while in jail. He also wants to make extended learning programs mandatory and reform our antiquated gross receipts tax system that stymies business investment in the state.
“Every GRT exemption/deduction should be subject to reporting requirements and sunsets,” he said in his Journal Q&A.
Martínez also says our Children, Youth & Families Department “is clearly not working” and he’s been meeting with a group of legislators between sessions on legislation to fix the agency and increase its transparency. He says we should expect proposals in the next session. We’re anxious to see them. It will take someone high ranking in House leadership to move these proposals through the legislative process.
Martínez faces Republican Lisa Meyer-Hagen in the general election to represent the Downtown district that includes the Barelas, Santa Bárbara/Martíneztown and Sawmill neighborhoods.
Democratic incumbent Miguel Garcia
Garcia, a retired Spanish teacher, is the second-longest serving House member with an independent streak that has seen him tangle with his party’s leadership from time to time, recently over the dissolution of the Local Government, Land Grants & Cultural Affairs Committee he once chaired.
But he remains proud of his record of pushing for “equality and justice” for Chicano communities. He’s also been a champion of creating programs to address substance abuse disorders.
Garcia’s legislative emphasis is traffic-level public safety. He wants to reintroduce a bill to establish automated red-light cameras and create a ban on modified mufflers.
Contributing to New Mexico’s well-publicized problem with pedestrian deaths at the hands of motorists is the number of people in his district who walk in the street because there are no sidewalks or they’re in such poor condition. One of his goals is facilitating legislative support for better infrastructure in his community.
Garcia faces Republican Solomon Peña, who served nearly seven years in prison after being convicted in 2008 of stealing large amounts of goods from several big box retail stores in a reported “smash and grab” scheme.
Democratic incumbent Dayan “Day” Hochman-Vigil
Hochman-Vigil has been a prolific bill sponsor in her first two terms in the House, introducing 15 bills as a primary sponsor and 34 as a secondary sponsor.
She concentrates on issues pertaining to mental-behavioral health, crime and the judicial system. She was one of the chief sponsors of the state’s Death and Dignity Act and now wants to revise changes to the medical malpractice and pretrial detention systems. She also wants to take a hard look at the Arnold tool, an “easier lift” than going through the process of another constitutional amendment to tweak bail reform.
Hochman-Vigil is an attorney specializing in aviation and aerospace, an important sector in the state’s ongoing efforts to diversify its economy. Hers could be an important voice on legislative matters pertaining to space commercialization, national labs and our three Air Force bases.
With the Legislature expected to have $2.5 billion in “new money” to appropriate next session, Hochman-Vigil pragmatically says, “I think we should put a significant portion of that away.”
She faces Republican Kimberly A. Kaehr-MacMillan and independent Laura Gutierrez.
Republican Ellis McMath
McMath is already working with House District 68 Republican candidate Robert Moss to form a road coalition so New Mexicans get something tangible with record-setting state budgets. He correctly notes our rest areas are a disgrace and the roads in between aren’t much better.
A concealed carry firearms instructor, retired FAA air traffic controller, Vietnam Navy veteran and believer in gun rights, McMath opposes gun registrations but says his position is evolving regarding raising the age to purchase an assault weapon. “It seems like that makes sense right now,” he told the Editorial Board.
McMath would bring both political balance and common sense to the Roundhouse. He supports giving New Mexicans dividends from O&G revenue surpluses and opening a dialogue among lawmakers on education vouchers.
“When parents have choices, they will improve their education,” he said.
McMath, who has served as an Albuquerque reserve police officer, wants to rebuild respect for police, fund more of them and bridge the gap with youths by having law enforcement days at high schools — all good ideas.
He faces Democrat Cynthia Borrego to represent the West Side-based district.
Democratic incumbent Gail Chasey
Chasey, a retired educator and attorney who’s been very involved in criminal justice reform since her first election to the House in 1996, has a saying: “The opposite of poverty isn’t wealth, it’s justice.”
She’s been the sponsor of several substantive civil rights and criminal justice reform laws, including outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity and the repeal of the death penalty in 2009.
“You don’t have to be a liberal to support criminal justice reform,” she told the Editorial Board. She has a point. Arresting more people and building more prisons isn’t a long-term solution to crime. And families of offenders need support when their loved ones are locked up so support systems don’t disintegrate.
She also wants to make the restoration of the voting rights automatic for those who have served their sentences.
Chasey carried a bill for the city of Albuquerque to implement a violence intervention program. She supports gun safety legislation and putting more money into gun buy-back programs.
While she opposes rebuttable presumption, Chasey acknowledges the “decision-making about pretrial detention must be improved.”
She faces Republican Scott Troy Cannon to represent the central Albuquerque district.
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.