Members of the Boy Scouts participate in the opening ceremony of the 29th Leadership Roswell Alumni Association candidate forum. (Julia Bergman Photo)
Some are vying to retain their current positions, others are hoping to outseat their competitors in hopes of providing new perspective, but no matter the objective, 12 Republican hopefuls seeking six contested area positions in the upcoming primary were present at the 29th Leadership Roswell Alumni Association candidate forum Monday evening. There are no contested Democratic primary races in this area.
The primary election will take place June 5. The LRAA plans to conduct a forum in the fall for the general election, which will include statewide positions.
The LRAA has now asked questions of 320 candidates seeking 155 positions. Candidates running for the same positions were asked the same questions, which they were unaware of ahead of time.
Some questions prompted contentious answers. Incumbent District Attorney Janetta Hicks and attorney Janet Ellis, who are competing for the position of district attorney in the 5th Judicial District, shared differing views on the current relationship between the DA’s office and law enforcement.
“The relationship between the law enforcement and the District Attorney’s office has improved dramatically since I’ve been district attorney. It’s not perfect, but it’s better,” Hicks said. “One of the things we’ve worked on (together) is the offender watch program … We partnered with all the sheriff’s in the county and we created this database. It’s the first district-wide sex offender notification database in the nation.”
Describing the relationship as practically non-existent, Ellis said, “One of the things we can do to improve the relationship … is to remove the law enforcement officers as prosecutors. … They are being asked to go into a courtroom and act as an attorney, something they have not been trained well for. … They even had a court case against the DA’s office because the DA was having them prosecute misdemeanors. The law enforcement officers lost the case but the DA lost the respect of law enforcement.”
The longest question in the history of the forum was asked of Reps. Dennis Kintigh and Bob Wooley. Due to a House redistricting plan, Wooley and Kintigh, who currently represents District 57, were lumped into District 66, currently represented by Wooley. The question asked the representatives their stance on a recent legislative effort to change rules regulating how much corporate income tax the state collects from businesses operating in multiple states. Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed this proposed change.
Both representatives indicated they were opposed to the measure. “The legislative Finance Committee and the Tax and Revenue Committee have both come forward and said the data does not support the contentions of those who support it. … We are a state that is unfriendly to businesses in so many ways. Let’s (not) make it harder. Let’s be reasonable about our taxation, be reasonable about our regulation and let’s be reasonable about our litigation,” Kintigh said. “It puts our current businesses in New Mexico at an unfair advantage. There’s many corporations that are out of state that do business here that don’t pay near the taxes that our current businesses in our state do,” Wooley said. “We need to work to change our tax structure, not only for that reason but to help our current businesses in our state also.”
Robert Corn, a retired magistrate judge, and Mike Kakuska, assistant superintendent for the Roswell Independent School District, who are running for the only contested County Commission seat, District 4, addressed a reoccurring county problem, the maintenance of its roads, and whether it should take on more roads.
“We have to take a look at budget restraints … Absolutely we need to maintain roads, there’s no questions about that. Adding roads at this time, I haven’t seen any reason to necessarily do that. The amount of monies it has to taken to repair roads has escalated, especially with the price of oil and so we need to look at … chip seal and other ways to get that work done on our roads,” Kakuska said.
“The road department is the second largest item in the county budget … We have lots of commercial traffic out in the county … I think we need to put more money into those roads that are handling the traffic by heavy equipment and heavy trucks,” Corn said. “There’s a lot of different avenues and we just need to take those revenues and try to do the best we can.”
Other candidates present included City Clerk Dave Kunko and Bureau of Elections Chief Stephanie De Los Santos Amaro, who are seeking the position of county clerk; Judges Lisa Riley and Les Williams, who are running for the position of 5th Judicial District Court judge, Division 9; and Fire Chief Chad Hamill and Roswell farmer Cliff Pirtle, both seeking the state Senate District 32 seat currently represented by Senate President Pro Tem Tim Jennings, D-Roswell.
The forum will be rebroadcast for Cable One customers on Channel 75 on May 21, May 28 and June 2 at 6 p.m.