Gov­er­nor can­di­dates: Where they di­verge

Many key is­sues go with­out dis­cus­sion as pair fo­cuses on fa­mil­iar lines of at­tack

The Taos News - - ELECTION 2018 - By Tripp Stel­nicki tstel­nicki@sfnewmex­i­can.com

In the clos­ing weeks of a com­pet­i­tive race, Michelle Lu­jan Gr­isham and Steve Pearce will shout it till they’re hoarse: My op­po­nent would be a dread­ful gov­er­nor, and here’s why.

Much of the back-and-forth of the in­creas­ingly com­bat­ive gu­ber­na­to­rial cam­paign has cen­tered on the per­sonal, par­tic­u­larly on eth­i­cal ques­tions each has sought to raise.

Pearce has taken swipes at Lu­jan Gr­isham’s ties to for­mer Gov. Bill Richard­son and her for­mer own­er­ship stake in Delta Con­sult­ing, a firm that helped man­age the state’s high-risk in­surance pool; Lu­jan Gr­isham has re­sponded by ques­tion­ing Pearce’s fi­nan­cial deal­ings in the oil and gas in­dus­try, where he made his for­tune, and ac­cus­ing his cam­paign of en­dors­ing sex­ist com­ments from the state Repub­li­can Party.

The neg­a­tiv­ity ex­pressed by both camps as they seek to bury the other in the fi­nal stretch has ar­guably mud­dled the di­vid­ing lines be­tween them.

“It does run the risk of cloud­ing the can­di­dates ex­plor­ing the de­tails of their pol­icy stances,” said Al­bu­querque poll­ster Brian San­deroff.

The third and fi­nal tele­vised de­bate last week be­tween U.S. Rep. Lu­jan Gr­isham, the Demo­crat, and U.S. Rep. Pearce, the Repub­li­can, amounted to a sharp-el­bowed clash that of­ten de­volved into now-fa­mil­iar lines of at­tack.

With those at­tacks tak­ing up much of the talk, some in­flam­ma­tory sub­ject ar­eas where the can­di­dates dif­fer have hardly come up.

Dur­ing the most re­cent de­bate, for in­stance, the is­sue of gun con­trol ap­peared in a brief back-and-forth, stem­ming from a ques­tion on school safety. The topic dis­ap­peared al­most as quickly as it had sur­faced.

That’s not to say guns don’t mat­ter here. Lu­jan Gr­isham has a plan to get tough on lax gun pro­tec­tions, and the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion has en­thu­si­as­ti­cally en­dorsed Pearce, warn­ing Lu­jan Gr­isham would be “the most anti-gun gov­er­nor in the his­tory of New Mex­ico.”

Is­sues, such as abor­tion, have played lit­tle role at all in the cam­paign, de­spite the urg­ing of the abor­tion rights ad­vo­cacy group NARAL Pro-Choice Amer­ica, which pleaded with news­cast­ers to ask an abor­tion-spe­cific ques­tion at one of the three tele­vised de­bates – to no avail.

Pearce has been a staunch anti-abor­tion ad­vo­cate in Congress while Lu­jan Gr­isham touts the en­dorse­ment of Planned Par­ent­hood and has pushed for re­pro­duc­tive free­dom.

Seek­ing to set aside the lat­estage cam­paign an­i­mus, The

New Mex­i­can has plucked cer­tain ar­eas where the two gu­ber­na­to­rial hope­fuls whole­heart­edly dif­fer.

There are more than 10, and the sam­ple cho­sen does not re­flect the state’s most press­ing con­cerns, but rather gen­uine sep­a­ra­tions in phi­los­o­phy and ap­proach that would guide how ei­ther would gov­ern.

“For a voter who isn’t go­ing to vote on the ba­sis of par­ti­san­ship, that might be the kind of thing that is im­por­tant,” said Tim Krebs, chair­man of the Univer­sity of New Mex­ico’s po­lit­i­cal science de­part­ment. “It can be so con­crete. They may be say­ing, ‘Well, I don’t trust ei­ther of th­ese can­di­dates on per­sonal things be­cause I can’t dis­tin­guish what’s true from false in the tele­vi­sion ads I see. But if I knew more about their po­si­tion on a con­crete is­sue, on the min­i­mum wage, that might help me de­cide.’ “

San­deroff con­firmed the two can­di­dates’ dis­tinct po­si­tions on many is­sues. “They clearly do have dif­fer­ences,” San­deroff said. “It also comes back to their back­grounds. Steve Pearce is up there speak­ing as a con­ser­va­tive busi­ness­man, and that side of him in­flu­ences his de­ci­sion-mak­ing on mar­i­juana, the bud­get sur­plus, min­i­mum wage. She feels more com­fort­able com­ing from a lib­eral, so­cial-ser­vices side, tak­ing the risk and spend­ing the money on more teach­ers, health care, so­cial work­ers even if it builds the bud­get base.”

Cut through the jun­gle of tele­vi­sion ad­ver­tise­ments and fly­ers, and a voter might find Lu­jan Gr­isham and Pearce ac­tu­ally agree on the heart of the mat­ter. Both ar­gue the state needs a bet­ter ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem, a broader econ­omy, an an­swer to per­sis­tent crime and child abuse.

Within those sub­jects, Lu­jan Gr­isham and Pearce dis­agree to vary­ing de­grees, and cer­tainly so on the path for­ward. Both have tacked to the cen­ter in some ways, un­sur­pris­ing for a gen­eral elec­tion, with Pearce seek­ing to shed his con­ser­va­tive cul­ture-war­rior rep­u­ta­tion and Lu­jan Gr­isham shrug­ging off some of the more pop­u­lar left­wing ideas of the mo­ment.

But on mat­ters like the min­i­mum wage, le­gal­ized recre­ational mar­i­juana and what to do about a $1.2 bil­lion-plus sur­plus – not to men­tion is­sues like hu­man-caused global warm­ing – the can­di­dates are in­deed some­thing ap­proach­ing po­lar op­po­sites, and New Mex­ico vot­ers have a choice Tues­day (Nov. 6).

WHERE THEY SPLIT 1. Min­i­mum wage

Lu­jan Gr­isham: Has promised an “im­me­di­ate” min­i­mum wage in­crease to $10. She said her ad­min­is­tra­tion would hike the wage to $12 in four years and there­after in­dex the rate to in­fla­tion. Cur­rently, the statewide min­i­mum wage is $7.50, among the low­est in the coun­try. “It’s ad­ding to the loss of our young peo­ple,” she said in Septem­ber. “I know what it takes as a sin­gle mom to raise a fam­ily. If you don’t have a sus­tain­able wage, you can’t make the dif­fer­ence you need for your fam­ily.”

Pearce: Has said he is op­posed to any in­crease in the min­i­mum wage. Small busi­nesses, like the oil field ser­vices com­pany he founded, would be dev­as­tated, he has said. “Poverty used to be tran­si­tory in Amer­ica,” he said. “We’ve put the wage so high, peo­ple can’t get on the lad­der. We’ve made poverty static in this coun­try. It’s caused by th­ese in­tense govern­ment reg­u­la­tions.”

2. Cli­mate change

Lu­jan Gr­isham: Has af­firmed the well-es­tab­lished sci­en­tific con­sen­sus that hu­man ac­tiv­ity is caus­ing an in­crease in global tem­per­a­tures, ac­knowl­edg­ing that the ef­fects will harm New Mex­ico in the form of en­hanced drought. She vows to pro­gres­sively in­crease the state’s share of re­new­able en­ergy pro­duc­tion and im­ple­ment meth­ane mit­i­ga­tion rules. “Th­ese are philo­soph­i­cal, foun­da­tional at­ti­tudes a gov­er­nor should have,” she said. Lu­jan Gr­isham’s en­ergy plan would in­crease the state’s re­new­able en­ergy port­fo­lio stan­dard to 80 per­cent by 2040.

Pearce: Has in the past ex­pressed skep­ti­cism or out­right de­nial of cli­mate science. Last week, he said through a cam­paign spokesman that tem­per­a­tures are ris­ing “and hu­man ac­tiv­ity is likely con­tribut­ing to it. There are real ques­tions to the ex­tent and how much.” He has pro­posed a broader en­ergy ap­proach, in­clud­ing wind and so­lar pro­duc­tion. Pearce, his spokesman said, has “re­peat­edly taken steps and sup­ported poli­cies that would re­duce car­bon and pol­lu­tion,” though the con­gress­man did ap­plaud when Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump with­drew the U.S. from the Paris cli­mate ac­cord, say­ing the agree­ment would have been a bur­den on New Mex­ico fam­i­lies and in­dus­try.

3. The ex­pected bud­get sur­plus

Lu­jan Gr­isham: Has said the pro­jected $1.2 bil­lion-plus wind-

fall the state can ex­pect next year must be treated cau­tiously. She has said she will work with the Leg­is­la­ture in mak­ing in­fra­struc­ture ex­pen­di­tures, say­ing they are a sound in­vest­ment, but also has floated putting some of the new money to­ward restor­ing so­cial work­ers and the state’s pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem. “If you don’t put so­cial work­ers back in (the Chil­dren, Youth and Fam­i­lies De­part­ment), then you are not se­ri­ous about keep­ing our fam­i­lies and chil­dren safe,” she said last week.

Pearce: Has said the ex­pected sur­plus from the oil and gas sec­tor of the econ­omy should be pri­or­i­tized to­ward in­fra­struc­ture im­prove­ments statewide. Putting the sur­plus to­ward ex­pen­di­tures that would re­cur in bud­get cy­cles to come, he said, would rep­re­sent larger govern­ment, some­thing he does not want, though he has said the state can in­crease spend­ing in cer­tain ar­eas like ed­u­ca­tion. He has high­lighted broad­band in­ter­net, sewer, wa­ter and road­way im­prove­ments and ex­pan­sions as key ar­eas to fund from the sur­plus. “Those are the el­e­ments in which we will build our fu­ture econ­omy,” Pearce said.

4. The per­ma­nent fund

Lu­jan Gr­isham: Has pro­posed draw­ing more money from the state’s $17 bil­lion-plus Land Grant Per­ma­nent Fund to in­vest in early child­hood ed­u­ca­tion. Her pro­posal is more mod­est than what some Round­house ad­vo­cates have called for, but Lu­jan Gr­isham says her “con­ser­va­tive ap­proach” can get through the Leg­is­la­ture and get the ball rolling on an ed­u­ca­tion re­bound. The con­gress­woman also has pro­posed pulling from the nearly $5 bil­lion Sev­er­ance Tax Per­ma­nent Fund to in­vest in New Mex­ico busi­nesses.

Pearce: Has struck a con­ser­va­tive tone sur­round­ing the state en­dow­ment, call­ing pro­pos­als to pull from it “risky.” In Septem­ber, he said the state could “look at ex­pand­ing” its cur­rent early child­hood ed­u­ca­tion of­fer­ings once a “sus­tain­able” bud­get was in place. “I’m very cau­tious about spend­ing out of the fu­ture,” he said, ad­ding he would pre­fer to “broaden” the tax base and fund new pro­grams from there. Cam­paign man­ager Paul Smith in Septem­ber called Lu­jan Gr­isham’s planned “raid” on the per­ma­nent fund “dis­turb­ing.”

5. Guns

Lu­jan Gr­isham: Has pledged to pass a statewide ban on semi­au­to­matic weapons and high-ca­pac­ity mag­a­zines in ad­di­tion to strength­ened back­ground checks, re­stric­tions for those con­victed of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence and safe stor­age laws. “I don’t pro­pose vi­o­lat­ing the Sec­ond Amend­ment rights of any re­spon­si­ble gun owner in any con­text,” she said. “We have a con­sti­tu­tional right to be safe in our com­mu­ni­ties.” Still, the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion has claimed she “would be the most anti-gun gov­er­nor in the his­tory of New Mex­ico if elected,” pre­sum­ably a point in her fa­vor with NRA crit­ics.

Pearce: Is en­dorsed and A-rated by the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion. In the wake of the Park­land, Florida, school shoot­ing ear­lier this year, Pearce said he op­posed ban­ning semi­au­to­matic weapons, such as the AR-15 used in that mas­sacre, call­ing such a prospec­tive re­stric­tion in­ef­fec­tive. “Pearce be­lieves we have laws that are not be­ing en­forced,” his spokesman Kevin Sheri­dan said. “En­force them.” In a tele­vised de­bate last week, Pearce crit­i­cized Lu­jan Gr­isham’s pro­posed ban on so-called as­sault weapons. “I just don’t un­der­stand the idea of tak­ing guns away from peo­ple fol­low­ing the law,” he said. A Politico anal­y­sis last fall de­ter­mined Pearce, since 1990, had re­ceived the ninth-largest cu­mu­la­tive sum of do­na­tions from gun lob­by­ists of any mem­ber of Congress, at $129,250.

6. Med­i­caid work re­quire­ments

Lu­jan Gr­isham: Has said work re­quire­ments for Med­i­caid re­cip­i­ents are coun­ter­pro­duc­tive and would “di­min­ish the im­pact” of such an aid pro­gram. She added that a work re­quire­ment would make it more dif­fi­cult for the state to tackle its opi­oid ad­dic­tion epi­demic and would grow the bu­reau­cracy more than it would help train res­i­dents to work.

Pearce: Has promised to im­me­di­ately re­quire able-bod­ied Med­i­caid re­cip­i­ents to work as a con­di­tion of re­ceiv­ing ben­e­fits. Pearce, who grew up poor but later founded an oil field ser­vices com­pany and be­came wealthy, said the re­quire­ments would re­store the “dig­nity” of work.

7. Toll roads in the oil patch

Lu­jan Gr­isham: Has ex­pressed op­po­si­tion to the idea of tolling driv­ers on the in­creas­ingly dan­ger­ous roads in the state’s south­east­ern por­tion, where oil and gas pro­duc­tiv­ity and thus traf­fic has surged. “Hard­work­ing, av­er­age, mid­dle-class New Mex­i­cans would be asked to pay ... for use of those roads,” she said.

Pearce: Has said he will ask large oil pro­duc­ers to build new roads on which pro­duc­ers, not res­i­dents, will be taxed. “My op­po­nent makes fun of the toll road idea,” he said. “We will get money from Texas, and my op­po­nent will leave that money in Texas.”

8. Abor­tion

Lu­jan Gr­isham: Is an avowed sup­porter of abor­tion rights and has been en­dorsed by Planned Par­ent­hood, which noted that a Gov. Lu­jan Gr­isham would make pro­tec­tions for re­pro­duc­tive choice a “top pri­or­ity.” She has said she would sup­port leg­is­la­tion to re­peal the decades-old state law that makes abor­tion a felony. A spokesman said flatly she would not sup­port any leg­is­la­tion in­tended to limit ac­cess to women’s health care ser­vices.

Pearce: Has been a con­sis­tent anti-abor­tion ad­vo­cate, and his cam­paign has been en­dorsed by sev­eral anti-abor­tion or­ga­ni­za­tions. Like Lu­jan Gr­isham, the is­sue has not been cen­tral in his cam­paign. Asked by The

New Mex­i­can ear­lier this year whether a Pearce ad­min­is­tra­tion would sup­port abor­tion ac­cess re­stric­tions, Pearce said only that he “would be more en­gaged in a pub­lic di­a­logue.”

9. Le­gal­ized recre­ational mar­i­juana

Lu­jan Gr­isham: Spec­i­fy­ing that she will in­sist on a “bal­anced, re­spon­si­ble” ap­proach from the Leg­is­la­ture, in­clud­ing reg­u­la­tions for edi­ble prod­ucts and work­place in­tox­i­ca­tion, Lu­jan Gr­isham has said she will make New Mex­ico the 10th U.S. state to le­gal­ize recre­ational mar­i­juana and the sev­enth in the West, along­side Alaska, Cal­i­for­nia, Colorado, Ore­gon, Nevada and Wash­ing­ton.

Pearce: Has of­fered be­grudg­ing sup­port for the state’s Med­i­cal Cannabis Pro­gram but op­poses le­gal­iza­tion for recre­ational pur­poses, call­ing it a road­block for state res­i­dents al­ready strug­gling with drug ad­dic­tion and poverty. “I re­ally think we should look at some of the down­sides,” he said.

10. PARCC stan­dard­ized tests

Lu­jan Gr­isham: Has com­mit­ted to drop­ping the con­tro­ver­sial math and read­ing tests, say­ing she wants to be­gin de­vel­op­ing a tran­si­tion to an­other test­ing mech­a­nism that aligns with the fed­eral Ev­ery Stu­dent Suc­ceeds Act im­me­di­ately. “PARCC has driven our ed­u­ca­tors right out of the state,” she said in Septem­ber.

Pearce: Has been more cir­cum­spect about the tests, telling

The New Mex­i­can this fall he was hes­i­tant to scrap them be­cause he said stu­dents have grown ac­cus­tomed to them. He added he wants to ne­go­ti­ate a quicker turn­around for test re­sults.

Gabriela Cam­pos/New Mex­i­can file photo

Steve Pearce meets with film ex­ec­u­tives at Santa Fe Stu­dios Oct. 8.

Luis Sánchez Saturno/New Mex­i­can file photo

Gu­ber­na­to­rial can­di­date Michelle Lu­jan Gr­isham speaks with the staff of The New Mex­i­can on Oct. 8.

Gabriela Cam­pos/The New Mex­i­can

Steve Pearce and his wife Jes­sica walk to­gether in down­town Santa Fe fol­low­ing an in­ter­view on Oct. 8.

Luis Sánchez Saturno/The New Mex­i­can

Gu­ber­na­to­rial can­di­date Michelle Lu­jan Gr­isham talks to, from left, Bri­anna Gal­le­gos of Al­bu­querque, Doris Gal­le­gos of Las Ve­gas and Santa Fe County Com­mis­sioner Robert Anaya in Las Ve­gas last month.

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