Tierna Unruh-Enos is publisher at The Paper.


Six candidates are running in a special election on June 1 for the 1st Congressional District seat vacated by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. The candidates have big shoes to fill, and the rest of the country will be watching as the Democrats hold a close margin in the House. The last time a Republican served the 1st Congressional District was in 2009 when Heather Wilson left office to run for Senate against Steve Pearce and lost the primary.

Along with Republican State Sen. Mark Moores and Democratic State Rep. Melanie Stansbury, the crowded field includes military veteran and Libertarian Chris Manning from Kirkland, independent Aubrey Dunn Jr. from Mountainair (who was a former land commissioner) and two write-in candidates—Albuquerque independent Laura Olivas and independent Robert Ornelas, who is listed with an address in California.

We asked the candidates a series of questions about their platforms and plans should they win the Congressional seat. After skipping the first candidate forum sponsored by the Black Voters Collaborative last week, Republican Mark Moores also ignored multiple requests to respond to our questions for you, our readers. Write-in candidate Robert Ornelas also did not respond.

The Paper.: Secretary Haaland leaves office having garnered national notoriety. Why should you follow in her footsteps? Why you, why now?

Aubrey Dunn: I will not follow in her footsteps.

Chris Manning: Because I bring a mindset to Congress that is needed, the willingness to work with anyone to do good. Collaboration is not a term which is used in Congress much anymore, and it is a detriment to the voters.

Mark Moores: No response.

Laura Olivas: Secretary Haaland made history by being New Mexico’s first Native American representative. It gave a lot of hope to women of color being able to run for office. I wholeheartedly believe this must continue. We must uplift the perspective of women of color because we face adversity, which many do not.

Robert Ornelas: No response.

Melanie Stansbury: No one can replace Secretary Haaland. As a New Mexican, I’ll carry my lifetime of experience growing up in Albuquerque, serving our communities and experience in the Legislature, Senate and OMB to Washington to fight for and serve alongside our community to build a brighter future.

What structural changes, if any, need to be made to rebuild the economy as we emerge from the pandemic?

Dunn: Term limits.

Manning: Occupational licensing reform. Governments need to stop putting up barriers to people earning a living. As an example, in N.M. to become a barber you need 1,200 hours of training; to become an EMT it is only 160 hours.

Moores: No response.

Olivas: Infrastructure which includes a public option.

Ornelas: No response.

Stansbury: We must prioritize economic recovery and put New Mexicans back to work. I will support legislation to rebuild our economy so that everyone can thrive. We must invest in infrastructure, education, healthcare and support for hard-working families, while growing jobs and leaning into our strengths. 

Without using the words Green New Deal, how will you take action to save the planet from the effects of the climate crisis?

Dunn: No answer.

Manning: There is no climate crisis. The alarmism about humanity’s impending doom is a means to force unpopular and expensive policies on the public. If you read the science portion of the IPCC, as I have, there is no justification for the alarm. Another good read is Apocalypse Never by Michael Shellenberger.

Moores: No response.

Olivas: Renewable energy, like solar and wind.

Ornelas: No response.

Stansbury: The science is clear, we are facing a climate crisis that must be addressed, by addressing our carbon footprint, reimagining and diversifying our economy, and providing tools, resources and jobs to build a more just, equitable and resilient future for New Mexico and our planet.

Do you support a ban on new oil and gas leases on federal lands in New Mexico?

Dunn: No.

Manning: No.

Moores: No response.

Olivas: Yes. Private land should be used first to conserve.

Ornelas: No response.

Stansbury: We must diversify our economy and invest in renewable energy to tackle climate change. I support a pause and reevaluation of federal energy policies to examine how to best achieve our climate and energy goals.

No more kicking the can down the road. How should border states like New Mexico influence immigration reform?

Dunn: Have a new governor.

Manning: Congress needs to make two major changes to our immigration policy. First, we must allow people to apply for asylum in their home country. Second, we should increase the number of people we allow to immigrate to this country legally.

Moores: No response.

Olivas: Listening to social workers, doctors and people.

Ornelas: No response.

Stansbury: We need a fair, just, humane immigration system that protects the civil and human rights of immigrants and restores our humanity as a nation. We must reunite families, ensure a humane asylum system and create just and equitable paths to citizenship for those who are undocumented.

Why hasn’t the federal government taken action to prevent gun violence?

Dunn: Laws aren’t enforced.

Manning: Because the federal government can’t change human morals with legislation. A gun is simply a tool which can be used for good or bad. It is the person behind the gun that must be changed to prevent gun violence. That isn’t something Congress can do. That is something society must do.

Moores: No response.

Olivas: The Second Amendment holds much power.

Ornelas: No response.

Stansbury: Congress must take action to end gun violence and prevent future tragedies. If elected, I will support common-sense gun legislation including universal background checks, a ban on semi-automatic weapon sales, gun buyback programs and community intervention and prevention programs.

How much is the largest donation to your campaign, and who is the donor? The smallest?

Dunn: No answer.

Manning: I believe my largest donation is $250 and the smallest is $5.

Moores: No response.

Olivas: $20 from a 24 year-old esthetician, and $10 from a 50 year-old tech.

Ornelas: No response.

Stansbury: We have 4,000 individual contributors to our campaign, contributing from $1 to the maximum contribution of $2,900. I am proud to have the support of so many across our community and the country, as we are building a community-based campaign.

The Paper. reached out to Sen. Moores by phone, email and social media but received no response. The Secretary of State’s Office lists Ornelas’ mailing address in Anaheim, Calif., and shows an out-of-state phone number. The Paper. attempted to reach Ornelas via social media and received no response.

Key Voting Dates:

May 4

  • Early in-person voting begins.
  • Absentee ballot mailing begins. To request an absentee ballot, head to sos.state.nm.us

May 18

  • Last day to submit an absentee request for domestic mail ballots.

May 29

  • Last day of early voting.

June 1 Election Day

  • Polling locations will be open from 7:00am-7:00pm. Voters may vote in-person at any of the locations within their registered county. Voters who have requested an absentee ballot may also return their sealed absentee ballot to a polling location within their registered county, no later than 7:00pm. on Election night.