Pearce visits Clovis, addresses key issues

Courtesty photo U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., is running for the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by the upcoming retirement of Pete Domenici.

U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., is in his third term representing New Mexico’s 2nd District in the House of Representatives. It is also his final term, as he is running for the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by the upcoming retirement of Pete Domenici. He is running against U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson in the Republican primary, with the winner facing Democratic Rep. Tom Udall in the general election.

There’s going to be testimony in the House later this month on the Ute Water Project. What are you interested in hearing, and what do other House members need to hear?
What we need to do in Washington is recognize that water is life, water is the source of our economy, the source of our jobs. Without it, we are at the tip of the spear of water shortages throughout the country and the world, and how we deal with it is a very big piece of our future.

The Bush administration has not shown much support for water projects recently. How do you think the state delegation could get over the hump?
We’ll just go and visit with the White House, visit with the agencies, always highlighting the fact we’re almost out (of water). We’ve studied this for nearly 30 years. We’ve studied it, we know what it’s about. It’s time to do it.

What do you think are short and long-range goals for Cannon Air Force Base?
Kirtland, Cannon and Holloman, all of those commanders had worked in Europe at some point. They were all working to design joint missions for those three bases, at some points pulling in (Dyess AFB in) Abilene with the B-52s there.
I think Cannon, Holloman and Kirtland will be in a position to offer leadership to the whole country as to the transformation. (There are) different battles, different wars, and it’s important we come up with a strategy to meet emerging threats.
Special Operations forces are absolutely big. They operate in areas we don’t have a lot of logistical support.

In Iraq, April was the deadliest month in the last six. Is there a way to reduce the violence, or reduce our presence?

The surge had dropped violence to 90 percent decrease rates into this month. Taking areas and holding areas is essential. Early on, our military said we’ll take the battles and leave. That’s an old style of combat that I think was used in Vietnam, but it was completely the wrong thing here. Gen. (David) Petraeus said we needed to clear areas out, clear terrorists out. We also need to transition to Iraqi forces. They are taking more and more responsibility, able to stand on their own feet. It’s essential they continue that.
The Center for Strategic and Intelligence studies — they’ve been pretty critical of the war — they came out a month ago and said you’d have to recognize the progress. (They recognized) the performance of the (Iraq) Legislature passing their own budget picking up some load for the war. They noted tribal chiefs coming in, participating in the security of Iraq rather than with al-Qaeda.

You came up from Carlsbad this morning, and surely you saw the fuel prices on your way. Is there a short-term solution, or are we in for a struggle?
It will be a tough solution for the next few years, because we made bad decisions in the past, we’re making bad decisions now. Prices are based on petroleum and oil, and we’re limiting our capability to drill in this nation. Not only are we causing the prices to go up, we’re causing ourselves to import more. At some point, the Democratic majority is going to have to deal with the fact we’re limiting our supply on petroleum.

Can we lower demand?
We’re a long way away from significantly affecting demand. People talk about conservation, but the bill we signed in December … will only limit the capability to buy certain cars instead of seeing technological advances. We’re mandating things that are technically not possible. We’re going to cause deep distress in our auto manufacturers. We’re going to decrease demand for the pickups and SUVs. That’s going to hurt New Mexico; 58 percent of our vehicles are pickup trucks.
Our policies may be well-intended, but they’re not going to be effective.

How much are automakers to blame, since they chose to focus on low-mileage vehicles that would create high fuel demands?

They focus on what people buy. I don’t think what we’re after is a state-controlled economy. If the price of gas goes too high, they’ll stop driving those (low-mileage vehicles). That’s what the market solutions are all about. I’m not sure that’s the America we want. We don’t want to ruin the environment, but we also want these choices made available.

Moving to health care, are there any particular health care plans you support?
What I don’t support is socialized medicine. What I would support is anything that would draw young people back into health insurance. When we talk about health care, it’s important to divide it into two different discussions — health care and health insurance. With health insurance, it’s important to get more young people in because they make health insurance work. They’re opting out because of the cost.
Back when we gave tax incentives, I suggested one of the incentives we could give … would be a tax break for (younger citizens) buying health insurance. That makes insurance more affordable for all segments of the society.
As Americans, we’re going to have to choose healthy lifestyles. We need to collectively lose weight, stop so much consumption of tobacco and alcohol. Choices are a big part of it, litigation is a big part of it — we need to stop the frivolous lawsuits. We need to catch things before they become catastrophic.

When Sen. Domenici announced his retirement, there was a lot of interest in his seat, with Tom Udall running on the Democratic side and Wilson running against you for the Republican nomination. Why is the Senate so attractive?
The Senate has far more capacity. There are 100 Senators. New Mexico has equal strength. In the House, we’ve got three votes. Texas has more than 30, California has more than 50. We simply get lost in the shuffle.

Clovis had a Republican forum a few weeks ago. Neither you nor Wilson were there, but a representative for her campaign said she was the common-sense conservative who can win in November. Would you like to take a chance to respond?
The polls are showing exactly the opposite. When we started this race, Tom Udall was up about 20 points on both of us. In one national poll, we’re down 14 and Wilson’s still down 20. We believe our campaign is well on track to do what we thought — win the primary and win the general. We’re campaigning on exactly who we are and what we vote for, and that’s what we think resonates.

— Compiled by CNJ Staff Writer Kevin Wilson. This interview was edited for clarity and length.