Candidates sound off in House District 3 forum
Incumbent Paul Bandy faces challenger MP Schildmeyer
AZTEC — The two candidates for House District 3 have very different positions on issues facing San Juan County.
Incumbent Rep. Paul Bandy, R-Aztec, and Democratic challenger Mary “MP” Schildmeyer, who lives in the Bloomfield area, met for a candidate forum Tuesday night at the Aztec Senior-Community Center.
The forum came two weeks before the Nov. 6 election. The winner of the election will represent northeast San Juan County, including most of Aztec and Bloomfield.
Bandy touts support for the constitution, rule of law
Bandy, a local rancher, was elected to the position in 2006. He said he has worked to protect the state’s permanent fund, improve election access for local elections and to spend taxpayer money wisely.
“You have to take an oath to be a member of the Legislature to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution and laws of New Mexico,” he said. “And I think that’s very important. ... Most nations have similar ethnicities. They have a history of being together. The United States, all that’s required to be a citizen and to participate is to support the Constitution. And as a result, we have the rule of law, and the rule of law is very important, and that’s probably why we have 5,000 people marching up from Honduras, because we have the rule of law. It makes our nation prosper and makes our freedoms secure.”
He said he has also worked to protect jobs in the energy industry and property rights for property owners whose land is bisected by the San Juan River.
Schildmeyer highlights her activist background
Schildmeyer is an activist who currently serves as chairwoman of the San Juan County Democratic Party.
Schildmeyer said her background in activism began in 1963 during the Jim Crow era when she was a high school sophomore in Atlanta and sat at the black lunch counter in a restaurant.
“Brown versus the Board of Education had integrated schools, but it hadn’t integrated much else,” she said. “And so I became grounded in that cause, and I worked up until this day for various causes. I’ve been arrested for disability rights demonstrations. I laid down in front of a nuclear bomb plant in Aiken, South Carolina, and was arrested for civil disobedience. So that leads me to say that when I’m elected as your representative, I think you know that I’m ready to work for you, and I will lay down myself, my life, my body to demonstrate to get what’s right for District 3 of San Juan County.”
Question: Do you think schools should be given ABC grades? Is that helpful to student achievement?
“It does give parents some kind of guideline of how good their school is,” Bandy said. “Sometimes I wonder how accurate those grades are.”
He added that school boards need to have more power in decision making for their schools.
“As we all know, New Mexico schools are the worst in the country,” Schildmeyer said. “That’s disgraceful. I can only believe that part of that has to do with this grading system. And it’s not that giving a grade per se is bad. But the way that that grade is achieved really needs to be improved if you’re going to maintain that system.”
Question: What legislative opportunities are you most excited about in the upcoming session?
Schildmeyer highlighted several areas she would like to work on in the upcoming legislative session:
- Education: “We need to go back to the technical vocational school programs that we had, and I’d like to see some legislation around that,” she said. She also voiced support for expanding access to early childhood education and increasing funding for schools.
- Water: “I don’t know if you know, 60 percent of the surface water in the state of New Mexico passes through San Juan County on its way to the rest of the state,” Schildmeyer said. “What an opportunity that is. We can have some sort of agency, we can create jobs with that to work on preserving this water.”
- Industrial hemp: “We’re allowed to do kind of test plots or study plots under the law. I would like to see it expanded to include industrial hemp so it can be a real crop, a sales crop.”
- Irrigation ditches: Schildmeyer said she would like to have solar panels installed over irrigation ditches to provide electricity for farmers to run pumps and to reduce the rate of evaporation. “So we’re saving water, we’re getting free power and that’s what I want to see,” she said. “If it needs legislation, that’s what I want to work on.”
Bandy spoke about finances and the state’s budget, including:
- Establishing a "rainy day" fund: “With all this money from oil and gas coming in, we need to be more thoughtful, we need to put more of it away.” He said that money could be used when the budget is tight.
- Oppose increased spending out of the permanent fund: Bandy said if the state spends more of the permanent fund than it is currently doing, it risks depleting the fund. The fund was set up when New Mexico became a state, and it supports education and other state programs. The funds in the permanent fund come from royalties from oil and gas extraction on state land.
Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at email@example.com.