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Candidates crank up the differences

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By Carol A. Clark

First time exuberance measured against tempered experience kept audience members on the edge of their seats during Tuesday’s political forum.
“I’m glad you can see the difference here tonight between us – my opponent offers no solutions,” said Republican challenger Tom Mullins about Congressional District 3 incumbent Democrat Ben Ray Luján, who has served one two-year term in Washington.
Mullins is an engineer, small businessman and entrepreneur from Farmington.
“I’ve never run for office before but I think we’re at a critical juncture in our history,” Mullins said.
The League of Women Voter’s of Los Alamos and the American Association of University Women cosponsored Tuesday’s forum in which candidates fielded questions from the audience virtually along party lines.
Luján spoke in support of keeping the education department intact – Mullins calls for dismantling it.
“We’ve had a federal department of education for 40 years — what has it gotten us?” Mullins said. “I believe in you more than I believe in the federal government.”
Luján said for too long the focus in America has not been on the middle class.
“We’ve seen it for far too long – Wall Street greed, the difficulty for so many of our young people to afford college…the struggles of our veterans…,” Luján said.
Luján said one-third of the government recovery funds have gone to create jobs including those created through national laboratory clean-up initiatives.
Mullins said the federal government cannot create jobs – small and large businesses will create more jobs when they feel confidence the economy has stabilized.
Mullins called for more responsible environmental policies saying as an engineer, he understands the implications of poor policies that drive corporations out of this state and this country. Luján said congress has made gains in closing some of the corporate loopholes.
An audience member asked for a solution to the problems facing social security.
“We have to listen to our seniors, there are some dangerous ideas that have been put out there to privatize social security and our seniors across the nation made it clear they opposed that idea,” Luján said.
Mullins said congress must be honest with the American people.
“Social security was not set up as an ‘only retirement system,’” he said. Unfortunately there are folks who have social security as their only retirement and we need to honor them because they’ve worked all their lives and paid into the system but, we’ve got to be honest with our younger generation that there may not be the same level of benefit when they retire.”
Mullins opposed the Disclose Act that amends the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to prohibit foreign influence in federal elections, prohibit government contractors from making expenditures with respect to such elections and to establish additional disclosure requirements with respect to spending in such elections.
“I do not support it – it needs to be overhauled,” he said. Luján spoke in support of the act saying, “It’s important to know where the money is coming from.”
Luján also spoke in support of President Obama’s Healthcare Bill while Mullins said he would vote to repeal it. “I believe it does not help healthcare…it builds bigger government,” he said.
With regard to renewable energy, Mullins said, “The only thing renewable about renewable energy is your tax dollars going to energy companies.” Luján said, “As a nation, we need to accelerate what we’re doing with renewable energy.”
Should our spent fuels go to Yucca Mountain?
“We have to solve our problem with spent fuels…other nations like France have far outpaced us…we can solve this problem but we need to support R&D,” Luján said.
Mullins supports storing nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain.
“We can reuse 98.5 percent of our nuclear fuel waste…we have to do something with the other 1.5 percent… nuclear fuel waste really is a renewable energy – the president is wrong on this,” he said.
On Medicare, Mullins said we cannot over promise and under deliver in the future. Luján said there are commitments that were made to people all across America and “we must honor our commitments to seniors and to our veterans.”
Candidates running in contested races for House District 43 and Magistrate Court judge as well as unopposed candidates Alan Kirk, seeking reelection as Municipal Court judge and JoAnn Johnson running for a second term as county assessor also participated in Tuesday’s forum.
Coverage of the House District 43 candidates will be featured in Thursday’s edition of the Los Alamos Monitor.  The Magistrate Court judge race candidates as well as the unopposed candidates at the forum will be featured in Friday’s paper.