.....Advertisement.....
.....Advertisement.....

Miller runs as an independent for Congress

-A A +A
By Roger Snodgrass

Carol Miller said she happened to be in Jeff Bingaman’s Senate office in Washington when it dawned on her that New Mexico was going to have three first-term representatives in Congress next year.“Who will be in the House to represent New Mexico, when we have 100 percent freshmen?” she asked herself. “Then, I sort of jokingly said – maybe I’ll run.”When she talked it over with potential constituents back in New Mexico, she found their response to be “overwhelmingly favorable,” she said.Miller announced formally that she was in the race March 4 at the state Capitol, emphasizing her experience and the advantages of independence.“I don’t have to be loyal to anyone, except you the voters,’’ Miller said at the time.In a recent interview with the Monitor editorial board, the long-time resident of Ojo Sarco, and veteran health and rural community activist, elaborated on these themes, recalling her many years of working with members of both parties to advance legislation in Washington.She endorsed Heather Wilson, R-N.M., in the last election, because she considered her to be the best candidate. “I really appreciate the value of hard work and good staff,” Miller said.She praised former Rep. Bill Redmond, the Republican who defeated Miller and Democrat Eric Serna in Miller’s first bid for Congress in 1996.One of the first among issues she raised had to do with the federal Payment in Lieu of Taxes program, known by its acronym PILT.PILT is particularly important to Western states, where the federal government owns a large portion of the land, and especially important to those Miller calls “frontier” or “isolated counties.”Because the government is paying only a fraction of its obligation on what would otherwise be taxable property, Miller said, rural communities are not getting the resources they need and deserve.On health care, she said, “I do not understand how health care became a partisan issue. We have a sickness care system.”She said a national health plan proposed by former President George H.W. Bush would have covered more people than are covered now and would have saved 500,000 people a year from medical bankruptcies.She said a problem is that members of both parties start out saying, “I’ll work with everyone,” but then end up saying, “We’re staying united on this one.”“It’s unfair how much more partisan things have gotten,” she said.With respect to the laboratory, Miller said, “I am not going to speak in favor of nuclear weapons.” At the same time, she recognized the value of “scientists who have the ability to research us out of some of our most confounding problems,” calling for a Manhattan Project to clean up nuclear waste as well as a vastly expanded energy program.“I know scientists here who would be happy to work on these things,” she said.Miller was the object of the wrath of many Democrats when she ran for Congress as a Green in a special election in 1996. She captured 17 percent of the vote in an election won by Republican Bill Redmond. She ran again with less success two years later, when Tom Udall, the incumbent who is leaving to run for the U.S. Senate, retrieved the seat for the Democratic Party.“Bill Redmond did more for getting land grants on the agenda than anybody,” she said, noting that she has also worked frequently on shared interests with Udall.“I see a serious crisis for the state,” she said. “This will be the first time since 1968 that we have had no seniority in the House.”She charged that New Mexico has been on a 10-year run of reducing ballot access. While she expects to be on the ballot, she said, the state does not even designate an unaffiliated candidate as an independent.Rather, she said, “Now you must be a ‘D.T.S.,’” which stands for “Declined to State.” Further, as a D.T.S., she is not allowed to collect signatures until after the Republican and Democratic primary.  A D.T.S. is also required to collect more than twice the number of signatures required of the major parties, she said.At the same time, she pointed out that the independent vote is the fastest-growing segment of the district.Of the 5,779 signatures she will need, her goal is 10,000, she said, as a precaution against challenges she thinks will be inevitable.Miller emphasized that she has been deeply involved in national legislation for nearly 25 years. She believes she knows better than any of her potential opponents who to call, what it takes and how to get bills passed and what to do next if they don’t.“The election shouldn’t be a popularity contest,” she said. “It should go to the person who can best bring the district together and get resources for the district.”