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Chavez: Not knowing is the worst

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By Katy Korkos

In a game of political chairs, only one person will be seated in the Senate chair currently filled by Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., when the music stops after next year’s election. Party primaries will take place in June, and between now and then, Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez would like to convince Democrats that he brings better qualifications to the job of U.S. senator than Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., who currently leads in polling statewide.Chavez visited Los Alamos on the campaign trail Monday, where he spent the day talking to employees of Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and “gauging the mood of people in the wake of last week’s announcement” by lab director Michael Anastasio that 500-750 jobs would be cut.“The mood runs from anger, to fear, to resignation, but what I’m really hearing people say is, ‘Let’s get it over with.’ The most difficult thing is not knowing,” Chavez said. Chavez said he also visited Rio Arriba County last week, as impact from job cuts at the lab will be felt there as well.Chavez praised Domenici’s success in supporting both LANL and Sandia National labs, and for his dedication to the people of New Mexico. “One of the great things about Sen. Domenici is that he’s been a great friend of local government. If I’m elected, I look forward to working closely with city governments, county councils and mayors, trying to meet their needs.”Chavez is trying to put some distance between himself and front-runner for the democratic nomination, Udall. “Udall has the dubious distinction of being our only congressman to have voted against the labs,” Chavez said. “He said he would fight for the labs.” “ I have a number of areas of strong disagreement with Udall,” Chavez said. “The number one reason is that he wants to change the purpose of the lab, to address climate change.” Chavez said that rather than change the mission of LANL away from stockpile stewardship, nuclear safety and nuclear power, he would like to see all of the national laboratories commit to climate change research as part of their larger mission.All three of New Mexico’s congressional representatives have announced that they will run for the Senate. “New Mexico will field the weakest delegation in its history to Washington next term,” Chavez said, referring to the fact that three freshman congressmen and one freshman senator will represent the state after the election. He added that Udall had promised not to vacate his congressional seat to run for Senate so that his seniority would be maintained, and had gone back on that promise. “One of the things I bring to the table is that I’ve worked in all of the different aspects of government,” Chavez said. “I’ve practiced law; I helped establish the state’s workers compensation agency; I served in the state senate for five years. I’ve been mayor of the state’s largest city for 10 years.”Chavez has already formulated positions on several national issues, and ranks the war in Iraq and health care reform first and second among the ones he would like to change if elected.“I’m very much opposed to the war in Iraq,” Chavez said. “As senator I would work to take our troops out of Iraq, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the troops would come home. The folks that attacked us have yet to be brought to justice. We have to find Al-Qaeda and anyone that sympathizes with them and root them out.”Chavez said he would vote to repeal the “No Child Left Behind” act of 2001, although he agrees with the principles behind it. “The federal government should look out for the competitiveness of our kids,” he said, “but they can’t micromanage schools from Washington, especially without funding. We should take the good aspects (of the act) one at a time and fund them.”