Russell Grider, left, and Joseph Campos, D-Santa Rosa, took part in a candidate forum Wednesday at Clovis Community College’s Town Hall. Both are candidates for the District 63 office.(Staff photo: Eric Kluth)
By David Irvin: CNJ staff writer
State Rep. Joseph Campos, D-Santa Rosa, and Republican challenger Russell Grider of Clovis sparred for two hours Wednesday over topics such as gangs, water and education in a debate held at Clovis Community College.
Both are seeking the District 63 office in the Nov. 2 General Election.
Campos said the gang problem can be improved by implementing more programs in schools, and holding teachers and parents accountable. He cited bills passed while in he was in office that strengthened New Mexico education initiatives.
“I think our greatest challenge, to meet the gang problem … is education, and that is one subject I worked on tremendously,” Campos said.
Grider disagreed, saying poverty leading to problems at home drive many children into gangs for security.
“Children are involved in gangs because they don’t have a stable home life,” he said. “Education is only going to work when we have children (who’s) well-being is at a point where they can be able to learn.”
The candidates took questions from the audience dealing with a variety of issues, including predatory loan agencies, shortages of prison space, home insurance, water management and education.
The forum was hosted by the local chapter AARP.
AARP audience members queried the candidates on topics such as prescription drug prices, safety and security in the community and an $8 per day bed tax on nursing homes signed into state law earlier this year.
One question asked the candidates to talk about the most important issues in the next legislative session.
Campos cited the passage of the Base Retention Bill in the last session which he said helped keep Cannon Air Force Base open. He said in the next session some of the governor’s plans on Medicaid need to be stopped.
Grider answered the question by saying, “water, water, water, water.”
“If we are going to have economic development, economic growth in this state we’ve got to have water, first and foremost,” Grider said.
The candidates agreed that the powerful drug companies have too much power over the federal agencies that are supposed to be regulating them, an important issue for members of AARP.
George Lees, AARP liaison for southeast New Mexico, understands that the prescription drug issue is more important to senior citizens than the general population, but said the candidates responded well to the questions, even though that is largely a federal issue.
“We (AARP) are happy to endorse what … finally passed (the current prescription drug bill), realizing it was far from perfect but it was a step in the right direction,” Lees said after the debate. “The water issue here in the state is more of a concern for the general population, rather than the prescription drugs which are senior issues and issues for low income people.”
In closing, Campos touted his experience at the state legislature as proof he is the candidate to choose in the upcoming election.
Grider said more than anything he wants this area of New Mexico to prosper.