By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer
Sen. Clint Harden, R-Clovis, remembers the late 1970s, and a meeting for the Curry County Republican Party was three people.
He was much happier at Tuesday’s Republican candidate forum at the Clovis-Carver Public Library, with 17 speakers representing 10 races. But he knows there’s work ahead.
“I think Republicans are really going to be sailing into a tough wind,” Harden said of November’s general elections. “There’s this real desire for change, and it’s going to be tough on incumbents.”
Harden was one of two state legislator incumbents at the forum, and they were joined by other Republicans looking for a first chance at four other elected positions this November.
The party primary is June 3.
• Harden, running unopposed in the primary for the District 7 seat, said in response to an audience member question that he couldn’t be opposed to every tax increase. He noted infrastructure needs, particularly rural highways.
“If a tax increase helps improve our roads,” he said, “I may vote for it.”
Harden does not plan on voting for Gov. Bill Richardson’s universal health care coverage if a special session is called this summer.
“We don’t have the money to do universal health care, and it’s tough,” Harden said. “It’s a $1 billion fix for a problem we haven’t defined yet.”
Harden joked that he was going to use speaking time that would have been allotted to Sen. Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, who was in Santa Fe on Tuesday night.
• Gay Kernan is facing no primary or general election challenges in District 42. The Hobbs teacher felt the forum was still an important part of her job.
“I take my service seriously … and that’s why I’m here tonight,” said Kernan. “It’s really important to stay in touch with the people I serve.”
• Matt Rush, running for District 63, hates to identify himself as a Republican because he’s afraid voters will look at your party and make up their mind about you before you can cover basic beliefs.
The Roosevelt County farmer said state government has too much “gray area” and he would be somebody not afraid to say when something is black and white, or right and wrong.
When asked how he would defeat incumbent Democrat Jose Campos, he noted Campos’ votes for domestic partnerships.
“I know eastern New Mexico and District 63 are based in conservative principles and strong family values,” Rush said.
• Dennis Roch, assistant superintendent at Tucumcari Schools and a former administrator at Texico, is running for the District 67 spot left vacant by Brian K. Moore’s retirement.
As an educator, he would like to dedicate 50 percent of the state budget to education because the state constitution makes education a responsibility.
“There is no requirement to provide health care; there is no requirement to coddle needs or wants or desires,” Roch said. “If we don’t invest in education, we’d better invest in more EBT cards for people who are ill-prepared to enter today’s workforce. And we better invest, sadly, in more prisons.”
Connie Jo Lyman is the election administrator for the county. She served as clerk from 1991 to 2001, and she’d like to return.
“I can serve as county clerk with no additional training,” Lyman said. “I can handle the task of a complex office.”
U.S. House District 3
• Marco Gonzales, a Santa Fe lawyer and former defense aide to Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., said New Mexico’s House delegation will be inexperienced, with all three incumbents running for the Senate seat created by Domenici’s retirement.
“I believe with a tremendous loss of experience we face … we can ill afford to send someone to Washington that won’t be able to hit the ground running from Day 1,” Gonzales said.
• Dan East, a Rio Rancho utility contractor, said the government needs to cut on wasteful spending, and Congressional representatives should have the chance to do a cost-benefit analysis of all government programs.
East said he jumped into the race late because he was frustrated with the way Washington has been running matters.
“I am fed up and tired with the way I believe our existing leadership has lost touch with the people,” he said.
Heather Wilson and Steve Pearce were in Washington on Tuesday and unable to make the trip. Diego Espinoza, a Wilson staffer who appeared on her behalf, said she was a “common sense conservative” who could win tough races, like her 2006 battle with Patricia Madrid.
“If somebody told me in the fall of the 2006 we’d lose 32 Republican seats and I would survive, I would say it wasn’t possible,” Wilson said in a letter read by Espinoza.
The Wilson-Pearce winner will face Rep. Tom Udall, who has no primary challenger, in the general election for the Senate seat left vacant by Domenici’s retirement.