Editorial: Journal concludes endorsements - Albuquerque Journal

Editorial: Journal concludes endorsements

Today, the Journal concludes its endorsements for the general election with our final picks for contested races in the Metro area for the New Mexico House of Representatives. For ongoing coverage of the Nov. 8 election, including candidate Q&As, news stories and endorsements, go to the Journal Election Guide at abqjournal.com.

House District 28 candidate Nicole Chavez (Courtesy Nicole Chavez)

District 28

Republican Nicole Chavez

Some lawmakers talk about violent crime. Chavez lives through it daily.

Chavez’s 17-year-old son was killed in a drive-by shooting in June 2015 in which he wasn’t the intended target. Chavez is fighting back. She founded Robbed New Mexico, a support and educational group for families of victims of violent crimes and has become a leading advocate for homicide victims.

Chavez wants tougher penalties for violent criminals and greater consideration of victims. She also wants better counseling and mandatory education/vocational training for those incarcerated.

Chavez is tough as nails on crime, but she doesn’t want to give up on offenders and throw away the key. She supports tax breaks and other incentives for businesses to hire and train offenders. Her voice and passion would be hard for lawmakers to ignore.

Chavez says voters are also concerned about the economy, inflation and education. She says our kids have fallen too far behind during the pandemic and need a plan to catch up. We couldn’t agree more.

She faces Democratic incumbent Pamelya Herndon to represent the east side Albuquerque district, largely between Juan Tabo Boulevard and the Sandia foothills.

House District 29 candidate Joy Garratt (Courtesy Joy Garratt)

District 29

Democratic incumbent Joy Garratt

Garratt says a recent public safety meeting for Albuquerque’s Northwest quadrant showed property crimes, auto thefts and homelessness are top of mind.

She says hundreds of retirees have moved into her district centered around the petroglyphs, and she prides herself on her work to get residents answers about police activity. Garratt says more police officers and Albuquerque Community Safety personnel, better data sharing and improved coordination among law enforcement agencies statewide can drive crime down.

She supports legislation making it easier to keep dangerous defendants behind bars until trial, speeding up the entire judicial process with swift enforcement to deter crime, and considering police bonuses for retention along with life-long health coverage.

She supports common-sense gun safety laws and opening primary elections to independent voters.

The retired educator of 28 years is a moderate Democrat who says 80% of legislative work is nonpartisan and policies can be just as important as legislation.

She faces Republican Gregory Cunningham to represent the West Side district that stretches from Taylor Ranch to the Rio Puerco.

House District 30 candidate Natalie Figueroa (Courtesy Natalie Figueroa)

District 30

Democratic incumbent Natalie Figueroa

Figueroa, a part-time high school Spanish teacher, is most proud of helping constituents navigate bureaucracies to receive help with unemployment benefits and rental assistance. She’s also proud of fighting to get the state to develop a broadband plan, carrying a successful “chop shop” bill and pushing for a truly independent redistricting commission.

Figueroa says it’s clear most New Mexicans want a constitutional amendment to eliminate “the direct conflict” of lawmakers drawing their own districts. She’ll carry such a bill if reelected to a third term.

With an anticipated $2.5 billion budget bonanza, Figueroa says lawmakers should emphasize one-time spending on infrastructure: water projects, dams and broadband. But she also thinks it’s important to invest in health-care options for rural communities that can be sustained with Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements. “To my mind, that’s a one-time investment and an essential need,” she said.

She faces Republican Kurstin Johnson to represent the area roughly east of I-25 to Eubank, between San Antonio and Comanche.

House District 31 candidate Bill Rehm (Courtesy Bill Rehm)

District 31

Republican incumbent William Rehm

Rehm, a retired Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office captain and former Albuquerque Police Department officer, has provided an important perspective on public safety issues since his first election to the House in 2006.

In 2020, he co-sponsored bipartisan legislation signed into law allowing judges to impose stiffer penalties for brandishing a firearm in the commission of a crime and for being a felon in possession of a gun.

Rehm has pushed for a drugged-driving law, increasing the statute of limitations on second-degree murder, a usable three-strikes law for violent felons as well as a much-needed bill to aggregate the value of goods stolen in retail crimes during a calendar year so shoplifters can be prosecuted for felonies.

If reelected, Rehm will readdress rebuttable presumption, either by defining in statute what “dangerousness is” for pretrial detention purposes, or seeking to amend the Constitution to adopt federal guidelines for releasing defendants.

He’s a voice of fiscal restraint in the Roundhouse who wants to change the state’s tax code to make it more business-friendly.

Rehm faces Democrat Athena Ann Christodoulou to represent the far Northeast Heights and Sandia Heights, hemmed in by Sandia Pueblo and the Sandia foothills.

House District 44 candidate Jane Powdrell-Culbert (Courtesy Jane Powdrell-Culbert)

District 44

Republican incumbent Jane Powdrell-Culbert

Powdrell-Culbert supports reducing the unilateral emergency powers that have been granted to the governor so lawmakers are more involved.

“As a sitting legislator, I believe that an emergency session should be called to address the emergency/crisis,” she said in her Journal Q&A. “Legislators live in the district, and constituents should have the opportunity to weigh in on the event.”

First elected to the House in 2002, Powdrell-Culbert has proven to be one of the most pro-business lawmakers in the Legislature. She’s been a staunch supporter of overhauling the state’s tax code starting with eliminating the state’s antiquated GRT system.

One of her biggest accomplishments is the angel tax credit program, enacted in 2007 and since expanded, that allows investors in new technology startups to deduct investment expenses from state income taxes.

Powdrell-Culbert supports school choice, tougher laws to keep violent offenders behind bars until trial, open primaries and badly needed medical malpractice insurance reform.

She faces Democrat Kathleen M. Cates to represent the Rio Rancho/Corrales-based district.

House District 57 candidate Jason Harper (Courtesy Jason Harper)

District 57

Republican incumbent Jason Harper

If elected to a sixth term, Harper will continue his relentless quest to overhaul New Mexico’s tax code — broadening the base by eliminating carveouts and “pyramiding,” the taxation of business-to-business transactions.

He proposed a massive tax reform bill in 2017 that cleared the House but died in the Senate. Since then, the research engineer at Sandia National Labs has quietly worked with members of both parties to pass two-thirds of it in piecemeal fashion.

To fix “the most egregious forms” of pyramiding would cost $200 million or less, he says. With an anticipated $2.5 billion in extra revenues available, Harper is optimistic the time is right for the Legislature to complete tax reform. He’s seeking another term “to make sure we do it right.”

As for the remaining surplus, he says some should be spent where construction can take place immediately. The rest should be put away in the state’s permanent funds.

We urge voters to retain a leading voice for fiscal restraint in the Legislature. “Good tax policy is not Republican or Democrat. It’s common sense. It’s numbers,” he says.

Harper faces Democrat Michelle Eleanor Sandoval to represent the district that includes far northwest Rio Rancho.

House District 68 candidate Robert Moss (Courtesy Robert Moss)

District 68

Republican Robert Moss

Moss, an entrepreneur and attorney, is a bit of an overachiever at the age of 36. He’s an owner of several small businesses in the Metro area and startup companies across the country, employing about 100 people.

“I like creating jobs, I like building businesses,” he told the Editorial Board.

Moss and his wife, a pediatric dentist, moved back to New Mexico after college. But he says crime and our antiquated tax system are holding back business growth. “The current (tax) structure is burdensome to businesses, assists in the current medical provider shortage facing New Mexico, and is wrought with patrón loopholes,” he said in his Journal Q&A.

Moss says widening Paseo del Norte and Unser Boulevard are critical to growth on the West Side, and he supports school choice and more charter schools.

Moss faces Democrat Charlotte Little to represent the district that primarily consists of Paradise Hills and much of Ventana Ranch.

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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