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FARMINGTON — In light of the downturn in the oil and gas industry, the candidates for the state Senate District 1 seat have proposed ideas they say will help improve the local economy and create jobs.

Incumbent William "Bill" Sharer, R-Farmington, faces Rebecca Morgan, D-Farmington, on the ballot in the Nov. 8 general election. If she wins, Morgan will be following in the footsteps of her father, who served 16 years as the state senator representing the district.

Sharer has served as the state senator for the district since 2000. He has a background in the U.S. Army, serving as an infantry officer. He later opened a gourmet popcorn shop in Colorado. In 1996, he bought the Credit Bureau of Farmington, which he still owns.

Morgan describes herself as a servant at heart. She is a United Church of Christ pastor and opened the Namaste House in 2008, an assisted-living facility in Farmington.

Sharer said the race is not really about him versus Morgan, but about Republican versus Democrat.

"Democrats have been in control of New Mexico for a very long time," he said.

He said the Democratic control of the state Senate is one reason the state "is broken."

"It is time to change," he said. "It's time to vote for more Republicans. We do that very well in San Juan County."

During separate interviews on Thursday, both Morgan and Sharer identified the struggling economy, especially the energy industry, as one of the biggest issues facing the district.

Sharer said he believes there are too many environmental regulations on the energy industry. He said the regulations have destroyed jobs in San Juan County.

"Pollution exists because life exists," Sharer said.

He said carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere by people and animals breathing.

Morgan also voiced support for the energy industry.

"The reality is we like to step into our houses and flip on the switch, and the lights come on," she said.

Morgan said the state should consider a sliding-scale tax system that would be adjusted when production of oil and natural gas is up or down. She said permitting also needs to be streamlined, and the state should look at providing incentives for businesses that use technologies that make extracting oil and natural gas cleaner.

Morgan and Sharer support the construction of a railroad to transport goods out of San Juan County. In addition to a railroad, Morgan said it is time to consider building a natural gas pipeline to Mexico along Interstate 25.

When it comes to taxes, Sharer touts his 2 percent solution as a way to diversify the economy. He said businesses do not want to locate in New Mexico because of complicated taxes. Sharer has proposed a 2 percent across-the-board gross receipts tax throughout New Mexico.

Morgan called Sharer's tax plan shortsighted.

She said the tax code needs to be reformed a little at a time. She quoted her father saying, "You eat an elephant one bite at a time."

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

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