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A sandstorm swept New Mexico Rep. Steve Pearce and congressional candidate Dan East into White Rock Sunday evening.
Battling the dust devils and gusting winds, candidates spoke to a crowd of 40 or so attendees gathered at Rover Park for the Los Alamos Republican Party’s picnic, discussing issues related to careful spending, statewide energy concerns and the future of Los Alamos National Laboratory.
“There is no way that Tom Udall has the heart to fight for this community,” Pearce said. “If Udall gets to be senator, Los Alamos is not going to be a favorable place to be. Nuclear affairs are going to have less and less importance, defense is going to have less and less importance, and we will suffer from it.”
Pearce said recent lab and Department of Energy cuts that his democratic counterpart Tom Udall “continues to support” have been met with feelings of anger from people in the region.
“I’ve already experienced it [anger] in Española,” he said. “Tom’s votes on the lab are going to gut the entire North Central region.”
Pearce said the Reliable Replacement Warhead program was a prime example of ways to keep LANL on the forefront of nuclear research and developing critical defense technology.
“The RRW program is kind of the core of our ability to make nuclear weapons,” he said. “Our enemies must know that we have this capability. It’s very important.”
The program, started in 2006, provides for a nuclear warhead design intended to be simple, reliable and low-maintenance, and to provide a long-lasting nuclear force for the United States.
Gun control was also of concern to Pearce, who said “our Second Amendment rights are not going to be in very good shape if we elect Tom Udall.”
He moved on to talk about his support for the war in Iraq, and specifically for troop funding.
“I can understand why you may be philosophically opposed to the war,” he said. “But not with giving our troops what they need. We have the potential of breaking the back of Al-Qaeda right now if we stick with our program there. We have to understand that they’re going to follow us here.”
When asked how he planned to sway the Republican voting base in Los Alamos, who largely supported Heather Wilson for the GOP Senate nomination earlier this month, Pearce said that Wilson’s enthusiastic backing of his campaign and his willingness to support the lab would put him “in good shape here.”
“I think Domenici’s endorsement of Wilson helped her here a lot,” he said.
Regarding his support for the lab, he commented, “This is a fight that must be fought. It’s the fight that Domenici fought and it’s a fight that I will fight. You cannot create an economic replacement for $500 million, you just can’t.”
Moving on to talk about energy concerns, he said that voters should support initiatives to increase drilling, which Democrats have staunchly opposed.
“I know that we need alternatives but frankly we do not have the technology yet,” he said. “None of us drove a wind car here ... None of us drove a nuclear car here.”
Pearce, who came to Los Alamos following a morning visit to Española, said he planned to go “door-to-door” from Taos to Raton, stopping at all the towns in between over the course of the next few weeks.
A local Republican who attended the event said of Pearce, “I’ve heard some people say Steve Pearce is too conservative – then by golly then so was Ronald Reagan. Some of the same stands Steve takes are the stands Reagan took. If we don’t elect Steve Pearce, we are in deep, deep trouble.”
East, a congressional candidate for District 3, shared many of the same sentiments as Pearce.
“We’re in an energy crisis today, folks, as if we haven’t noticed,” he told the crowd. “It’s getting tougher and tougher to get around this state. The far liberal left has put regulations in place that don’t allow us to start drilling here at home.”
He mentioned that nuclear energy, which has historically gotten a bad rap, was a possible long-term solution to solving energy needs. He also said he gained a “greater understanding” of nuclear energy as a result of meeting with “certain individuals” in Los Alamos earlier in the day.
“It is now safer, cleaner and more efficient,” he added.
He concluded his short speech by reassuring voters that with their support, and that of the many “unhappy” moderate and conservative Democrats in the state, would “be able to turn this state, and this district red.”
East resides in Rio Rancho, where he owns a small construction company that builds water and wastewater treatment facilities. He says he decided to run for congress after becoming “disillusioned” with current elected officials, and believes he has “the experience, education, and background to help stimulate the local economy by encouraging businesses to create more and better paying jobs.”
Local newcomer and candidate for County Council Vincent Chiravalle also got a chance to chime in during Sunday’s gathering. He voiced strong opinions about providing White Rock with a proper economic development plan and introducing efforts to bring more youth into the city.
“The need for economic development in White Rock is greater than on the Hill,” Chiravalle said. “The people of White Rock deserve their fair share of county resources and I’d like to see them get that.”
He also said that a revitalization of the schools’ infrastructure would ensure the longevity of one of New Mexico’s most “renowned school systems.”
“We need to help our young people and help maintain the quality of education in our district,” he said.
Because most high school graduates go out of town to seek a secondary education, he said attracting more 18-25 year olds to the area, to attend UNM-LA, would provide a steady work force for local businesses and retailers.
“I’m running because I believe this a special place,” Chiravalle said. “I humbly ask for your vote, and I want to do my part to keep this place special.”