The candidate running for re-election in Santa Fe’s House District 47 wants the Democrats to rise to power again so that New Mexico can get out of what he calls its economic “death spiral,” while his Republican opponent says he would work across the aisle to come up with solutions to New Mexico’s many woes.
House Minority Leader Brian Egolf, a leader in the Democratic Party, is running for the seat he’s held since he was elected in 2008, in a heavily Democratic district in heavily Democratic Santa Fe.
He said a lot of the progress he and other Democrats have made, like supporting and growing the film and TV production in the state, has stalled since Republicans took the majority of the House in 2014. He said the only way to get the state back on track and out of its economic slump is to give Democrats control again.
Otherwise, “we’re going to continue to be in bad shape,” Egolf said.
His Republican opponent, Roger Gonzales, said both sides need to work together to help New Mexicans.
“I’m more of a collaborator,” Gonzales said. “I think there’s a lot of issues we deal with that require nonpartisanship. At the end of the day, the problems are too big for Democrats and Republicans to solve alone. I don’t have all the answers, but I’m willing to sit and listen and come up with a solution together.”
Gonzales is currently the vice president of nonprofit Siete del Norte Community Development Corp. In the 2004 general election, when he was just 23, he lost in northeastern New Mexico’s House District 68 to now-Attorney General Hector Balderas.
Before campaign finance reports that were due late this week, the 1999 Mora High School graduate had raised only $1,258, with $1,000 coming from the Republican Party of Santa Fe County and the rest from his own pocket. The reports showed that he hadn’t taken in any money since the May 9 primary election filing deadline, and he currently has a balance of $50.
“I’m not going to be about special interests,” Gonzales said. “I haven’t taken money from anybody.”
Gonzales got in trouble when he was chief operations officer in the Mora Independent School District when he used money from the district’s account to buy leather jackets for legislators, reportedly used sheriff’s deputies to deliver threatening letters to school employees and used public money from the district’s account for lobbying activities.
The Public Education Department revoked Gonzales’ school business license and fined him over $16,000 in 2012. Gonzales says he was merely the errand boy in the scandal but said he should have paid closer attention to what he was doing.
“Quite frankly, I was not responsible for the funds,” Gonzales said. “I was the one they sent to go buy the stuff.”
Gonzales said he is running for office to bridge the widening gap between New Mexicans and the politicians elected to represent them.
“I decided to run because so many New Mexicans are frustrated that the government is not working for them,” Gonzales said. “A lot of our leaders are out of touch with everyday New Mexicans. No wonder we have an electorate that’s apathetic.”
Egolf was born in Santa Fe and graduated from Santa Fe Prep in 1995. He got his law degree from the University of New Mexico after getting his bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University. He said he is running for re-election because the House Democrats have some unfinished business, such as investing more state funds into early childhood education and growing the economy.
“I think there’s still a lot we can do,” Egolf said. “Diversification of the state economy has got to be job No. 1.”
Egolf, in contrast to Gonzales’ small sums, had raised a total of $116,353 and had a balance of $14,117 as of early October. His biggest contributor was the American Federation of Teachers of New Mexico, which gave the maximum total of $10,800 between the primary and general election cycles.
Egolf distributes much of the money from his sizeable campaign war chest to fellow Democrats, either through donations to individual legislative campaigns or to groups like the New Mexico House Democratic Campaign Committee.
Egolf was elected by fellow Democrats as House minority leader, and he says he hopes they elect him to be speaker of the House when lawmakers convene for the legislative session early next year, if Democrats take the majority again.
“I’m absolutely planning to run for speaker,” Egolf said. “It would be a great opportunity to expand my desire to serve beyond Santa Fe.”