FARMINGTON — Two Republicans are vying to represent the people of District 1 in the New Mexico State House of Representatives.

Rod Montoya and Karen Bayless are going head-to-head in the June 3 primary for the Republican nomination. The winner of the primary will face Democrat Alfred Gordon Glass Jr. in the general election on Nov. 4.

Glass is running unopposed in the Democratic primary.

Both Republican candidates agree the proposed railhead from San Juan County to Interstate 40 would help grow the local economy and open doors for exporting local resources.

Rod Montoya
Rod Montoya (Courtesy of Rod Montoya)

"It will allow us to diversify our economy," Montoya said in a phone interview Wednesday, noting the railhead would enable cheaper transportation costs that would open the San Juan County area to manufacturing jobs and exporting of things like liquefied natural gas, Navajo Agriculture Products Industries products and coal.

Bayless said building the railhead would be part of her initiative to make New Mexico more business-friendly. The railhead would create manufacturing jobs, too, she said.

"We've got to make New Mexico pro-business," she said in a Wednesday phone interview.

Bayless and Montoya also agree the energy industry needs to be protected.

Bayless said not only is protecting jobs important, but the "pit rule" needs to be repealed.

The state rule requires companies to line waste pits and remove waste from well sites as part of a closed-loop system. The intent was to prevent oil and gas drilling mud waste from leaching into the groundwater. Since the rule was adopted in 2009, Bayless said it has added up to $150,000 in cost per well in the San Juan Basin.

"We have to go get that regulation taken off or energy (production) will never come back strongly," she said.

Montoya said he has worked in oil, gas and coal-related fields for 28 years and is a blue-collar worker who understands the importance of the jobs energy creates.

"We are an economy built on energy and we have to protect those jobs," Montoya said.

If elected, Bayless also said she would work to repeal the law that allows undocumented immigrants to obtain state driver's licenses.

"We need to repeal that state law and get them out of our voter system," she said.

Both of the Republican candidates have experience in politics at the state level. Bayless served for six years as a legislative assistant for state senators and representatives.

Montoya touts his chief of staff experience for Lt. Gov. John Sanchez as a notch above the other candidates seeking the same seat.

"We had to learn from scratch," he said, explaining he was part of the transition team for Sanchez.

He said that experience helped him understand the system at the state level and gain a perspective few people have, including working through two state legislative sessions.

"You don't get that kind of experience without doing that job," he said.

Bayless said her experience helped her understand which representatives and senators could lean toward and possibly support Republican initiatives.

She said she would like to start conversations with conservative Democrats and "pull them over to make good things happen for all of us."

Erny Zah is The Daily Times business editor. He can be reached at 505-564-4638.and ezah@daily-times.com. Follow him @ernyzah on Twitter.