Local candidates take part in forum

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

They spoke in favor of bridges, against domestic partnerships and cleared the air about potential conflicts of interest.

County and state candidates in the Nov. 4 general election filled the airwaves of KTQM at Tuesday’s political forum, held at the KTQM studio.

The forum, which ran approximately 2 hours, 15 minutes, will also air on KFCL-TV at 10 a.m., noon and 7 p.m. today.

Two items all candidates seemed to agree on were fixing the Hull Street Overpass and resisting legislation granting domestic partnerships to same-sex couples.

• Sen. Clint Harden and Rep. Anna Crook, both Clovis Republicans, said their records were clear in recognizing marriage as only between a man and a woman.

Democrat Craig Cosner, running for the Representative 67 seat left vacant by Brian K. Moore’s retirement, said he had to balance non-discriminatory treatment with his belief of marriage being between a man and a woman.

His opponent, Dennis Roch, and Crook’s opponent, Mario Trujillo, said domestic partnerships were masks for gay marriage and they would vote against it. Republican Matt Rush, running against Democrat Joe Campos in District 63, said gay marriage and domestic partnerships are inseparable and he would also vote against it.

Campos spoke alone on a question about the Hull Street Overpass, closed since late August. He said workers were coming to look at the pillars and decide if the structure needs fixing or replacing

Whatever is done, he said, it’s imperative to get money from the Legislature.

“This is a very important street, not just for citizens, but for emergency needs,” he said.

• More spoke regarding the Curry County Events Center. A viewer asked how the center would be funded with $2 million left in construction and $500,000 annually needed to run it.

County Commission District 4 candidate Wendell Bostwick had disagreements with the numbers, but said landing the New Mexico High School Rodeo Finals proves good, family entertainment can be procured.

Charles “Benny” Adams and Dan Stoddard, running for District 1, and District 5 candidates Caleb Chandler and Paul Barnes said voters should decide whether alcohol should be sold at the center.

• Coni Jo Lyman, running for her second stint as county clerk, was asked if her candidacy compromised her position as county elections manager. She said numerous election chairs run for other positions without ethical problems.

“I have chosen to step back,” she said. “Will I be counting ballots? Absolutely not.”

• Chandler, the father of District Attorney Matt Chandler and brother-in-law of County Sheriff Matt Murray, was asked if those connections could conflict him.

He said every person who serves could come to a conflict of interest, and that’s why there’s an option to abstain from voting. He said he would abstain from any issues on the sheriff’s department budget, and the state Legislature has oversight over the district attorney’s office.

• His opponent, Paul Barnes, said he had no relatives working in the county. He didn’t consider tsubdevelopment regulations would be a conflict for him.

• Rush and Roch addressed their connections to education. Roch said schools are underfunded by 15 percent, and it wasn’t “kitchen table economics” to buy a spaceport when schools aren’t funded. Rush said unfunded mandates from Santa Fe and Washington were a problem, and “the amount of paperwork is ridiculous and overwhelming.

• Rush, Bostwick and Campos spoke in favor of the proposed Melrose Health Clinic because it would be helpful to senior citizens who couldn’t drive to Clovis for minor checkups.

• Crook spoke in favor of the second-chance center for rehabilitation of inmates. She said a finding that only 1 of 13 inmates had succeeded in the program was bad information, and said rehabilitation was important to save the county money on jail costs long-term.

Trujillo said the county commission declined to pursue a contract with the Albuquerque-based program, and signed paperwork had not been returned.

Harden said regardless of how the county felt, it was a program that had support in the state Legislature.

• A question few addressed was, “Have you ever been arrested?”

Two candidates, Chandler and Adams, said no, and everybody else said the same without addressing it. Forum moderator Grant McGee admitted he had, because, “me and my buddy Catfish were in the wrong place at the wrong time” and the charges were eventually dismissed.

Here’s what they had to say:

Senate District 7

Jeff Carr — The Democrat, who lives in Eagles Nest, delivered a statement by phone but did not otherwise participate.

“I have always felt a keen obligation to my country by serving as a judge and being the best teacher I can,” Carr said.

Carr said he felt an obligation to preserve the culture of agriculture, particularly the dairy industry.

Clint Harden — The incumbent Republican felt the quality of life for the district included responsible healthcare, a new state education funding formula and better roads and bridges.

He related his campaign to a time he called an electrician to handle a problem at one of his businesses. The electrician only flipped a breaker switch, but sent Harden a bill for $50. When Harden asked about the high bill, the electrician said, “I charged you for knowing which breaker switch to throw.

“After 14 years, I’ve made relationships with elected and appointed officials that will benefit Senate District 7.”

State Representative, District 63

Joe Campos — The incumbent Democrat said the last six years have been a success for the area, and credits local legislators for creating opportunities and a new vision for the area.

He specifically cited making sure every child has healthcare and a renewable energy transmission work to create wind energy plants — 4,000 in total, with a new job created per 10 turbines.

“It’s jobs, it’s jobs, it’s jobs,” Campos said. “If we don’t create jobs in eastern New Mexico, we’ll disappear.”

Matt Rush — The Roosevelt County farmer and rancher said the keys to serving citizens, in his mind, were strengthening communities and defending families. He said keeping taxes low would help in each regard.

“We got kicked in the teeth with gas prices, and I don’t know how some of your 401ks have done,” said Rush, a Republican. “We need some relief out here.”

State Representative, District 64

Anna Crook — The incumbent Republican has been a Clovis resident since 1958, and has enjoyed serving the citizens since 1995.

She mentioned high ratings received from the Association of Communities and Industries, Right to Life and the National Rifle Association.

“I feel like it’s been a (great) experience,” Crook said, “and I feel like I’ve served my community well.”

Mario Trujillo — The Democrat is the outgoing Curry County clerk, and he said he wants to continue serving the community without serving narrow partisanship.

Accountability and reward will be my mainstay,” Trujillo said.

State Representative, District 67

Craig Cosner — The Tucumcari Democrat is a former president for the Eastern New Mexico University Board of Regents and was an appointee to the first New Mexico Finance Authority.

He said when he decided to run, he wanted to talk about four keys — education, healthcare, fiscal responsibility and economic development. He said his past in banking will help during tough economic times.

Dennis Roch — The assistant superintendent at Tucumcari schools is a former Texico teacher and ENMU graduate.

“The biggest deal in the election this year has to be values,” Roch said. “We’ve had recessions and depressions and boons, but values are what guide us through.”

He said he is firmly pro-life, opposed to gay marriage and a defender of gun and property rights.

Curry County Commission District 1

Charles “Benny” Adams — The Democrat said working for 34 years in high-tech industry gave him necessary experience.

“I have a history of analyzing facts, developing plans and achieving results,” he said. “I have the time, I have the commitment, I have the passion, I have the skills.”

Dan Stoddard — As a volunteer for many Clovis functions, including the most recent music festival, the assisted living center owner and Republican said there is a need to “be ready ahead of the influx of new personnel” to Cannon Air Force Base.

He spoke of equipping law enforcement departments, cleaning up the entrances to the city and solid operation of the upcoming Curry County Events Center.

Curry County Commission District 4

Wendell Bostwick — The farmer and rancher said his time and experience, along with a time investment to study the current issues of the commission, will help him make an easy adjustment to serve citizens.

“Once you put all the issues on the table, the decisions get easier,” Bostwick said. “Most of that comes from being able to communicate.”

Bostwick, a Democrat, was concerned needs of the county would soon outweigh the revenues, and hinted it may be time to “tighten the belt.”

Seth Martin — Martin, a Republican farmer and small business owner, did not attend the candidate forum.

Curry County Commission District 5

Paul Barnes — The farmer and rancher said the last few months have shown that an important issue will be fiscal responsibility of the government.