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FARMINGTON — The candidates for the state House District 2 seat believe they have ideas to improve the New Mexico economy and benefit San Juan County residents.

Incumbent James Strickler, R-Farmington, is aiming to win his sixth term and faces Kenneth Robinson, D-Farmington, on the ballot in the Nov. 8 general election. The district serves south Farmington, Bloomfield and Crouch Mesa. The men ran unopposed in the June 7 primary election.

Strickler was elected to the seat in the 2006 general election and is currently finishing his fifth two-year term. He is the chairman of the House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee and is a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.

This is the first campaign for Robinson, who spent nearly 30 years as a firefighter for the Farmington Fire Department. After retiring, Robinson worked part time for the Farmington Public Library as a security adviser for approximately 13 years. He said he decided to run for the House seat because he is tired of partisan politics and believes he can represent the people well and bring new ideas into the position.

Strickler is the owner of the Farmington-based oil and gas company JMJ Land and Minerals Co.

During separate interviews Thursday, Strickler and Robinson both supported efforts to diversify the economy of San Juan County and the state.

They would also like to see a railroad constructed from Farmington to Gallup in order to help transport goods from the region, including coal and Navajo Agricultural Products Industry products. The rail could also lower the costs of goods sold in the county, including gasoline, Strickler said.

On the topic of taxes, Strickler and Robinson have differing opinions on possible tax increases and reform.

Describing himself as a “tax-and-spend Democrat,” Robinson believes some taxes, including the gross receipts tax on food that was repealed in 2004, could be reinstated.

“The government doesn’t run on bake sales. It doesn’t run on car washes,” Robinson said. “Government runs on taxes.”

Reinstating some taxes could lead to increases in funding for education, he said.

Strickler said he’s continuing to pursue gross receipts tax reform that was proposed by state Rep. Tom Taylor, R-Farmington. He believes simplifying the tax code could bring additional businesses into the state.

Part of the proposed GRT reform plan includes eliminating many exemptions, credits and deductions for the GRT and lowering the base rate to about 2 to 3 percent, he said. The current GRT rate is 7.625 percent for Farmington, according to the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department website.

“We really need to reform the gross receipts tax,” Strickler said. “It affects manufacturing, and it does hurt businesses from forming in New Mexico.”

An important topic for Robinson is increasing support for tourism as part of diversifying the economy. He cited the “Jolt Your Journey” campaign from the Farmington Convention & Visitors Bureau as a local effort that could use additional support.

Strickler feels the U.S Environmental Protection Agency and the Bureau of Land Management have been putting a lot of regulatory pressure on the oil and gas industry, and the power plants in San Juan County.

“The rules and (regulations) are fine. (The EPA and BLM) are just making it worse,” Strickler said.

Both candidates also spoke about the endorsement Strickler received from the Right to Life Committee of New Mexico.

Addressing the endorsement, Strickler said he is anti-abortion and believes unborn children should be protected. Adopted when he was 18 months old, Strickler said every child deserves a chance at life.

Robinson said he is pro-choice, but not pro-abortion rights. He added a politician has no business standing between a women’s health decision and her doctor.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.

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