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NM delegation splits in reacting to Obama’s speech

WASHINGTON – Democrats in New Mexico’s congressional delegation were buoyed by the optimistic tone of President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech Tuesday, while the delegation’s lone Republican said the address was naïve on national security and delusional on energy policy.

“It was nice to hear an aspirational speech, especially in contrast to some of the dark rhetoric we’re hearing on the campaign trail from Mr. (Donald) Trump and some of the other candidates,” Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich said, adding that he also appreciated Obama’s focus on making college more affordable and boosting clean energy production.

“For the state (New Mexico), they are really important,” he said. “Underlying the entire speech was the focus on the fact that when we appeal to our best aspirations as a country and democracy there is really no one that can hold us back.”

Sen. Tom Udall, a New Mexico Democrat who has led a Senate charge to overhaul the nation’s campaign finance laws, said he was glad to hear Obama discuss “getting big money out of politics.” Udall also said the president’s call for more action on climate change will help keep the issue percolating.

“It gives it an extra push,” Udall said. “We have so much to gain from a clean energy economy and New Mexico can be a model. It’s really important we focus on that, and that everybody in New Mexico at the elected level find a way to do something.”

Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., said Obama’s speech “missed the mark.”

“The idea that clean energy is somehow responsible for $2 gasoline just defies imagination,” Pearce said. “We drilled our way out of the problem and people in Washington hate to admit it.”

Pearce said he agreed with Obama’s call to revamp the way congressional representation is allocated, “but he’s been there seven years and I haven’t seen any action on it.”

Pearce also called Obama’s upbeat national security claims “naïve,” especially with respect to Iran and the Islamic State group.

“The world is about to get much more dangerous and I felt like he completely missed the fear of the American people there,” he said.

Reps. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Ben Ray Luján – both Democrats – said they were deeply gratified to hear Obama call for a national commitment to curing cancer on par with America’s effort at putting a man on the moon. Luján’s father, the late New Mexico House Speaker Ben Lujan, died of cancer in 2012.

“What makes America great is that we can meet difficult challenges – and not just meet them but exceed them,” Lujan Grisham said. “The Sputnik example was powerful. The 21st century promises in health care and medical innovation I thought were powerful.”

However, Lujan Grisham said she was disappointed Obama didn’t mention his push for tighter gun control.

Luján, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said he appreciated Obama’s optimism, but also his reminder that many in the middle class are still struggling.

“Community after community still haven’t seen that recovery,” Luján said. “Until we have everyone working and aspiring to the American dream our job is not done.”

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