Editor's Note: This is the final article on a recent candidate forum.
The forum was held Thursday, Oct. 18, at Western New Mexico University. It was the last in the series of eight forums hosted by the Grant County Democratic Party, and planned by WNMU students of the MEChA and Criminal Justice clubs.
The two candidates for District 38 New Mexico Representative are incumbent Dianne Hamilton and challenger Terry Fortenberry.
Frances Gonzales read a statement from Hamilton apologizing for being unable to attend, as when she received word of the forum she had already committed to another campaign event.
In the statement, Hamilton asked voters to look for House Bill 235, which she presented during the 2012 regular legislative session. It provides for voter identification without the need for a photo ID. She said it would provide for voting integrity.
She also introduced House Bill 101 to provide veteran PTSD virtual reality treatment, which has shown an 80 percent cure rate.
Hamilton also wants more resources for education, and she applauds teachers.
In her statement, she said in 1998, she pledged to never vote for a tax increase, and "I have never voted for a tax increase," she wrote.
Hamilton supports small business. She tried to protect her constituents from overzealous legislators, who present too many bills in a session for anyone to be able to consider.
She invited anyone wanting to ask her a question to post it to her Facebook page or send her a message, and she will answer it.
Fortenberry thanked Hamilton for her 14 years of service, but then attacked her record, pointing out that she serves on the Education Committee. He said the issue is education is directly tied to quality of life. "There is no question New Mexico Schools could be better, but she has been there 14 years and never moved a bill to a House vote."
He also said Super PACs promoting Hamilton have attacked his stands on issues.
Fortenberry was a three-term mayor of Silver City and spent 26 years in the Silver City Police Department. He had a question for Hamilton: "Do you really believe I don't want children to read?"
Fortenberry does not agree with the retention of students who cannot read by third grade. He said the issue puts teachers on the front line.
"Are school prepared to financially and with staffing retain third graders, as second graders move up?" Fortenberry asked. "That's why professionals are opposed, because there is no quick fix."
He proposed a legislative-funded intensive program to teach parent the importance of reading with the children every day.
"I want to stop the partisan fighting," Fortenberry said, "and introduce compromise."
An audience member, who said he was going into early childhood education, asked why there is unbalanced compensation, with those in his field receiving lower pay.
Fortenberry proposed funding for education be pulled from the "Rainy Day Fund." "We are drowning. Children are our future."
The following speakers were candidates for New Mexico District 39 representative—incumbent Rodolpho "Rudy" Martinez and his opponent John Zimmerman.
Martinez thanked the students, as well as the WNMU faculty and President Joseph Shepard, for making sure voters were educated on the issues.
"My experience in the Legislature allows me to continue reaching across the aisle," Martinez said, "not only to better southern New Mexico, but the whole state."
He was born and raised in Grant County. He is a nationally accredited journeyman electrician. Martinez served in the military. He promoted his union credentials, including that he joined Union 890 when employed at Chino Mines. "I joined the Electricians Union and still belong. I became shop steward and treasurer for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers."
Martinez spent eight years on Bayard City Council and eight years as Bayard mayor. He, for 10 years, served as the district director of the New Mexico Municipal League. He was chairman of the Grant County Commission.
As a legislator since 2007, he supports water issues for a healthy environment, and wants to make New Mexico a leader in green energy.
"I believe in transparency, and I support veterans' bills," Martinez said. "I believe the veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are under-served. I also want to provide means to improve education."
Zimmerman asked veterans to hold up their hands, and then he thanked them for their service. "There is no greater privilege than to serve your country."
The issues he prioritizes are the economy and job creation. "There are a number of ways to increase jobs. In New Mexico we have a corporate tax structure that is unfavorable compared to the neighboring states. I will work to make us competitive."
On the issue of social promotion of students who cannot read by third grade, he said the education system has failed them, "but it is wrong to pass them on. Our universities are ranked low nationally, because we have to provide so many remedial courses to those entering college."
Zimmerman called the drivers' license law a "mockery." He says voter identification is important.
He then gave some of his background. "My father died when I was two years old. When I was nine years old, I was helping the family by selling newspapers. I joined the Navy to get an education and stayed in for 42 years, getting out as a commander. I spent 33 years at White Sands, with a mining engineering degree."
He said he wants jobs locally for his son and wife, who is an engineer, and his grandchildren. "I will defend, protect and preserve our natural resources. My priorities are God, family and country."
An audience member asked what the candidates' stands were on Fort Bayard.
Martinez said he fully supports preserving Fort Bayard, but it comes down to dollars. He has met with Property Control, and an assessment of the property is planned. A master plan was developed by the county, and it states how best to use Fort Bayard. "These are items we have worked on, but we need a conclusion on what is feasible for economic development. It is a state and national historic site. We need to keep protecting it."
Zimmerman said he has talked to the Santa Clara mayor and wonders why locals cannot take over the responsibility for Fort Bayard. Federal and state issues have to be worked through. "I went to the Fort Bayard National Cemetery and discovered I have a relative buried there. That spurred more interest on my part. I am appalled at the state letting the facility deteriorate. As a state legislator, I will work to get local control of Fort Bayard."
Magdaleno Manzanares, WNMU political science professor, said it was not he who organized and planned the event, but students who have been very active in organizing the event "for all of us. I take great pride in having you here, recognizing Murray Ryan and exchanging views with the candidates. This is the last of eight forums leading to the election. After Election Day, we want World War II veterans to share their thoughts with us."