Lieutenant governor candidates display few differences

CNJ staff photo: Kevin Wilson Kent Cravens, left, answers a question while Brian Moore, center, and John Sanchez look on during Thursday’s Republican lieutenant governor forum at the Master’s Center. About 70 people attended the hour-long forum.

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

The three lieutenant governor candidates who visited Clovis Thursday had little differentiation from each other on most audience questions at the High Plains Patriots forum.

Most of all, the three Republican candidates all carried the same message — if you want conservative government, elect one of us and some Republicans in other elected offices to help us.

“We understand what it is to be in the minority,” said John Sanchez, who entered the same freshman New Mexico Legislature class 10 years ago as forum participants Brian Moore and Kent Cravens. “Sometimes, playing defense isn’t good enough. I don’t want to keep saying no, I want to say yes.”

Audience questions at the Master’s Center were met with similar answers throughout the evening, whether it was on:

• The Railrunner, the commuter train from Belen to Santa Fe.

“Biggest boondoggle in New Mexico’s history,” said Cravens, a 10-year state senator. “We paid a fortune for something that nobody wants, and we’re required to maintain it.”

Moore called the train a budget killer at the expense of needed highway improvements and Sanchez said the train is mostly used as a train for Albuquerque residents who travel to Santa Fe for state government jobs.

“Do you elect people who believe in a bigger government,” Sanchez said, “or do you elect people who believe in less government?”

• Suing the federal government on the recent health care bill.

Cravens said the situation he saw in the Legislature illustrated the need for a Republican majority. A bill to sue the federal government, he said, was shelved in the rules committee until the final week and voted down 6-3 after a seven-minute hearing.

Moore said he hopes Republican Matt Chandler can win the election, or that the state can hire a special prosecutor because current Attorney General Gary King won’t join in a lawsuit.

The candidates all took time targeting current Lt. Gov. and presumptive Democratic gubernatorial nominee Diane Denish. Moore said some of her latest ads made him want to welcome her to the Republican Party.

“There’s no way she can win the election if she rides (Gov. Richardson’s) coattails,” Sanchez said. “We’re going to hold Diane Denish and the liberals accountable for everything that has happened.”

The candidates differed somewhat on their abortion views and their primary reason for running.

Moore and Cravens pointed to their pro-life record, but said families should have some decisions and are in favor of exceptions for rape, incest and danger to the life of the mother.

Sanchez said he doesn’t believe in exceptions, because the unborn child is the one who is punished.

Cravens said he got interested in running because he wants to focus on increasing private-sector jobs. He likened New Mexico to a horse race, where “the jockey is heavier than the horse.” Moore said he wanted to change regulations for dairies and oil companies, and Sanchez said he wanted to get the Republican party out of minority status.

High Plains Patriots President Kim Runyan said there will be an attempt to set up a forum for both party’s representatives following Tuesday’s primary election. Five candidates are vying for the Democratic nomination — Joe Campos, Linda Lopez, Gerald Ortiz Y Pino, Lawrence Rael and Brian Colon.

In a straw poll taken following the forum, Sanchez claimed 23 of the 57 votes cast, 40.3 percent. Moore followed with 19 votes (33.3 percent) and Cravens with 15 votes (26.3 percent).