Augusta Liddic/The Daily TimesDemocrat Matt Dodson is running for New Mexico Senate District 1.
Augusta Liddic/The Daily Times Democrat Matt Dodson is running for New Mexico Senate District 1.
FARMINGTON — State Sen. Bill Sharer, R-Farmington, believes the wealthy are unfairly vilified in politics, while his challenger, Democrat Matt Dodson, argues that taxpayers at the top of the income ladder should pay more to support public programs.

The candidates for New Mexico Senate District 1, which encompasses much of Farmington, expressed starkly different philosophies to take to the Roundhouse.

Sharer, 53, was first elected to the New Mexico Senate in 2000 and is seeking a third four-year term.

"There seems to be a mindset in Santa Fe that we need to punish people who have found a way to be successful," said Sharer. "As opposed to beating up the rich, why don't we figure out how to double the number of rich?"

Dodson, 48, is challenging the incumbent on a platform of expanding government services and taxing the wealthy.

"When you stop taxing the corporations and the rich then you no longer have the money for education, for rebuilding the roads, for health services, for infrastructure," Dodson said.

Dodson, a University of Nebraska graduate with a bachelor's degree in history, moved to Farmington more than 20 years ago to enjoy outdoor pursuits and work in the oil and gas industry. He served in the U.S. Air Force from 1982-86, stationed mainly in Germany.

Dodson owns rental properties and interests in oil and gas wells and leases. His wife, Maria, works at San Juan College.

Dodson grew frustrated with politics during the George W. Bush administration, and decided to do something about it by running for Senate. He supports publicly funded elections, expanding Medicare to provide universal health care coverage and abortion rights.

Dodson may face an uphill battle against the incumbent in Senate District 1, home to more than 13,000 registered Republicans and about 7,000 Democrats. The staunchly conservative district encompasses downtown Farmington.

"With registered voters, I'm in a tough district," Dodson said. "But if everybody voted, it would be a different country federal, state and local."

Dodson said he supports same-day registration in future elections.

To win, Dodson would likely have to attract substantial support from registered Republican voters. He asked them to look beyond the social issues that sometimes dominate campaigns.

"They need to get over the push-button issues and figure out who is going to truly represent them," he said.

Dodson drew sharp differences with Sharer. "He was tea party before it was cool to be tea party."

Sharer, a well-known incumbent with deep Farmington roots, said he is much more in tune with his constituents than Dodson.

"My values are more San Juan County-ish than his," Sharer said. "There's absolutely no doubt about that."

The candidates have not met and appear unlikely to debate before the Nov. 6 election.

For Sharer, serving in the Senate is a way to be part of the conversation. "There are some fights that I seem to be the only one willing to fight," he said.

Sharer said he works well with Democrats on the Corporations and Transportation Committee. However, Sharer is not interested in being a prolific lawmaker. He prefers to protect business interests from new regulations and taxation.

"I'm not interested in passing bills, frankly," he said. "That's not, to me, important. More laws are not important. In fact we probably have too many as it is. The main thing is I can bring sanity to the conversation and I can explain how small business works."

New Mexico must do more to provide a good environment for business, Sharer said.

"What we need is we need a tax and regulatory system that encourages small business people to invest in New Mexico," he said. "What we currently have is a tax and regulation system that drives small business out of New Mexico. More business means more jobs, more business means more taxes collected. Jobs beget jobs and they also beget taxes, and that's good for everybody all up and down the food chain."

Sharer owns and operates CBF Services, a Farmington business founded in 1948 and formerly owned by his father. The business collects debts, sells credit reports and teaches financial literacy.

Sharer is married to Beth, and they have two adult children. Their son, Sean, works at CBF Services, and their daughter, Amanda Yates, lives in Washington state.

The Senate candidates have a wide fundraising gap. State records show Sharer had raised $37,426 and spent $13,290 by Oct. 2. Dodson had raised $3,810 and spent $2,816 as of Oct. 8.

Dodson has not received any funding from the state Democratic Party. He called the matter a "touchy question."

Dodson said he is not accepting contributions from corporate interests. "I'm taking no money from the corporations so I won't owe them anything," he said.