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Editorial: Journal recommendations for NM House of Reps.

This is the first of three days of editorials containing the Journal’s recommendations for contested Bernalillo County races in the state House of Representatives:

District 14: Robert W. Chavez

Robert Waylon Chavez is a newcomer to the political scene, but as a lifelong South Valley resident he is passionate about serving his community.

Chavez, a Republican, offers a fresh face and a fresh perspective for House District 14, which is roughly south of Central Avenue to a portion of Arenal SW and west of Second Street roughly to 82nd SW.

He and his wife, Valerie, have a young son, Ryan, who is one of the reasons Chavez says he is running for office. He has volunteered for many organizations and served on boards, such as the Historic Bridge Main Street.

As the owner of a real-estate company, Chavez believes the state should be more helpful to small businesses. He says his district is in dire need of economic development, and he wants to change that. He supports a right-to-work law for New Mexico. Chavez says he would consider a small raise in the minimum wage as long as it would not negatively impact business.

Chavez says early-childhood programs should be funded out of the state budget and not by dipping into the Land Grant Permanent Fund. He believes teachers are the most valuable factor in a child’s education and should be evaluated like everyone else, but perhaps student testing might not have to be 50 percent of their evaluation.

Robert W. Chavez offers a chance for change and the Journal recommends South Valley voters give him that chance.

District 15: Sarah Maestas Barnes

Republican Sarah Maestas Barnes is a 12th-generation New Mexican and a first-generation college graduate. She earned her law degree from the University of New Mexico and now advocates for children and adults with physical and mental disabilities.

That link to the past and tie to the future epitomize Maestas Barnes’ stance on everything from education (she supports funding early-childhood initiatives as well as promoting STEM curriculums and revised teacher evaluations that maintain “some measure of student achievement and progress”) to the economy (she believes the minimum wage should be increased in a manner that keeps New Mexico competitive with its neighbors).

The North Valley resident says she is running for her two young children because “it’s devastating what the future might hold. People are leaving the state left and right. People are frustrated.” She believes the state can change that with well-thought-out legislation that makes New Mexico both business- and employee-friendly, that provides opportunities but holds people accountable.

Her grounded approach is a good fit for District 15, which runs roughly from the county line on the north to Montaño, Barstow on the east to Coors. She says her opponent has “consistently voted for the status quo,” yet “we need to put party lines aside and do what’s best for the state.” District 15 voters should follow that lead and put Sarah Maestas Barnes in the Legislature.

District 16: Antonio “Moe” Maestas

Democratic Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas was first elected in 2006 to represent House District 16, which covers much of Albuquerque’s West Side from Central north to Montaño.

A University of New Mexico Law School graduate and a lawyer by trade, Maestas now sits on the House Judiciary and Rules committees and is co-chair of the interim Criminal Justice Reform subcommittee.

He says he has a found his niche in the Legislature and considers himself one of the most successful lawmakers “in terms of passing legislation.” Though not all enacted into law, some of his bills dealt with creating an independent public defender’s office, requiring financial literacy in high school, and making New Mexico more attractive to business through changes in its utility rates.

Though Maestas would like to increase the amount of money taken out of the Land Grant Permanent Fund to pay for the education of children from birth to five years old, he says infrastructure must be developed to make sure the money is spent on quality education.

Maestas says he has tried to fill a vacuum created by longtime West Side lawmakers leaving office in recent years. And he represents the district well.

The Journal recommends voters choose Antonio “Moe” Maestas for House District 16.

District 20: James Mitchell Dines

Retired attorney James Dines spent 39 years as a successful lawyer and First Amendment advocate. He’s now prepared to take that knowledge and drive to the state House representing a district that runs roughly from Indian School south to Kirtland Air Force Base and Eubank east through Tijeras Canyon.

The Republican brings “a broad background of real-life experiences” to the table, including “extensive experience operating my own business, creating jobs, meeting payroll and working within a budget.” And while he is no stranger to compromise, having spent decades hammering out resolutions in the legal arena, he has no tolerance for government corruption, and made a practice of fighting for open government.

That’s nowhere more apparent than in his campaign’s refusal to accept PAC and lobbyist money. Unlike his lobbyist opponent, Dines will enter the Roundhouse beholden to nothing but his beliefs.

On some of the state’s major issues, Dines wants to come to a smart revision on teacher evaluations with a percentage of student performance that works for all sides, a minimum-wage increase that fits in the state’s economic structure, and an examination of “the effective use of the money we have now” before dipping into permanent funds.

He says that as a state “we’ve taken too many easy ways out” and need to get on a path that “is best for New Mexico.” The Journal recommends District 20 voters select James Mitchell Dines as their state House representative.

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.