Democratic forum: Congressional candidates hang hats on lab

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By Carol A. Clark

Among candidates for the Democratic nomination for the Third Congressional District, the hot topic at Wednesday's candidate forum sponsored by the Democratic Party of Los Alamos County was the current and future importance of Los Alamos National Laboratory. Democratic Party Chair Stephen Fettig called this year's congressional race one of the most important in a long time.The public packed Fuller Lodge for the two-and-a-half hour evening event that also included candidates for district attorney, county council, the Public Regulation Commission and Carlos Sisneros, who is running unopposed for a state senate seatDemocratic party board member Cathy Chapman drew names determining order of appearance starting with congressional candidate Harry Montoya. Carl Newton kept a tight rein on time allotments, ringing a bell to signal time's up. Richard Cooper, with his broadcaster quality voice, read statements from those candidates unable to attend the forum.

Congressional candidates

Harry MontoyaMontoya's wife, Doris, stood in for him. In his prepared statement, read by Cooper, Montoya said he was in Washington, D.C., doing county and New Mexico families business.The Santa Fe County Commissioner vows to ensure Los Alamos National Laboratory "will always have a mission that keeps families working." Montoya intends to follow in Rep. Tom Udall's footsteps, he said. Udall is running for U.S. senate. Montoya holds a masters degree from New Mexico State University. He advocates ending the Iraq War. "We should begin to withdraw troops over the next few months and have most of them out by the end of the year," he said. Montoya also expressed support of health care for all, stem cell research, solving the home foreclosure crisis and slowing the flow of jobs overseas. Rudy Martin"I am the only candidate who in my campaign literature openly supports the Laboratory," Martin said. "It is the lifeline of Northern New Mexico and I support it."Calling the upcoming election, "the most important election we've faced in years," Martin said it's critical to elect the "best qualified, most experienced" person to represent America in congress. "America has lost much of its glimmer," Martin said. He told the audience he holds three degrees including law, Spanish and business. As an advocate of civil rights for the poor and underprivileged, Martin said he has litigated against the FBI, the Immigration and Naturalization Service and other powerful agencies in New Mexico and across the nation. He wants to, "repair the damage President Bush has done to civil rights."Ben Ray Lujan"The economic impact Los Alamos has and Los Alamos National Laboratory has is why we are here tonight and why we must save jobs at Los Alamos," Lujan said. His father, House Speaker Ben Lujan, was a union iron worker on the Hill, he said. Lujan grew up in a family that stands up for organized labor, he said, "...stands up for sovereign rights, for land, for water, for women, for everybody." Lujan wants to end the war, bring the troops home and "take care of them with dignity."Lujan, chair of the Public Regulation Commission, advocates closing loopholes that allow insurance companies to deny claims. "People need to be treated like people and not second class citizens," he said.Lujan also supports firefighters. "No community knows better the importance of firefighters than Los Alamos," he said.Don WiviottWiviott's wife stood in for him. Cooper read his prepared statement in which Wiviott said, "Los Alamos National Laboratory is the economic engine in Northern New Mexico and I will fight any attempt to reduce funding."Wiviott, a Santa Fe developer, spoke of challenges facing the country including the war in Iraq, which he would like to see end. Wiviott began his campaign in 2007 and said it's not based on personal calculation but rather on the fact that Washington needs change. He said he won't take a dime from lobbyists or political action committees. Jon Adams"It's always good to come home," said Adams who grew up here. "I will never have a scheduling conflict or anything else that prevents me from speaking to the people of Los Alamos and I will never vote against the Lab," Adams said. "I believe we should fully fund the Lab. We all know the importance of the Lab, it seems like a no-brainer."Adams, who advocates public financing of campaigns, questioned the money Wiviott is putting into his own campaign, saying he just put in another $265,000 for a total of $590,000 to date. Adams, a Santa Fe lawyer and former assistant attorney general, also mentioned a list of criticisms he says Wiviott has lodged against him. "He called me a silver spooned ivy league kid," Adams said. "...I'm a product of New Mexico Public Schools," Adams said. “Fringe candidate,” “joke attack candidate,” and “too young” are other names he has been called by Wiviott. "There is nothing funny about the war, our young men and women are getting killed," he said. "There's nothing funny about Post Traumatic Distress Syndrome...nothing funny about the president taking away our civil rights." Adams, 33, said Mozart was 35 and Thomas Jefferson 32 when he, "declared we are all created equal." The only difference between Wiviott and himself, Adams said, is he is pro-choice and that Wiviott has never specifically said he is pro-choice.Benny Shendo Jr.Shendo spoke of the talent and future of LANL, saying it must move with a sense of urgency into research and development in areas of sustainable energy such as solar and wind. "A political race by its very nature is about competition...and the people of New Mexico deserve a voice in Washington, D.C., whether they were born here or came on vacation and stayed," Shendo said. The Iraq War is costing the United States an enormous amount of money, Shendo said. The middle class is in serious trouble, schools are crumbling, health care is a big issue and water and air are becoming increasingly dangerous. Shendo was born and raised on the Jemez Pueblo where his father and grandfather were leaders to whom people came to for guidance. As their son, he said he has spent his whole life bringing people together. As former cabinet secretary of Indian Affairs, he said he is the only candidate with state of New Mexico cabinet-level experience in education, health care, infrastructure building, natural resources allocation, environmental preservation and economic development.Editior’s note: A future report will include the participation in the forum of Democratic nominees for county council, district attorney and the Public Regulation Commission.SIDEBAR:Answers from audience questions directed to congressional candidates and their representatives. Which congressional committees would showcase your talents and best serve New Mexico?Jon Adams - House Resources and Veterans Affairs.Harry Montoya's wife - Her husband has been to Washington, D.C. many times, she said, and has worked with Sen. Jeff Bingaman D-N.M., and Udall on issues such as child abuse and substance abuse.Ben Ray Lujan - Energy and Commerce, Veterans Affairs.Benny Shendo Jr. - House Resources, Veterans Affairs, House Appropriations and Finance.Don Wiviott's wife - Energy Resources, Veterans issues, Appropriations.Rudy Martin - Finance, Judiciary, Veterans Affairs. How should Los Alamos National Laboratory change its mission? Rudy Martin - "I would educate myself first by talking to employees and then decide."Don Wiviott's wife - "We don't have to deplete resources we already have but add to them."Benny Shendo Jr. - "The Laboratory doesn't decide how to change its mission, Congress decides that but I think we should invest in research and development."Ben Ray Lujan - "There are lots of area to expand in Los Alamos but we have to educate Washington."Harry Montoya's wife - She asked audience members to send an E-mail to her husband asking the question.Jon Adams - "I'm the only candidate who's worked at the Lab. All the money for Los Alamos is all here...Lawrence Livermore is having a 20 percent reduction. Tom Udall the reduction here. Anyone who thinks the Lab is all about weapons is wrong." Would you support a pay as you go law today?Benny Shendo Jr. - "Supporting our labs and having adequate funding is very important and I would support that."Don Wiviott's wife - "I'll let Don answer that."Rudy Martin - "As a small business person, you cannot spend more than you have. It's a disgrace we have to borrow money from China."Ben Ray Lujan - Yes - And you pay for it by closing loopholes that exist for large companies, ending the war..."Harry Montoya's wife - "Harry's been successful..."Jon Adams - "Yes I would support the pay as you go law. I saved up so I could take a year off to run for congress." How would you avoid being pressured by lobbyists?Ben Ray Lujan - Set caps on how much you can spend in a campaign.Harry Montoya's wife - "This is a question for him."Jon Adams - "...How do we take lobbyists out of the equation - take the money out of the equation."Benny Shendo Jr. - "Very simple - don't take their money, don't listen to them."Rudy Martin - "I have financed my own campaign. Washington lobbyists have a way of compromising you."Don Wiviott's wife - "That's a question for Don." What's your position on domestic partnerships"Rudy Martin - A partnership is a person's choice. If you want to live with a man or a woman is your choice. I don't support gay marriage but do support partnerships."Don Wiviott's wife - "Same sex relationships should have the same rights as others."Benny Shendo Jr. - "A person has a right to choose their partner and legalize that relationship. As my father says, the world is big enough for all of us."Ben Ray Lujan - "I support domestic partnerships."Harry Montoya's wife - "Harry believes everyone has rights but we are Catholic and believe marriage belongs in a church."Jon Adams - "I believe in full rights for domestic partners. I wrote the opinion that put the law on the books in 2004." Where do you stand on a woman's right to choose?Jon Adams – “I'm pro-choice.”Harry Montoya's wife - "That's a moot point. Abortion will never be legal."Ben Ray Lujan - "I support Roe v. Wade."Benny Shendo Jr. - "This issue does not belong in government. It should be left to a women, her family, doctor and faith."Don Wiviott's wife - "Don is pro-choice."

Rudy Martin - "I support abortion in limited case...incest, rape; other than that, every child has a right to live."