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Steve Pearce says there are four things the next governor will need to address. Wochit

GOP candidate promises to try to find buyers for station

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FARMINGTON — Republican gubernatorial candidate U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce says if he is elected he will do everything he can to prevent the San Juan Generating Station and other coal-fired power plants in the Four Corners area from closing.

Pearce made the commitment to keeping the power plant open during a meeting with local leaders and industry officials Thursday evening at the San Juan College School of Energy.

The generating station is primarily owned by the Public Service Company of New Mexico, which has announced plans to shutter the power plant in 2022.

MORE: Republican governor candidate Steve Pearce outlines four focal points

Those plans have local leaders worried about the economic impact of closing the plant, including the loss of jobs and tax revenue.

After the meeting, Pearce said he would work to find potential buyers for the coal-fired power plants.

Pearce says his background has prepared him to be governor

Pearce, a 70-year-old U.S. congressman, said the race for governor between him and Democratic candidate U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham is about who can and will create the economic conditions that will allow New Mexico to flourish and create jobs.

Lujan Grisham has a background in law and has served as director of New Mexico's Agency on Aging.

While Pearce did not discuss how his background differs from Lujan Grisham's background, he said current Gov. Susana Martinez had a background as a prosecutor, and that drove a lot of her decisions as governor. He said his background in business means he would be more focused on economics. Martinez, who also is a Republican, cannot run for re-election because of term limits.

Pearce said his background gives him the ability to improve the economy. He said building a refinery near Grants could spur economic growth. Pearce said he also would like to see New Mexico produce copper and technology like artificial intelligence to help both in the medical field and the oil fields.

MORE: GOP candidate touts partnership with Pearce in Farmington stop

Pearce received a bachelor's degree in economics from New Mexico State University and an MBA from Eastern New Mexico University. He also served in the Vietnam War after being drafted.

“I won the draft lottery ... I think it’s the only lottery I’m going to win,” Pearce said. “I got flying lessons and a free trip to Vietnam. So when we dispatch our young people across the world, I understand what we’re asking.”

He was elected to the New Mexico House of Representatives in 1996 and was elected to U.S. House of Representatives in 2002.

Pearce’s decision to run for governor left his position as a congressman open. Pearce is the lone Republican in New Mexico’s congressional delegation, and the Democratic Party is hoping to capitalize on the lack of an incumbent in the southern New Mexico race.

Water attorney Xochitl Torres Small, the Democratic Party candidate, is challenging state Rep. Yvette Herrell, R-Alamogordo, for Pearce’s seat.

While Pearce recognizes his decision could cost the Republican Party its sole New Mexico representative, he said he saw the need for his leadership in the governor's office.

MORE: Pearce considers jump from Congress to run for governor

“Everyone is looking for answers, and I’m the one with the right background,” he said.

He said he has lived a life that has prepared him to lead the state back to prosperity.

Pearce said he will have a greater opportunity to make a difference as governor. He said he is one of 435 congressmen in Washington, but, as governor, he would be one of 50 state chief executives. He said he would have “tremendous ability to get things done.”

Pearce talks about education

During the question-and-answer portion of the meeting, Pearce addressed his plans for education.

“We require our teachers to do everything but teach,” Pearce said.

He said teachers are expected to be pastors, priests, behavioral counselors, parents and truant officers.

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“They get downgraded on their evaluations when we put kids into the classrooms who should be with a specialist out there, and we blame the teachers, but they didn’t sign up to do it,” he said.

Pearce said the teacher evaluation system needs to be re-evaluated with more teacher input.

“They have almost no voice in the evaluation system,” he said.

Pearce was one of the congressmen who was at the Republican congressional baseball practice in June 2017 when a gunman opened fire on the Republican elected officials.

When asked by The Daily Times about recent efforts by some Second Amendment supporters to allow teachers to carry a firearm on campus, Pearce said he is nervous about allowing teachers with concealed-carry permits to have weapons at schools.

“Using weapons around people is really different than open carry,” he said.

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In 2013, Christoval ISD adopted a guardian program to arm teachers and administrators on the campuses. Yfat Yossifor / San Angelo Standard-Times

He said the teachers do not have the training to use the guns to defend their classrooms. Instead, he supports having retired law enforcement officials serve as school security officers.

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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