Public Regulation Commission: The importance of the Public Regulation Commission in regulating utilities and transportation, among other duties, is difficult to overstate.
A functioning PRC operating in a sensible, efficient manner is a key to helping the economy grow, especially as the state puts into action its landmark Energy Transition Act — designed to move New Mexico from its fossil fuel past to a renewable energy future.
That’s why the PRC District 3 race is so important — the winner will become a tie-breaking vote on a PRC that splits on issues 3-2. Brian Harris, an incredibly qualified candidate, already has allies on the commission. He’s worked for the PRC for 13 years and did previous work in clean energy, utilities, consumer protection and telecommunications.
However, Harris is facing former Santa Fe City Councilor and Española Mayor Joseph Maestas — someone with his own track record of leadership, service and the ability to bring together those who disagree. A civil engineer with both a bachelor’s and master’s degree, Maestas chose to be publicly financed in this race. He will be independent from the first day, unallied with any faction but committed to making the PRC functional and efficient. Both candidates are exceptional. For the District 3, Public Regulation Commission seat, The New Mexican endorses Joseph Maestas.
• Public Education Commission: This is the board charged with authorizing, renewing and even closing charter schools. No candidates made the ballot for District 10, although three are running. A voter must write in a choice. The New Mexican endorses writing in former Santa Fe Board of Education member Steven J. Carrillo.
• First Judicial district attorney: Again, voters are fortunate that both candidates — Scott Fuqua and Mary Carmack-Altwies — are bright, experienced and thoughtful. Either will improve the functioning of the district attorney’s office, a place too often known for turnover, dropping the ball on cases and losing high-profile prosecutions. The office needs an overhaul, with a boss who can manage, pay attention to detail and ensure that criminals are held to account.
Fuqua, who would come to the job from outside the DA’s office, has considerable experience managing young lawyers from his years at the Attorney General’s Office. What’s more, he thinks broadly about what the district attorney needs to be successful and promises to work hard, even in tight budget years, to obtain adequate funding to run not just his office but that of the public defender. Justice requires a solid defense. Fuqua understands, too, that treating criminal actions without treating the source — including addiction — only causes more trouble. In a post-interview email, Fuqua wrote, “The criminalization of addiction is, I believe, the single biggest policy failure of my lifetime. It’s done nothing to address the problem and has instead simply swollen our prison population to levels unheard of in most Western democracies.” Most of all, Fuqua would come into the office without preconceptions — Carmack-Altweis currently works there. She has impressive criminal prosecutorial experience and can be proud of reforms she has instituted. But the 1st Judicial District Attorney’s Office needs a complete reboot. For district attorney, The New Mexican endorses Scott Fuqua.
Santa Fe County
• County clerk: Several offices are contested at the county level, with perhaps the most important being county clerk, most responsible for running elections. Incumbent Geraldine Salazar has finished her second term, all the law allows. She has done an admirable job of managing the office through changes in election law — including taking over the operation of city elections — and now, a pandemic.
Running in a five-person field to succeed Salazar, Katharine Clark is committed to ensuring that all voters have access to the ballot box, promising to promote same-day voter registration, champion mail-ballots and to increase voter engagement, especially among young people. With an MBA focused on public policy and human resources, Clark has worked in technical project management and understands data, essential skills in a job combining election work with the recording of such things as marriage licenses, divorces, wills, liens and a number of other documents. She has won the backing of outgoing clerk Salazar and Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, endorsements with clout. For county clerk, The New Mexican endorses Katharine Clark.
• County treasurer: Another open seat, with retired financial adviser Lucinda Marker promoting herself as a candidate with the necessary skills to help the county through the pandemic-caused financial difficulties. The treasurer’s office is where people pay their property taxes, but the treasurer also helps invest county funds, a task Marker understands from decades of working for private financial clients. Her skills in investment, her ability to communicate and her commitment to make information from the officer better available to taxpayers are needed at this moment in time. For county treasurer, The New Mexican endorses Lucinda Marker.
• County Commission, District 5: Hank Hughes has a big to-do list if he wins the race representing the district that includes portions of midtown Santa Fe and Eldorado. He is committed to improving the roads in southwest Santa Fe, increasing water reliability, expanding renewable energy, keeping enough firefighters and deputies out and about and working with partners to make affordable housing more widely available. These issues reflect understanding born from decades of working for the greater good of all of Santa Fe — especially when it comes to assisting people without shelter. As executive director of the New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness, he’s an acknowledged expert on what happens when people lose their homes and knows how policy can prevent such tragedies. Knowledge gained after years of solving problems means that Hughes can start work the second he is sworn in. For County Commission District 5, The New Mexican endorses Hank Hughes.