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Thick skin and courage to stand up to powerful corporations are attributes candidate Louis Gallegos says members of the Public Regulation Commission (PRC) should possess.
The Democrat is running in District 3 and sites his record on the former state Corporation Commission from 1988-1994 as proof of his ability to battle the most formidable opponents.
In the 1990s, the state Corporation Commission combined with the Public Utilities Commission to form today’s PRC.
“As a regulator for six years, I was comfortable telling big companies ‘no’ when I didn’t think they deserved a rate hike – and I’m the only one in the race with this type of experience,” Gallegos said. “If the general public will go by my record and experience, I’ll win,” he said. “But unfortunately, big money talks.”
He learned from former Insurance Commissioner Ralph Apodaca, Gallegos said, adding that Apodaca would tell companies who didn’t want to pay their fair share, “either you pay or we’ll give you 15 days and you won’t do business in New Mexico.”
“Ralph was tough and we need someone tough now - the insurance commission is in a mess and they haven’t cleaned it up,” Gallegos said.
He spent 15 years working for Mountain Bell, until the breakup of the Bell companies. He then operated a business in Logan for eight years, he said, before opening a Farmers Insurance Company in Las Cruces, which he and his wife ran for 13 years.
“We owned the insurance business until we moved temporarily to Santa Fe to work on Sen. Jeff Bingaman’s campaign for U.S. Senate in 1980,” he said. “We’re still here.”
Gallegos said he wants people to know that his background in the telephone and insurance industries are two of the major entities under the PRC. He explained that the commission is responsible for regulating utilities, telecommunications, insurance and motor-carrier industries.
He wants to have the commission request more investigative positions from the legislature. It would be housed at border entry points to inspect the vehicles.
“Mexican truckers are coming across the border and killing our citizens,” Gallegos said. “Their trucks have no brakes, they run traffic lights and kill people ... We’ve got to shut these truckers down. Safety’s gone out the window and safety has got to come first before anything else.”
Gallegos also wants to bring back several programs implemented during his tenure on the state Corporation Commission. One program allowed rural volunteer firefighters to obtain training in their own communities.
“We have 8,500 volunteer firefighters in the state and many of them hold full-time jobs and can’t just drop everything to go to the Fire Academy in Socorro for training,” he said. “As I travel the state, many of the firefighters ask me what happened to their training. Volunteer firefighters are very important to small communities and I want to see that program reinstated.”
Among other programs, Gallegos said he also wants to see the Low Assistance Telephone Service program provided again to senior citizens.
“Many of our senior citizens are on fixed incomes and we’ve got to help them,” he said.
Gallegos was born in Tucumcari. He served in Logan as a volunteer firefighter until leaving to attend NMSU in Las Cruses where he studied agriculture and veterinarian medicine. He enjoys public service, he said, and has volunteered with 4-H for kids, the Future Farmers of America and many other organizations.
Gallegos and his wife Bea have been married nearly 45 years, and have seven children and 15 grandchildren.
Commissioners are elected to four-year terms. Other candidates campaigning for the $90,000-a-year post include Española Mayor Joseph Maestas; Santa Fe County Commissioner Paul Campos; Santa Fe lawyer Bruce Throne, Jerome Block Jr., son of former PRC member Jerome Block; and Arthur Rodarte, a former state senator from Ojo Caliente.
District 3 consists of 13 counties. This year’s field of candidates are all Democrats, which means the June 3 primary will decide the new commissioner. Early and absentee voting is underway at the Los Alamos County Clerk’s Office.