In a different election year, Republican Candace Gould’s run for Senate District 10 – a district encompassing part of Albuquerque’s North Valley and West Side that has been in Republican hands for years – might seem like a sure shot.
But this is a presidential election year likely to draw many voters to the polls, and Gould’s opponent, David Simon, is an experienced Democrat who ran the State Parks Division under Gov. Bill Richardson, worked at the State Land Office and worked with a national parks conservation group.
That means the race could be close, said longtime political observer Brian Sanderoff, president of Research & Polling Inc.
Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans in New Mexico.
And, Sanderoff said, “If you have a tough Democrat in a presidential year … then upsets can happen.”
The two candidate are vying for a soon-to-be-vacated seat, as Sen. John Ryan, R-Albuquerque, who was elected to the Senate in 2004, opted earlier this year not to seek re-election.
Both Gould and Simon say they have lived in the district for 13 years, and both have been close to the Legislature for years.
Gould, 58, is hoping her years as an advocate for children involved in foster care and involvement in community and business leadership groups will show voters she has the commitment and ability to work for change in the state’s economy, and childhood education and safety nets.
“If we build our economy, a lot of these issues can be solved,” Gould said, citing poor education outcomes, crime and child welfare. “It’s all tied in.”
Simon, 53, said his years of experience in state government, including working on legislation, and perseverance and accomplishments make him the more qualified candidate.
“Every assignment I’ve ever been on, every job, I have a record of accomplishment,” Simon said. “I throw myself into it. You have to have the vision with the skill and practical goals to get it done.”
Like Gould, Simon says he’s concerned about the state’s economy.
Simon, executive director of the Jewish Community Center, would like to see more state support of a “renewable energy economy,” as well as health care and the film industry as ways to increase the number of high-paying jobs.
Gould would like the state to focus on education along with economic development incentives to attract companies. With a focus on those areas, she said, the state could have an educated workforce ready to make a good living.
“Business owners … want to stay here. They love it here, but a lot of business is coming from out-of-state jobs,” she said. “We need tax reform, and I won’t try to tell you I have all the answers. What I do know is I’m talking to our businesses, I’m talking to people trying to bring businesses here.”
Gould also said the state seems to be failing its children. She is executive director of the Heart Gallery of New Mexico Foundation, which bridges between the community and Children, Youth and Families Department to help foster children and children aging out of foster care.
“We can’t seem to get a grip on helping our kids,” she said. “There’s a battle, and everyone gets lost on their side, and for me it’s about the kids. It’s why I considered running.”
Meanwhile, Simon said that when Ryan decided not to run, he saw an opportunity to put his skills to work helping people.
“I have a very strong commitment to community service,” he said. “And I’m battle-tested. I know our district and our state. I’ve been in every corner, and I understand the diversity of our state.”
Gould has raised $158,575 and spent $61,131, according to a report filed last week. She had $97,444 cash on hand.
She has reported receiving sizable contributions from business owners; Republican legislators; oil, gas and energy companies; restaurateurs and horse brokers.
Simon reported raising $119,832 and spending $61,297. He had $58,535 cash on hand. His largest donations have come from New Mexico Trial Lawyers Association and Foundation. He has also received significant donations from other PACs, including those headed by Democratic Sens. Peter Wirth of Santa Fe and Gerald Ortiz y Pino of Albuquerque.