While campaigning through southeastern New Mexico this past week, Democratic Congressional District 3 candidate, Ben R. Lujan, sat down with the Freedom New Mexico to answer some questions regarding his positions on some major political issues.
Lujan is seeking to win the Democratic primary in a congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Tom Udall. Currently, Lujan is a New Mexico Public Regulation Commissioner and represents 11 counties in Congressional District 3. He began his term on the PRC in January of 2005. He has served as the commission’s chairman and was re-elected to three consecutive terms as chair.
Prior to his work with the PRC, Lujan served as director of Administrative Services and chief financial officer for the New Mexico Cultural Affairs Department. He also served as deputy state treasurer.
Q What is your position regarding environmental issues and renewable resources?
A I’ve done a lot of work with the PRC with renewable energy, encouraging development and implemental standards. Utility companies are now required to generate more from renewable resources which corresponds with the federal policy. We’ve also signed on to address climate-change development policies and rules on global warming. With Quest Communications, they committed to invest $700 million in exploring renewable resources and we held them accountable. Through the PRC, we also ordered them to return $15 million to consumers for overcharges. It is important to stand up to special interest groups.
Q What will you do to address rising gasoline prices?
A We are dependent on foreign oil, but with gasoline costs approaching $4 a gallon, we have to look at the profit all the oil companies are making. There is a problem with that. We need to look at where all of the profit is from and from a regulatory standpoint, look at the costs at the pump.
We also need to look at developing other sources of fuel, such as grasses and wood. We need to put as many things as we can on the table to address our dependence on foreign oil and this includes conservation. I’m not advocating speed limit reductions, but if we could get people to slow down on their way and encourage conservation that would help.
Q What is your position on the war in Iraq?
A One problem is that we went in unilaterally. President Bush took us in alone and this needs to be done with a true international approach to solve global problems. We need to end the war in Iraq and bring back our troops.
While they are there, though, we need to make sure they have resources. When Bush took our men into Iraq, they didn’t have all the resources they needed. We need to make sure they have the resources they need until they get home safely.
Q What is your position on No Child Left Behind in education?
A Teachers need resources to support and teach kids to be great thinkers, not just show them how to take a test. We need to create a great learning environment. No Child Left Behind pushes tests and we need to have a philosophy that every child and every teacher matters. The federal government should advocate for a federal minimum wage for teachers of at least $40,000 a year.
Q Would you support a universal healthcare plan in this country?
A We need to reform healthcare and make it available for every American, so everyone gets the coverage they need. A lot of people have to make choices. No one should go without healthcare coverage. There is a problem when people are sick and are denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition. I know a man who was born with one. (U.S. Rep. John) Conyers (D-Mich.) has legislation so we can work with providers. What we need is affordable, quality, access to healthcare.
Q The cost of higher education keeps going up. What would you do to make higher education affordable for everyone?
A Any student who wants to go to college shouldn’t be denied because of money constraints. We need to work with institutions of higher learning to address costs. We also need to look into expanding federal loans at lower interest rates.
Q What should be done to address the economic recession we are in?
A We need to find ways to get around the Bush deficit spending. We had a surplus before he took office and now we are $9 trillion in the hole. FDR gave us a model for critical infrastructure. We need programs like that. We need to end the war in Iraq and eliminate subsidies with oil and gas companies who are making billions in profit and still getting subsidies. We need to reverse tax credits for the wealthy and apply these to the middle class.
Q What are your views on the military overall?
A When Cannon was facing possible closure, the community here worked hard to protect Cannon, and there is a lot to learn from that. The community truly came together. The rest of the state needs to learn from that.
Q What are your views concerning immigration?
A I don’t agree with building a fence. We need more manpower on the border and the best surveillance equipment. We need to make sure we fix problems on both sides. For example, many people are working through the process toward citizenship but when it takes eight to 10 years, we need to fix these inefficiencies.
Q Overall, why should people vote for you?
A Because of my record on renewable energy as well as endorsements I’ve received from labor organizations, firefighters, Communication Workers of America and more. I have experience working on energy, health insurance issues and experience standing up to corporations like Qwest. I will bring new ideas and voice, and a new way of thinking about what needs to be done at the Congressional level.
— Compiled by FNNM Staff Writer Helena Rodriguez