Griego: ‘People want you to stand for something’
As a state senator, Democratic 1st Congressional District candidate Eric Griego hasn’t won passage many bills, but he says he has stood for the principles of the Democratic Party platform and would do the same in Congress.
This is the last of three profiles of the Democratic 1st Congressional District candidates.
Eric Griego says a Democratic primary is a chance to talk about the core values.
In this year’s campaign, the New Mexico state senator has argued that Democrats in Congress should compromise less and do more to distinguish themselves from Republicans.
All three have held elected office. Chávez and Grisham have told primary voters they have the experience to get things done in Congress, but Griego has a different message – compromise isn’t always a good thing.
“Too many Democrats aren’t sure what they believe,” Griego said.
Griego seems certain about what he believes. While in the State Senate, he has been a vocal supporter of efforts to repeal tax cuts for wealthy New Mexicans and eliminate corporate tax exemptions for out-of-state companies.
But Griego has been criticized by his opponents for having little success passing bills while in the Senate. The Albuquerque Journal previously reported that out of 51 pieces of legislation he introduced since 2009, only one was signed into law.
The candidate said even though the proposed legislation failed, his focus remained solidly on the principles of the Democratic Party platform at the state and national level, such as “prioritizing conservation over corporate greed, prioritizing working families over tax cuts for millionaires, prioritizing a strong public role of investing in people over cutting services.”
If Griego secures the Democratic nomination, he will likely face questions about how he would deliver a message of reform to Congress, where passing bills may be even more challenging than at the Roundhouse in Santa Fe. Griego said change is possible, even if it takes more than one session, but “the last thing we need is to send people up there like that who have long records of not just working with Republicans but working for Republicans.”
Despite his argument that Democrats should take a stand within the party, Griego said if elected, he would work with like-minded Republicans on legislation to support working families and the vulnerable in society, like children and the elderly, but, “we can’t call folding, acquiescing, being weak-kneed, reaching across the aisle.”
Who is a progressive?
Griego said recently that, compared to his opponents, he has the “longest, most consistent record for fighting for core Democratic values” during his time on the Albuquerque City Council and in the New Mexico Senate.
Timothy Krebs, associate professor of political science at the University of New Mexico, said Griego’s association with the word progressive may have given him a slight advantage with Democratic primary voters since it made him “the clearly identified liberal” among the three candidates.
The other candidates have also addressed the question of Democratic values. Both Chávez and Grisham have spoken at length about addressing issues related to low-income and middle-class families, the environment and education.
During the campaign, Chávez publicly criticized Griego’s severance package when he left his position as executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children to run in the CD1 race.
Griego said the Voices for Children board decided that he should not keep his position during the race, asked him to leave immediately, and offered him a severance package worth three months’ salary, which amounted to $24,000. Chávez said he did not accept a severance package when he left his position as executive director of ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability.
Griego responded that he believed his severance was fair, that severances were offered to other employees who left the organization, and he trusts the judgement and ethics of the board members.
“It’s unfortunate that it’s been used for political purposes,” Griego said.
During the campaign, Chávez also criticized Griego for taking contributions from corporations like GlaxoSmithKline, Altria and Union Pacific. Chávez alleged that accepting those contributions was hypocritical considering Griego was campaigning on a message of protecting average New Mexicans and holding corporations accountable.
After some digging, NMPolitics.net found that the contributions totalled $1,300 and were not from the current campaign cycle, but instead from Griego’s 2008 state Senate campaign. Ed Yoon, Griego’s campaign manager, said the candidate’s record of working against the influence of money in politics is more significant:
“He fought for public financing of state elections and for an independent ethics commission, both of which were opposed by go-along-to-get-along status quo politicians who support his opponents in this race.”
Yoon said Griego has not accepted corporate contributions in the CD1 race. He pointed to PAC contributions to the Chávez and Grisham campaigns that represent the prevalence of outside spending, even in primary elections.
The November election
Griego defied expectations when he came out ahead in the Democratic pre-primary in March. In the final weeks of the campaign, the race remains close, but polls released by the Grisham and Griego campaigns earlier this week show the two candidates ahead of Chávez.
Griego also leads in fundraising but had the least amount of cash on hand on May 16. He brought in $850,569 by May 16 and had $87,395 on hand on that day. Chávez raised $659,979 and had $167,887 on hand. Grisham reported raising $637,659 for her campaign and had $122,140 on hand.
The candidate who wins the primary election on June 5 will face Republican Janice Arnold-Jones in November.
Griego said he thinks his message would also appeal to voters in the general election, including independents. “People want you to stand for something,” he said. “They may not even agree with you on everything, but they want you to stand for something and have a record to prove it.”
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