Congressional candidates vow to fight overreach

Two Republicans will compete in the primary to determine who will face Democratic incumbent Ben Ray Luján for the 3rd Congressional District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives

Brett Berntsen
bberntsen@daily-times.com
2016 New Mexico primary elections
  • The Republican candidates vying to represent the 3rd Congressional District are political newcomers.
  • Michael Romero, 55, says the biggest issue facing the area is a lack of economic opportunities.
  • Michael Lucero, 39, testified before Congress in 2014 against the Endangered Species Act..
  • Both men have similar stances on Obamacare and immigration but differ on their support of Trump.

Editor's note: The Daily Times is publishing stories over the span of three days that profile candidates running for local and state offices. We will focus only on contested races. Primary elections for New Mexico Republicans and Democrats will take place on June 7. Early voting ends June 4. Go to sjcclerk.net for a list of polling locations and hours. The winners of the primaries will compete in the general election on Nov. 8.

FARMINGTON — The two Republican candidates competing to represent northern New Mexico in the U.S. House of Representatives both vow to return federal lands to the state and promote natural resource development.

Michael Romero, a retired police officer from Vadito, is running against Jemez Pueblo rancher Michael Lucero in the race for New Mexico's 3rd Congressional District.

The winner will face Democratic incumbent Ben Ray Luján in the general election on Nov. 8.

Both men are new to the political stage and pride themselves on not being establishment candidates.

Originally from the Taos area, Romero, 55, worked as a miner before spending most of his career as a police officer in Nevada. After returning to his home state to retire, he said he decided to run for office out of a desire to continue serving the public.

Romero said the biggest issue facing the region is a lack of economic opportunities.

"I had to go work in Nevada because I couldn’t find a good enough job here," he said.

Michael Romero

Romero said federal overreach has kept New Mexico from fully developing its natural resources. If elected, Romero said he will work to return federal lands to the state and promote the fossil fuel industry.

"Solar and wind are definitely not the answer," he said. "And I don’t think they ever will be."

Lucero, 39, is also a critic of federal land-use policies. In 2014, he traveled to Washington, D.C., to testify before Congress against the Endangered Species Act, which he said was about to fence off land his family had used for generations to graze cattle. Lucero said the episode prompted the Republican Party to ask him to run for office this year.

"I don't want to look back 20 years from now and think that I had a chance to fix something but didn’t," he said.

Lucero said the state can do a much better job of managing its land than the federal government.

Lucero, who is president of the Jemez Valley Public Schools Board of Education, said revenue from resource extraction should be used to fund education programs and benefit local communities.

Michael Lucero

In addition to advocating for smaller government, both candidates share similar stances on health care and immigration.

Both Lucero and Romero called the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, a disaster, and said they support a free-market driven system.

They also said the country needs to secure its borders, but they don't see building a wall at the border as the best option.

Romero said he supports Donald Trump as the Republican candidate for president.

Lucero, however, said he’s less than impressed.

"I don’t know who I’m going to vote for as president right now," Lucero said. "It’s just turned into a circus."

No matter who wins, both of the candidates said they hope to provide a more people-oriented candidate during the general election.

Brett Berntsen covers government for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4606.