Candidates square off at San Juan College forum

Hannah Grover

FARMINGTON — Six New Mexico Legislature candidates spoke about issues facing San Juan County today during the Leadership San Juan candidate forum at San Juan College.

State Rep. Sharon Clahchischilliage, R-Kirtland, answers a question Thursday during a Leadership San Juan forum at San Juan College in Farmington.

Leadership San Juan presented the forum to give voters a chance to become more educated about the candidates and their positions leading up to the Nov. 8 general election. Early voting starts Saturday throughout the county, and there already has been some early voting at the county offices.

The candidates who attended included District 2 state Rep. James Strickler, R-Farmington, and his opponent Ken Robinson; District 1 state Sen. William "Bill" Sharer, R-Farmington, and his opponent Rebecca Morgan; and District 4 state Rep. Sharon Clahchischilliage, R-Kirtland, and her opponent GloJean Todacheene.

All six candidates voiced support for the energy industry, the construction of a railroad, diversification of the economy, tax reform and changes in the education system.

The candidates said the local school districts should have more input in how students are educated.

"Farmington Municipal Schools should answer to Farmington, nobody else," Sharer said.

Clahchischilliage and Todacheene disagreed on testing. Todacheene said teachers should focus on teaching and should not be evaluated based on test results.

State Senate District 1 challenger Rebecca Morgan, right, speaks Thursday during a political forum at San Juan College in Farmington.

"Testing has to be done," Clahchischilliage said. "We have to evaluate our teachers sensibly."

Robinson said teachers need better salaries, and Morgan advocated for more early childhood education. Strickler said there needs to be more intervention to ensure children are able to read by the time they are in the third grade.

At the end of the forum, the candidates got the chance to ask their opponent one question. The questions ranged from Clahchischilliage asking Todacheene about her facing charges of misusing discretionary funds as a Navajo Nation Council delegate to Sharer asking Morgan why she is running as a Democrat rather than a Republican.

"I was charged, but I wasn't convicted," Todacheene said and denied involvement in the discretionary funds abuse.

Morgan told Sharer she shared the fiscally conservative values of the Republican Party but found the party did not support her socially progressive thoughts.

State Rep. District 2 challenger Kenneth Robinson, left, answers a question posed by his opponent,  State Rep. District 2 James Strickler, R-Farmington, Thursday during a political forum hosted by Leadership San Juan at San Juan College in Farmington.

When Morgan asked Sharer which bill he sponsored was most meaningful to him, Sharer said he views his position as shepherding legislation. The bill he said he is most proud of is a failed bill to ban late-term abortion.

He said his job is to protect natural rights "including your natural rights to be born."

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.