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A candidate for U.S. Senate was one of the key speakers at the Global Climate Strike in Farmington. Hannah Grover, hgrover@daily-times.com

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FARMINGTON — Maggie Toulouse Oliver acknowledges that her campaign for the Democratic Party nomination for U.S. Senate is not going to be the easiest political race. She is running against the current assistant speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, and New Mexico has never elected a woman to the U.S. Senate.

However, the 43-year-old Bernalillo County resident hopes her progressive message will appeal to voters. Over the course of four election cycles, Toulouse Oliver has built a platform of support across New Mexico that she hopes to build on this year.

“Right now the energy in the Democratic Party is coming from the progressive wing of the party, it’s coming from young people who are hugely concerned about climate change and gun safety and it’s coming from women,” she said. “Our goal in the campaign is harnessing that energy going into the primary in June and hopefully harnessing it to the effect of winning the primary.”

While she may not have the same name recognition as her opponent, the assistant speaker in the U.S. House of Representatives Ben Ray Luján, she is not a stranger to New Mexico politics. Toulouse Oliver is in her second term as the New Mexico Secretary of State and has about a dozen years of experience as an elected official.

As Secretary of State, she has worked to improve access to the ballot box, including forming a Native American voting task force to address barriers that keep Native Americans who live on reservations throughout the state from voting.

Toulouse Oliver said she was looking forward to having a campaign cycle that she wouldn’t have to campaign in when U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-NM, announced he would not be seeking reelection.

“When Sen. Udall announced his retirement, I felt called to run for the office,” she said while visiting Farmington on Sept. 20.

She said she has a lot of frustrations with the lack of action in Washington, D.C., but that was only one reason she felt compelled to run.

“I think it’s really important to have more women in leadership positions in Washington, particularly in the Senate,” Toulouse Oliver said. “And we’ve never elected a women before from New Mexico to the Senate and I felt like it was time to make a strong case for that.”

The winner of the Democratic Party primary election in June will face the winner of the Republican nomination. Currently, Mick Rich and Gavin Clarkson have both entered the race for the Republican nomination. 

Toulouse Oliver supports the Green New Deal

She said she supports the Green New Deal, which she describes as a vision statement for where the country wants to go.

“My vision is that we can take communities like Farmington that is so critical in fossil fuel energy production and transition them to being at the forefront of a clean, green energy economy,” Toulouse Oliver said.

She said people shouldn’t have to worry about their jobs if the country transitions to renewable energy.

In addition, she said carbon capture technology should immediately be installed on coal-fired power plants.

“These things should not be mutually exclusive and none of these things are going to happen overnight, so we’re going to have to continue to produce coal-fired electricity in at least the short term,” she said. “And while we’re doing that we should absolutely do everything we can to capture the emissions.”

Immigration was one of the topics that led her to run for Senate

One of the factors that drove her to jump into the race was the migrant crisis at the border. She said there needs to be a humane approach to handling the migrant crisis. While Toulouse Oliver does not support open borders, she said she supports handling cases of undocumented immigration in civil court rather than criminal court.

“Congress has really neglected its duty to craft common sense immigration policy,” she said.

Toulouse Oliver said she would work to craft legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for people who were brought into the United States as children as well as reforming the current asylum system.

Toulouse Oliver supports gun laws

She said she also supports gun control laws like universal background checks and red flag laws. People who followed the recent laws passed by the state Legislature about guns may recognize her name from those stories. A group of sheriffs who drove the Second Amendment Sanctuary County movement earlier this year petitioned Toulouse Oliver to have the laws placed on the ballot for election.

Toulouse Oliver said the state constitution does not allow laws that impact public health or safety to be placed on a ballot following a petition process. She said after consulting with her legal staff she determined the laws were related to public safety and could not be placed on the ballot. While her decision has been challenged, Toulouse Oliver said she is confident the courts will uphold her ruling.

Campaign paid for billboards protesting Trump visit

She has also been critical of President Donald Trump. Toulouse Oliver’s campaign paid for billboards along his motorcade route when he visited Rio Rancho that included #FueraTrump, which translates as “get out Trump.”

Toulouse Oliver said she supports impeaching the president. She said her reason for supporting impeachment is because of the Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report released earlier this year, which she said she has read.

While she said there was no collusion with Russia, she said section two of the report outlines obstruction of justice.

“It is incumbent upon the Congress to investigate those through an impeachment process,” she said. “And for the House to decide whether or not those violations amount to an impeachment trial in the Senate.”

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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