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More than 100 community members turned out for the Republican candidates forum at Duane Smith Auditorium Thursday.
Statewide candidates as well as candidates for the 3rd Congressional District participated in the event sponsored by the Republican Party of Los Alamos and broadcast live on KRSN. The community radio station also streamed the two-hour program on its Web site.
Running for state auditor, Errol Chavez spoke first as the only unopposed candidate at the forum, moderated by former congressman Bill Redman.
Chavez told the audience he was born in Los Alamos 61 years ago.
“I am running for state auditor because I believe my law enforcement experience will help clean up the office,” said the 1971 UNM graduate.
Land Commissioner Bob Cornelius did not attend, giving his opponent Matt Rush an opportunity to grab the spotlight and come out ahead by 84 percent to 6 percent in the audience straw poll following the forum.
“The real reason I got in the race is because land commissioner is the only elected official on the state investment council and over the years we’ve seen that money squandered… it’s lost over $200 million… that’s a crime…,” Rush said.
Before getting in the race, Rush spent six weeks and traveled 1,000 miles across the state, he said, to assess whether the office was a good fit for him.
“This office fits my core values and my beliefs,” Rush said.
Both Third Congressional District candidates shared their visions for the office.
Adam Kokesh entered the U.S. Marine Corp. at 17 and said he felt proud when he took the oath to serve and protect his country.
He entered the race because, “It’s a slap in the face every time a member of congress takes that same oath and then votes in the contrary.”
Kokesh and opponent Tom Mullins singled out the economy and the state’s massive deficit as the most pressing issues of the day.
It’s “obscene” that the standard salary for members of congress is $174,000 – more than 3.5 times the income the average household is taking in, Kokesh said, adding that if elected, he will reject that high salary.
Touching on veteran’s issues, Mullins said, “Being a military brat, having a father working 22 years on veterans issues, we need to resolve travel issues for the many vets living in rural areas without access to transportation…”
If elected, Mullins intends to repeal the healthcare bill, saying while he supports the existing conditions clause in the bill he calls mandatory coverage for all citizens unconstitutional.
Mullins received 52 percent to Kokesh’s 39 percent in the audience straw poll.
Candidates running for lieutenant governor at Thursday’s forum included Sen. Kent Cravens, Rep. Brian Moore and former Rep. John Sanchez.
Describing the most important issue he thinks currently challenges the state, Cravens said, “Jobs, jobs, jobs.”
The other candidates had similar responses.
“As I travel the state the biggest concern by far is the economy,” Moore said.
Sanchez agreed and also addressed New Mexico’s longstanding climate of corruption.
“We must insure we provide absolute value to our taxpayers… we must clean house … we must eliminate waste, corruption and remove all political appointees,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez received 24 percent, Moore 30 percent and Cravens 33 percent of the straw poll vote.
Gubernatorial candidates Pete Domenici Jr and Doug Turner attended Thursday’s event.
“It’s time to clean up Santa Fe and it’s time to be a business friendly state,” Domenici Jr said of the issues he thinks must be addressed promptly. “We will not thrive until we make this state business friendly.”
Turner, who received 55 percent to Domenici Jr’s 42 percent on the audience’s straw poll, said the issue of corruption has certainly tainted the state. ‘In many states, we are a laughing stock…,” he said.
Both candidates pushed for less regulations on business and more money for teachers.
Winners in the June 1 Republican primary will advance to the November general election where Democrats and Republicans will oppose each other.
Local GOP Chair Ron Dolin opened the evening’s forum and KRSN’s Nancy Coombs assisted the Monitor in questioning the candidates.
Absentee voting begins Tuesday,