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Candidates for Congress address McKinley County issues

The McKinley County Democratic Party hosted the 2019 Democratic Congressional forum at the Gallup-McKinley County Schools board room Nov. 14. The public was invited to hear congressional candidates’ positions on the issues.

In attendance were candidates Teresa Leger Fernandez, Santa Fe District Attorney Marco Serna, Kyle Tisdel, Valerie Plame, Laura Montoya, Joseph Louis Sanchez. Each candidate is hoping to win the seat in Congress. Also present were Mary Ann Armijo, Democratic chairman, and current Senator George Munoz, D-Gallup. The walls displayed rally posters.  The boardroom was filled with community members.

After welcoming statements by Armijo, candidates were asked questions from the audience. Each candidate had one minute to state their answer.

“What do you feel is adequate health care and how affordable can it be?”

Sanchez said everyone should have access to universal health care, especially those in the rural areas of New Mexico.

“Let’s work on getting everybody universal health care, that they can have access,” he said. “One thing here in rural New Mexico, the majority of this district is rural New Mexico. It’s not only having clinics available, but it’s also having transportation for people who can get to those in rural areas.”

He went on to say, what good is quality health care if you can’t even see the doctor.

“That’s something that we really have to focus on in Congress and I will focus on that pretty well in Congress. Not only in the big cities, but also rural areas’ access to that quality affordable health care. Thank you.”

“What are your views on the 2nd Amendment?”

Tisdel adamantly expressed his views concerning background checks regarding the Second Amendment, as well as other safety measures. He spoke on expanding waiting periods and closing loopholes and having common sense measures to address the gun violence epidemic that has hit our nation recently. Members of the audience grew silent as heads were nodding at what Tisdel had to say.

“Mass gun violence has increased dramatically as soon as the assault ban went away,” he said. “We also need to add universal background checks and waiting periods that are expanded. As well as closing loopholes in the waiting period, to make sure people who are not married in which they call it the “boyfriend loophole,” where people that are suffering from domestic violence are able to get a weapon.”

Tisdel drew applause as he talked about addressing gun violence, while still protecting people’s rights to have firearms in their homes for hunting and home safety.

Muñoz then led into the one subject that hit home with the Native American audience, Impact Aid. Impact Aid is intended to fund the education of all New Mexico children providing comparable resources no matter where they live. Muñoz stated the current New Mexico funding has been found to be incorrect and out of balance and it makes a difference in rural and Native communities.

“If you travel to a school in Albuquerque and look at their football and soccer fields, and then you go to our football and soccer fields, we don’t even have doors on the bathroom stalls.”

Muñoz then asked the candidates if they would support more equitable Impact Aid in New Mexico. The statement also drew loud applause.

“Yes, I would, Senator” said Plame. “Absolutely, it’s a question that is appalling. As you pointed out, the funding program is off kilter, as is our capital outlay system, as well. It starts with education.”

All the candidates were fully on board with Impact Aid, and this pleased the audience. Several candidates spoke on what they were doing to help with funding for Native American students, such as working with different pueblos. This discussion led into the talk of domestic violence, drug use, and working with tribal communities on sensitive issues such as missing Indigenous women.

Muñoz closed his comments by saying, “be a token as you go for what you are fighting for.”

After closing statements were made, the candidates made their way around shaking hands while elaborating more on the issues discussed.

By Dee Velasco
For the Sun