Republican gubernatorial candidate John Sanchez said he toured the area last week to let people here know “I’m committed to economic development in Valencia County.”

He said he wants farmers to be able to continue their lifestyle, that they have enough water to raise their crops. “When we talk about water, one component that’s left out is the human element,” he said in an interview at the News-Bulletin. “This valley has a long history of agriculture.”

He said his wife, Debra Chavez, has ties to the county.

He said water issues are among the most important elements of his campaign platform and that he would be introducing a water plan.

His plan includes:

  • Coordinating data collection and ownership information of water throughout the state.
  • Accelerating the adjudication of water rights within the state engineeer’s office with appeals available to the State Court of Appeals.
  • Removing non-native species of trees from waterways.
  • Fast-tracking the restoration and sensible management of watersheds, including encouraging the startup of businesses dedicated to clearing out vegetation.
  • Stepping up conservation efforts, including xeriscaping at state-owned facilities and incentives for agricultural, domestic and industrial water users who implement conservation practices.
  • Appointing an advisory task force of rural and urban officials for water issues.

Another thing he’s emphasizing in his campaign is “creating good, high-paying jobs in Valencia County. If we don’t, we will continue losing our best and brightest” as they move away to seek work elsewhere, he said.

New Mexico needs a taxation system that is good for the business environment, he said, and that is comparable with surrounding states.

He called for lower personal income tax, a lower tax on prescription drugs and phasing out the tax on food.

“Education is on top of my list,” he continued. “We cannot have economic development without educational reform. What happens if we don’t have reform? Our present high drop-out rate is not acceptable.”

Sanchez said he would raise academic standards and “not allow children to fail” along with increasing the amount of testing and that “90 percent of the educational dollar must be invested in the classroom.”

He said charter schools may also be one answer.

Transportation in the metropolitan area is another issue Sanchez is interested in. He said the present governor is known for highway building and that he would continue that process.

During the campaign, Sanchez said he has enjoyed getting off the main highways and visiting smaller communities, something that’s taught him more about the state.

“Poverty is an issue … but I’m optimistic about our future,” he said. “We’ve got to preserve our way of life and bring the American dream to every part of New Mexico.”

In Santa Fe as a first-term legislator, he said he has observed that “there is some gridlock (between the executive and legislative branches).”

But he said that Gov. Gary Johnson has been working hard to put the state’s financial house in order. “New Mexico is one of 10 states that has a balanced budget,” he said, since the governor vetoed $1 billion in tax increases.

“We need a governor who will hold the line. … Being in the legislature, I know it requires a good working relationship. I look forward to enjoying working with the legislature. I will work hard for a good relationship.”

He said while Johnson is known as a marathon runner, which is an individual sport, “I’ve always been in team sports — football and basketball. I like being part of a team.”

One Johnson policy he said he won’t be pursuing is legalization of some controlled substances. “He opened the debate, but I don’t believe in decriminalization or legalizing,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez said he is a “family guy with two beautiful children. I’m athletic and I enjoy the outdoors. I like being among people. I will be a governor who walks among the people.

“I’ll be here in the community, working with the leaders and the people.”

He said he’ll hold regular town hall meetings, making himself available to local officials such as county commissions and city councils as well as the business community.

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Sandy Battin