The Observer asked primary elections candidates running for county offices or legislative seats representing some part of Sandoval County to fill out questionnaires sharing their views.

Responses were not edited for anything except word count.

County commission, state representative, sheriff and magistrate judge candidates were limited to 800 words, while probate judge and assessor candidates were limited to 500 words due to having fewer questions to answer.

If candidates went over the limit, their responses were cut from the bottom until they exactly met the word limit.

Jason Harper

Jason C. Harper

Republican

Community of residence: Rio Rancho

What are your qualifications for this position? I’m a “locally-grown” guy with a local’s knowledge of our hometown. I grew up here, married my high school sweetheart, and we’re raising our four kids here. I know firsthand how important it is to fix our roads, create good jobs, fight crime, and improve our classrooms.

And as a Ph.D. research scientist, I know how to analyze problems and find practical solutions. I’m not a politician—I’m a husband and a dad, who will always put my community’s interests ahead of petty politics and special interests.

My record these past ten years proves this, and I want to continue to make my hometown, and New Mexico, a better place for us all.

Have you ever been convicted of or do you have any pending charges of a felony, DWI or domestic violence? No

If elected, what would your short- and long-term goals be?
Securing fair school-funding. While Rio Rancho students’ performance is near the top, we’re near the bottom in per-student funding. This inequity must stop—the current “equalization” formula is anything but!

Keeping your money in your own pocket. I’ll continue to fight against raiding our state’s Permanent Funds. They save each NM family $1,000 in yearly taxes. And reforming the tax code will lower taxes for everyone.

Creating more jobs in Rio Rancho. For that, businesses need another major road into our city. So, I partnered with other legislators to secure $20 million for rights-of-way to connect Paseo del Volcan to I-40. Then, we secured another $40 million to start construction, paving PDV from Unser to Rainbow.

How can people reach you if they have more questions?
Personal Cell: 505-554-7970; Email: JasonHarperNM@gmail.com; Facebook: JasonHarperNM; Website: www.HarperNM.com

Should the legislature reconsider or modify the legalization of recreational marijuana? Three days after legalization, 14 elementary students, aged 10 and younger, were sent to the hospital for eating cannabis candy. Legalization is one of the greatest mistakes NM has made.

Our families are already suffering from high crime, failing schools, broken families, and apathy. How does legalizing a psychoactive drug make this better?

But what about all the extra money it’s supposed to generate? In reality, legalizing recreational marijuana only increases state revenues by less than 1%! That won’t make a dent in the money we’ll need to pay for the increased social problems, higher crime, and ER visits that we see in other states that have already lurched forward towards this elusive “pot” of gold.

What industries and/or types of businesses should the state consider attracting to New Mexico to help diversify the economy? Why? Although many states use incentives and tax breaks to attract large businesses, not all businesses (especially small businesses) benefit, meaning that the government gets to choose winners and losers. And that’s just not fair.

Diversification is good, but the first order of business is tax reform. I’ve spearheaded genuine reform of our gross receipts tax, and we’ve made positive changes. But the most meaningful change is still missing: reforming the tax code itself. It’s like swiss cheese—too many holes! Let’s melt it down, close the loopholes, then broaden the base and lower the tax rate.

By leveling the playing field and removing anti-business polices, NM can become a job magnet. Imagine keeping our kids here when they graduate, instead of sending them off to find better jobs out-of-state!

What can the state do to improve students’ test scores and education in general? As your state rep, I’ve championed education bills.

For pre-schoolers: funding for early childhood programs has quadrupled during my years as your state rep.

For high-schoolers, I co-sponsored legislation that guarantees graduation requirements won’t change mid-stream. Another bill restored P.E. credit for marching band and JROTC.

For teachers, I drove changes to their evaluation system to stop penalizing them for staying home when sick. I was also proud to support the 7% raises for all school staff, raising NM to the US average for teacher salaries.

For college students and their families, I crafted the Lottery Scholarship Rescue Bill, and I continue to fight to protect it and make it equally available for all.

How can the state balance the interests of legacy energy industries, i.e., oil and gas, with renewable energy? As a Ph.D. research scientist, I believe in the creativity of the human spirit to solve problems and innovate. One day, we may all tile our roofs with solar panels, but significant advancements, especially in energy storage, are not ready yet.

For now, we need a balanced approach. Forced adoption of renewable energy only leads to significantly higher electric bills and unreliable power.

Recently, I was proud to sponsor a bill which helps technologies invented at our National Labs to become high-value products. NM should continue to partner with our world-class Department of Energy National Laboratories, as they work to advance energy technologies.

In what ways can the state help ease the effects of inflation and supply-chain issues on New Mexicans? When the federal government over-floods the money supply, economic theory says this leads to inflation. The problem, created at the federal level, can only be addressed at that level.

But in NM, when the governor chooses—for two years—which businesses stay open and which ones must close, how can this not have a huge impact on our economy? We are now living with the consequences of her unilateral decisions.

I want a government that allows the people’s legislative representatives to use checks-and-balances to make those long-term decisions.

Michelle Sandoval

Michelle Sandoval 

Democrat 

Community of residence: Rio Rancho

What are your qualifications for this position? I graduated when I was twenty years old from the University of New Mexico with my Bachelor’s Degree in accounting and minor in psychology. I am currently on the path to finish my Master’s. I worked with Bank of the West for over four years working directly with the CEO and Head Executives on sustainable business implementations and just spent my last two years at Sandoval County.  I have devoted my time to learning the ins and outs of government, worked hand in hand with countless Elected Officials and worked on countless community service projects. I am also a volunteer with Junior Achievement, Special Olympics, Watermelon Ranch and the Balloon Fiesta. I also started my own nonprofit called the Eco-Warriors empowering high school students to volunteer to clean up polluted areas of our community.  

Have you ever been convicted of or do you have any pending charges of a felony, DWI or domestic violence? No.

If elected, what would your short- and long-term goals be? If elected, my short term goals are to build my relationship with other representatives, meet and listen to the needs of constituents and strategize and plan ways to implement and answer those needs. My long term goals would be to help the legislation plan and resolve running and fresh water for New Mexicans, increase education capacity and test scores of New Mexican students, widen broadband capacities and advocate for renewable energy transition plans.

How can people reach you if they have more questions? I look forward to our community members getting to know more about me and reaching out to me for any questions by going to my website: www.Michellefornmhd57.com; e-mail: MichelleSandoval4NM@gmail.com; or by phone at 505-373-9349.

Should the legislature reconsider or modify the legalization of recreational marijuana? The legalization of marijuana is an economic driver and an incredible job creating industry and New Mexico’s decision to legalize has been one of the best. We as a state are new to the process which means we are going through a trial and error process of legislation.  We will need to follow the industry and analyze if there are amendments or adjustments that need to be made over time. 

What industries and/or types of businesses should the state consider attracting to New Mexico to help diversify the economy? Why? New Mexico should consider attracting more businesses in the sustainable and green energy industries, film and television and sustainable agriculture sectors. New Mexico has the space and capacity to lead in the sustainable and green energy production which would in turn provide thousands of jobs to New Mexicans without taking away from our Oil and Gas, just supplementing. New Mexico’s beautiful scenery and space is perfect for film and television and we should seek to diversify that sector with businesses other than just Netflix. We have mass amounts of farmers and land to lay the grounds for sustainable agriculture which would generate production revenue for the state and give more farmers more work. 

What can the state do to improve students’ test scores and education in general? New Mexicans have already started off great by changing the educator pay rates to livable wages with the 10k increase. Teachers are the backbone of our children’s education. Without competitive rates it’s impossible to keep the talent here to properly educate our children. We should also as a state consider that financial literacy is not in the curriculum and we rely on organizations such as Junior Achievement to teach that. Civics, financial literacy and credit capacity are crucial for us to integrate into our curriculum. We also as a state need to budget accordingly and ensure our teachers, staff and school are equipped with the resources they need to teach and not expect teachers to be able to afford supplies out of their own pocket. 

How can the state balance the interests of legacy energy industries, i.e., oil and gas, with renewable energy? The state absolutely needs to work on renewable energy transitions but we also need to keep in mind that it is a timely process. We as a country are not equipped or ready to make haste transitions to just renewable energy sources. We need to be tactful and mindful as we work together to increase our solar, wind, water and hydrogen power energy and ensure the way we are doing so is bringing supplemental jobs for New Mexicans. The Energy Transition Act is a good example of a sustainable policy that also develops the workforce. We should budget for sustainable percentage changes and hold our state accountable for achieving it on an annual basis. 

In what ways can the state help ease the effects of inflation and supply-chain issues on New Mexicans? New Mexico can leverage the amount we make by being an oil and gas producer. We need to continue to leverage that just as we are by providing state stimulus. We should also work on small businesses revitalization because there are so many people that are still being impacted by Covid to this day. We as a state also need to leverage the federal AARPA funds and ensure our counties are utilizing those funds to help our constituents, our small businesses and our manufactures get back on their feet. The only way we can thrive as a state is by opening communication channels, being transparent with how we spend our money and ensuring we are utilizing funds correctly.