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House battle escalates

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Educator, scientist debate issues as June 1 deadline draws near

By Carol A. Clark

For the first time in years Republican Rep. Jeannette Wallace has opposition and they are in it to win it. Stephanie Richard, a teacher and Pete Sheehey, a Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist, shared the stage Thursday evening for a debate and spoke of walking every precinct in District 43, which includes Los Alamos, Santa Fe and Sandoval counties.

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The Democratic Party of Los Alamos, KRSN and the Los Alamos Monitor sponsored the public event in the lecture hall at UNM-Los Alamos.

Longtime local Democratic Party leader Kyle Wheeler introduced Richard saying, “I think we have an excellent woman to represent us down in Santa Fe in the citizens’ legislature…she’s bringing a lot…she’s a daughter, a mother, a wife, a friend and an educator…”

Scientist Molly Cernicek introduced Sheehey saying, “While Pete’s scientific background is common in Los Alamos – it’s rare in the legislature – if elected, he would be the only scientist sitting in the Roundhouse.”

Sheehey cited education, healthcare and the environment as critical issues to be addressed.

“The people I work with will tell you I’m a hard worker and a team player,” Sheehey said. “I can bring the facts of a scientist to the issues facing us in the 21st century.”

Richard told the crowd that New Mexico is at a unique crossroads in which a difference can be made in the legislature. She spoke of having a one, two, three approach to improving education in the schools.

“One, give school districts the room to innovate…two, arm them with resources to make that happen… and three, hold them accountable for their success,” she said.

She also pledged to cut small business red tape and work to end government corruption.

“I support a strong, independent and effective ethics committee,” Richard said. “And it’s important we make an ethics committee able to do the appointed task …”

Sheehey is willing to let anyone make any accusation as long as it meets slander and libel laws, he said, adding that transparency is the key to ethics reform.

Each candidate expressed support for the PIT Rule, which regulates the disposal of oil and gas waste.

“The cost of controlling it now is much less than the cost to clean up contamination later,” Sheehey said.

Sheehey and Richard also support the open burn permit for LANL. Sheehey advocated in favor of it at a recent hearing and Richard said she would not like to see it rescinded.

Both candidates also spoke in support of civil unions.

In wrapping up their remarks, Sheehey said he is known as a consensus builder and he will build consensus in the state legislature.

“We’re spending a lot of money on things like education and healthcare but we’re not spending it efficiently…I can be an effective legislator… let’s ensure our state government makes wise decisions with our tax dollars,” he said.

Richard said she’s already begun to lay the groundwork for the general election.

“That’s where I believe the fight’s going to be and the Republicans are not going to give up that seat easily,” she said. “I’m proud to have raised the most money of any candidate currently in this race…We are making our Democratic stand for New Mexico – We are choosing who we think is the best candidate in November.”

KRSN aired the debate live on AM1490 and PAC 8 taped it for future broadcasting.