Michael Hendricks seeking Republican nomination

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FARMINGTON — An Albuquerque immigration attorney has announced plans to challenge incumbent state Attorney General Hector Balderas during the 2018 election.

Political newcomer Michael Hendricks initially planned on running for the open 1st Congressional District seat. The Republican candidate switched his focus to the attorney general position about three weeks ago. 

He said his change from Congress to the attorney general's job was prompted by a desire to make a more immediate impact on the state of New Mexico. Hendricks said he learned it would take years for him to get assigned to a committee in Congress that would allow him to make a difference for New Mexico.

During an interview today at The Daily Times, Hendricks said, if elected, he will focus on anti-corruption, anti-crime and pro-business measures.

Hendricks has a conservative philosophy influenced by former President Ronald Reagan. During the interview, Hendricks quoted Reagan saying, "Government is not the answer. Many times, it's a problem."

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Hendricks believes the Attorney General's Office has become partisan under Balderas. He said Balderas has been stepping into national politics for name recognition and has supported regulations that hurt business, particularly oil and gas, in New Mexico.

A Balderas spokeswoman disputed that characterization.

"While Mr. Hendricks has never prosecuted a criminal or recovered any money for the taxpayers from bad actors, Attorney General Balderas continues to keep New Mexico’s most violent offenders behind bars, prosecute child rapists and corrupt politicians, and secure tens of millions of dollars for the taxpayers," said Caroline Buerkle, the campaign spokeswoman for Balderas, in an email.

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She highlighted an $18.5 million settlement announced Monday with Presbyterian Health that Balderas worked to achieve. Buerkle also highlighted a corruption trial against former state Sen. Phil Griego, D-San Jose, that Balderas began today. 

"Attorney General Balderas is focused on protecting New Mexico’s children, families and small businesses," Buerkle said.

Hendricks said his foray into politics was spurred by watching his four children play outside. When his toddler was "toppled over" by one of the older children, the 1-year-old girl turned to him for help.

He turned the child's play into an analogy for people in New Mexico.

"We play in a world larger than our own," Hendricks said.

He said many people look to the government when they need help, but "government is not the 'daddy' in this situation." Hendricks said the government should stay out and let the community and businesses step up to help people.

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Hendricks also weighed in on local issues, including the Ten Commandments monument in Bloomfield. Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court declined a petition from the city to hear its appeal of a lower-court decision ordering that the monument be removed from the lawn in front of City Hall.

Hendricks, who is the son of Baptist missionaries, said he supports the city's position regarding the Ten Commandments monument.

"This is a country that does not have a religion," he said.

He said if Bloomfield had displayed the monument as a symbol of morals that dictate governance in the city, it would have been unconstitutional. However, Hendricks said the Ten Commandments monument is displayed to highlight its role in the foundation of the country.

Hendricks also opposes a new step in the state's pretrial detention and release process that was enacted after the approval of a constitutional amendment voted on last year. The change allows judges to detain without bond defendants who are considered dangerous to the public and grant pretrial release to defendants who are deemed to pose no risk to the community or no flight risk. Hendricks described the change as a revolving door that returns criminals on the streets.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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