Even when it was time for closing statements, Pat Woods and Angie Spears were willing to open attacks on each other at the KTQM political forum.
The two-hour forum, aired by Zia Broadcasting from the KTQM studio south of Clovis, featured the two Republican candidates for state Senate District 7 and 14 others candidates for six county or state positions in the June 5 primary.
When candidates gave their closing statements, Woods and Spears got into a back-and-forth over political donations in their race, which has captured the attention of the state, in no small part due to Gov. Susana Martinez' endorsement of Spears, the clinical director at TeamBuilders, early in the primary process.
Woods, a Broadview rancher, noted that Spears has received financial backing from Martinez, and had concerns over whether she'd represent local citizens.
"I want to represent the people in the district," Woods said.
Spears told Woods, "You've given a lot of money to people who are liberal across the state."
Woods responded that he'd given mostly to longtime friends, and a few small donations were given after sessions for specific purposes. Spears answered back, "I've only made statements that are true."
The issue was also addressed during the forum, with questions phoned and emailed into the Zia staff. A listener asked why Santa Fe and Albuquerque had taken such an interest in the district.
Spears said every race should be a concern to everybody in the state, since each one plays a role in determining which party controls the Legislature and what bills go through.
"As a Republican constituent, I have been concerned," Spears said. "I see liberal agendas pushed through. I don't want to see that happen for another four years."
Woods said he was concerned with outside involvement in the race.
"I wonder why," Woods said, "so much money is coming into my district to support my opponent from outside of our district."
Woods said his only two issues with Martinez are a disagreement with horse slaughtering and her endorsement of a candidate that isn't him.
Other candidates present were:
- State Rep. District 64, where Wade Lopez is challenging incumbent Anna Crook for the Republican nomination.
- County Commission District 2, where Ben McDaniel is challenging incumbent Dan Stoddard for the Republican nomination, with no Democratic opposition. Stoddard had a prior commitment out of town.
- County Commission District 3, between Democratic incumbent Wendell Bostwick and challenger Donald Harrell.
- County Commission District 5, with Paul Barnes running unopposed as a Democrat, while Republicans Danny Powell, Tim Ashley and Phillip Joe Borden are running for the open seat. Ashley was not in attendance.
- County Clerk: Rosalie Riley and Beni Dampier are running for the Republican nomination. Sherri McDaniel, running unopposed in the Democratic primary, did not attend.
Riley did not answer questions during the forum, but noted that she has been a business owner since she was 21. "My job," she said, "has been one-on-one customer relations."
n County Treasurer: Rachel Toney and Jonathan Wilson are running for the Democratic nod in the open race, while Debbie Spriggs and Traci Harris are running on the Republican ticket.
Other questions at the forum:
• Candidate positions on the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water System: Candidates spoke of the need for the project, also known as the Ute Water Project, to proceed as quickly as possible.
Woods said issues with residents of Logan need to be addressed in a drought management plan, and the pipeline needs to start in Curry County so the infrastructure is useful and can allow for the sale of water to continue funding future construction.
Powell agreed on the need to start the pipeline in Curry County, while Crook and Bostwick said the project was imperative and Lopez said shovels needed to hit dirt on the project.
• Adequate salaries for county employees: Bostwick said a salary survey was recently completed, and there was a need to get county positions to where the salaries are competitive with other similar-sized New Mexico counties. He did note, however, that county benefits packages are usually better than they are for private sector employees.
Dampier said salaries needed to be raised at many levels because some county employees are working multiple jobs to keep their heads above water, and Spriggs said longtime employees need to be taken care of because their pay often does not rise when starting salaries rise for newer employees.
Harrell said he would like to make sure higher administration positions are compensated relative to the same positions across the state, and said he felt the Curry County manager's office should have a salary closer to the Roosevelt County manager than the state's governor.
• Issues at the Curry County Adult Detention Center: Following disclosure of years of lawsuits against the county for abuses at the detention center, candidates agreed improvements needed to be made.
Bostwick said many of the lawsuits happened before he was elected in 2008, and he believes the county is making strides. Policies and procedures have also changed at the jail, and Bostwick said, "If (employees) had followed procedures and policies, we wouldn't have had near the problems we have."
McDaniel agreed that the facility had shown improvement since the hiring of Administrator Gerry Billy, but, "as a citizen, I had serious issues with things being kept secret."
Bostwick said in many cases, judges put gag orders on cases, and if he said something he might have ended up in the detention center as well.
• Investigations of commissioners acting outside of their duties and chain of command: A pair of incidents involving commissioners resulted in investigations that detailed that commissioners had created a hostile work environment for county employees and violated chains of command.
Bostwick only replied, "I'm Wendell Bostwick, and I wasn't one of them."
McDaniel said he would almost certainly have a disagreement at some point, but he would expect everybody to handle matters like adults so the county doesn't have to spend money on investigations later.
• Would treasurer candidates keep money in local banks: Toney said it was absolutely a goal to keep money in local banks and help local businesses. Wilson said he didn't see a reason for the treasurer's office to outsource matters to another bank, local or not. Harris said it should be a goal to keep money local, but the county has a responsibility to seek the best interest rates possible. Spriggs said working with county advisers was important.
• The number of closed-door county commission meetings: Candidates said there were reasons to have closed-door meetings at times. Bostwick said opening up a land purchase to a public meeting, for instance, would only drive up the asking price.
But in most cases, candidates said meetings should be open. Barnes, Powell and McDaniel agreed.
"It seems like (there are) a lot of executive sessions," McDaniel said, "and there are lots of surprises."
• What candidates learned while campaigning: Spears said the one thing she always hears about, no matter the county, is repeal driver's licenses for illegal immigrants.
"It's a safety issues for our state, it's a safety issue for our nation," Spears said.
Powell said residents want transparency and the truth, even if it reveals something they don't like. Harris said voters want to simply feel like they're a part of the process.
Toney said residents want government to be accountable, Bostwick said residents want the county to make sure business opportunities are available, and Woods said the best interaction is when the voter and the candidate each felt like they've educated the other on something.