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GOP guv candidates discuss issues in Las Cruces

Republican gubernatorial candidates (from left to right) Susana Martinez, Janice Arnold-Jones, Doug Turner and Pete Domenici Jr. (Photo by Heath Haussamen)

The four Republican gubernatorial candidates who attended a forum Saturday in Las Cruces agreed on many of the issues that were discussed.

In general, most of the candidates agreed that it’s time to end corruption in state government, to improve the business climate by simplifying and reducing taxes and regulations, to secure the border, and to diversify education options by allowing school choice, supporting homeschooling and bringing back vocational education.

So what sets them apart from each other? As a lawyer who deals with environmental regulations, Pete Domenici Jr. said during the forum, sponsored by the Republican Party of Doña Ana County, that he knows “where the roadblocks are.”

“I actually know the people that are the road blocks,” Domenici said.

Janice Arnold-Jones highlighted her success in bringing webcasting to the Legislature as a way to point to her experience as a state lawmaker.

“Some of you know me as the lady with the webcam because you helped defeat the same-day voter registration bill, and you did it from right here in Doña Ana County,” she said, a reference to her webcasting meetings of a committee that considered the bill earlier this year.

Susana Martinez pointed to her work as Doña Ana County’s district attorney, arguing that she has the experience to clean up corruption, which she said will improve the state’s business climate, and that she has more experience in dealing with border issues than the other candidates.

“I have stood alone and made tough decisions,” Martinez said.

Doug Turner said his business experience – he owns the public relations firm DW Turner – is what makes him stand out, arguing that for him there are no “sacred cows.”

“I think there’s probably nothing more that qualifies me for this job than having no prior government experience,” he said. “… We need a governor who understands that money doesn’t grow on trees.”

(Turner was a member of the state’s Judicial Standards Commission during the Johnson administration, but it was a volunteer, appointed position.)

The fifth Republican gubernatorial candidate, Allen Weh, didn’t attend the forum.

Doug Turner

Turner

Turner spoke a lot about how New Mexico’s business regulations and taxes stack up against those in neighboring states. He said Texas is currently creating jobs because it has consistent regulations and lower taxes. Instead of providing incentives to large corporations to come to New Mexico, Turner suggested creating an investment fund to help small businesses.

Turner also said he would simplify the state’s regulatory system. And he highlighted a motion he filed in district court last week seeking a temporary restraining order to stop the administration from implementing a state cap-and-trade system without the Legislature’s approval.

The businessman talked about how government has grown under the Richardson administration, and said he would “get rid of every single political appointee that this governor has created.” He said he would implement a true hiring freeze.

Turner said New Mexico’s retirement system needs to be more in line with others – retirement plans should be subject to the ups and downs of the market, he said, and employees shouldn’t be allowed to draw retirement until age 65, or whatever age is comparable in the federal system.

On education, Turner said he supports vouchers and would do more to support home-schooling. He favors increased early childhood education. He said the educational system should not be entirely dependent on test scores and shouldn’t protect bad teachers from losing their jobs.

On immigration, Turner said he opposes so-called sanctuary policies that forbid local law enforcement from checking immigration status.

Susana Martinez

Martinez

Martinez spoke about electability. She talked about having been raised to be a Democrat and switching parties after realizing her values were Republican. She said that could have ended her political career before it began in a county in which Democrats significantly outnumber Republicans, but she’s won election four times since because she “stood by my values.”

In talking about her support for lower taxes and fewer regulations, Martinez said decisions need to be “based on commonsense and on facts and evidence.” The latter is a theme she’s sounded regularly to talk about how being a prosecutor would help her govern. She said state government “cannot show favor to any special interest groups.”

“We have to do all of that by eliminating corruption, which is a part of every decision that is made by the current administration,” Martinez said.

She called for an attitude shift in state government, saying the current mindset “is definitely not a customer-friendly mindset.”

Martinez also talked about her experience in prosecuting immigration- and drug-related crimes. She said securing the border is necessary so that children feel safe at school, people feel safe shopping, and businesses feel safe locating in New Mexico.

On education, Martinez also called for the return of vocational education and called for school choice. She also said schools must become more transparent and called for their budgets to be put online so communities can know exactly how their money is being spent.

Janice Arnold-Jones

Arnold-Jones

Arnold-Jones, like the others, called for lower taxes, a simplified tax code, and “tax equity.” She also said government must have a service mindset and that people shouldn’t be hired because of who they know.

“Hire for competence. What a concept, I know,” Arnold-Jones said.

On immigration, she said the border can’t be sealed by any physical barrier, but it can be sealed with technology, and that should be done.

“We have to seal the border,” she said.

Currently, she said, FCC rules hamper radio communications among U.S. officers along the border, but those coming illegally from Mexico don’t face the same challenges. That’s one regulation, she said, that needs to change.

She also called for prosecuting employers who hire illegal workers and said there shouldn’t be any wilderness areas along the border – an apparent reference to a proposal to create a number of wilderness areas in Doña Ana County.

On education, Arnold-Jones said the focus must be on valuing education as more than “a jobs program.” She said she supports charter schools, vocational education, homeschooling, online training and other uniquely tailored programs that allow students to learn in a setting that’s best for them.

Pete Domenici Jr.

Domenici

Throughout the forum, Domenici focused on his pledge to “make New Mexico a business-friendly state.”

“It’s time to end corruption in Santa Fe, it’s time to deflate big government, it’s time for a new New Mexico,” he said.

Domenici said ending “the practice and appearance” of corruption must come first. Once that’s complete, Domenici said, the focus must shift to becoming “fundamentally, at our heart,” a state that welcomes businesses. He said he would eliminate all currently vacant positions in state government and others as they become vacant.

He spoke a lot about personal responsibility, saying, “people and communities need to stand up and speak out in favor of business.” He also said New Mexico needs to make education a cultural value, and said government should emphasize to parents and communities “the inherent value of an education.”

“We need to be sure that parents are responsible, that parents are encouraged to do as much as they can,” Domenici said.

Domenici said it’s the federal government’s responsibility to reform immigration, and he would push Washington to do that as governor. Until it happens, he said the governor must do what he can by sending the National Guard to the border. He said he would also end policies that forbid police officers from checking immigration status and allow undocumented immigrants to obtain drivers licenses.

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9 comments so far. Scroll down to submit your own comment.

  1. Good run down on the pitches Heath. I like facts and logic … As for Garcia … huh? where are the facts and logic? exempt employees account for $250 million of the budget? Half a million each for 500 of them? Try again, but also try thinking …. Actually – the right place for that number is the 4000 funded, and vacant positions that aren’t appointees and are still on the books … where does THAT money go? The appointee ranks have exploded under this administration – Denish is part of that problem and there is no way around that – my guess is that the commenters so far would agree with that. EVERY Republican candidate has expressed a view on this, from Arnold-Jones to Weh – Turner is in the middle of that grouping, and each of them has slammed it. That said – there is a place and a purpose for an appointee loyal to the Governor – the key is to keep that list to a minimum, and place them where they have experience and value … for example, the governor appointed a person to be an assisant to a cabinet secretary, but the cabinet secretary won’t let him into the office … and do we need, as Denish has proposed, a water liaison to keep the governor informed on water issues? Another one? I thought that was the state engineer … an appointee, by the way.
    While one of Turners attributes is that he is young and has no experience in state government – I’m not sure this is the time for on-the-job training. He often invokes the beloved memory of Gary Johnson – who did some good things, but backed himself into a corner and his only option was to veto things – while he prevented some things … he didn’t DO much. Due to to his inexperience, and the inexperienced crowd he brought in with him – an insider to the Johnson administration has referred to the first two years as a high scale version of ‘romper room’ .

  2. Smallg
    I’m sure that it will be great consolation to a good employee who Turner fires, for no reason except impress voters like
    you, knowing that Turner will replace them with someone as competent or honest. I don’t know how you can promise “they can always make their case”, when Turner has said quite plainly that he has no such intention. Do you have that much juice in his new administration?

    To my knowledge I don’t know any appointees at all, so I am not trying to protect any individual, but rather a principle of fair treatment for everyone.

    I don’t see that the issue is one or the other; Denish keeping the incompetent and corrupt, or Turner firing them along with all the good ones. There is a third possibility and that is firing the bad ones and keeping the good and experienced ones.

  3. As sure as I am that Turner will request the resignations of all state government appointees, I’m sure he will conduct a search for a staff that he appoints to ensure the implementation of his policies. If any of ‘ched macquigg’ friends, relatives or associates are appointees they can always make their case. Ched, stop worrying about them being blackballed from state government unless of course they deserve such treatment, and in that case you can always vote for Diane Denish. That is the issue isn’t it. Does she keep them or does Turner let them go.

  4. Forgive me; one last. You say no other candidate has pledged to “do something” about the appointees. JAJ has indeed, pledged to fire all the worthless ones.

  5. Garcia,

    You are going to have to quote a source on your figures. As far as I can tell, there are about 450 exempts all together, and I know they’re not making a $500K a year, so no way do they pull down $250M between them. I question your facts and accuracy.

    I would also ask you to quote any source at all that maintains that they are “all” “glorified paper pushers”. Some exempt positions are absolutely necessary, a fact that is not changed by the fact that many of the positions were invented by the Democrats (Richardson) to reward party loyalists.If there were only one who was not, s/he deserves to be judged on there record and not fired simply to promote a political housekeeping agenda.

    No one in their right mind would accuse JAJ of being part of the “establishment” or a “party insider”, Nor can she be reasonably accused of bending to their will. As far as having real solutions; I challenge you to point to a single solution she has offered that is not “real” and likely to solve New Mexicans everyday problems.
    .

  6. Ched – Turner is the only candidate that is pledging to to do something about these political appointees, who are essentially glorified paper pushers. These people cost us New Mexicans $250 million a year- that, if I am not mistaken, is HALF of our deficit. Almost eight years ago our government ran perfectly fine with 167 political appointees, now we have succumbed to debt and are struggling to get out.

    Regarding your comment on Turner and his political experience, I am excited to see a candidate that is not part of the establishment and is not a party insider. We don’t need more of the same in Santa Fe, we need a leader who will not bend for the party insiders and someone who will bring forth real solutions for the problems New Mexicans face everyday.

  7. Doug’s an earnest young man with lots of enthusiasm. Great. But that’s not enough. Susana’s a prosecutor of street thugs, but that’s not the governor’s job, so I wonder why she’s not running for re-election as DA in Dona Ana county? Pete? well, at least he showed up, but one wonders why, at this point.

    Only Janice Arnold-Jones showed vision here, and it’s evident even in this article. Her grasp of the issues is far deeper and greater than the others. Her knowledge of the issues – that illegal immigration must be controlled at the border through technology (and that our border patrol is poorly equipped with outdated technology) – outstrips all the others.

    Those who hear her know this. More should be listening.

  8. Pete, Jr. doesn’t loom like someone running for the republican nomination for govenor. Sure it shouldn’t matter and absolutely, it does.

  9. Turner said; he would “get rid of every single political appointee that this governor has created.”

    He has made this pledge over and over. Unless one believes that every single appointee is either incompetent or corrupt, this is a promise to fire even those who are honest, diligent and hardworking public servants, for no other reason than that they were appointed by Bill Richardson.

    How can he possibly justify such unjust solution? Janice Arnold-Jones’ focus on competence and conduct as qualifications for public service, rather than on political allegiance, makes a whole lot more sense.

    Corrupt as it is, Richardson’s administration may well include at least one person who was appointed for reasons other than a political pay off. Every one of them deserves individual consideration. If they are doing a good job, why fire them.

    Turner touts the fact that he has no political experience. This is an example where that hurts more than it helps.

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