The Paper. spoke with incumbent Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham about a few of the top concerns on voters’ minds this year. This interview has been edited for length.
GOP contender Mark Ronchetti did not answer our questionnaire.
The Paper.: Public safety has become one of voters’ top priorities leading up to the election. What is your plan for the legislature to help reduce the incidence of violent crimes? What have you done so far to make New Mexico safer (i.e., funding the police)? Do you support always holding violent offenders in jail until trial? Do you have a plan to reintroduce measures to that effect during the legislative session?
MLG: I have increased money for police officers and in terms of personnel; that is a game changer. We’re going to invest over $72 million to invest and recruit 300 police officers. There has been a steady decline in their numbers – we just cannibalize from one department to another, we don’t really grow. Public safety is an issue. This trend is up all across the nation, irrespective of a pandemic. I got handed both.
If you’re dangerous and repeat, you stay in jail until trial. That’s still a heavy lift here. As to arrests and prosecutions, I don’t have enough DAs. We have a weak infrastructure so we’re going to invest more money for police officers and more money in infrastructure.
Revenue in NM relies heavily on O&G industries, and we had a windfall year in that regard. But O&G doesn’t square with our push to become stronger in renewable energy options. What is your plan to diversify the state’s economy? What have you done so far to move toward that goal of diversification?
We have the fourth strongest economy in the country. As to employment and growth, we are really doing it. I don’t know that anyone, anywhere in the world, could take an energy state and turn it around. We’re at about 50-50 fossil fuels and everything else. We are having record growth in renewable energy. We have the largest wind farm in the country and the largest solar economy.
We have beat every single prediction in the film arena: $855 million invested by the film industry, 109 productions. We have three major movie studios so far. We’re investing in film schools to grow an ecosystem for entrepreneurs. We’re giving the signal that this is the place for movie productions.
We were #1 in the country for growth in the cannabis industry. I’m very proud – cannabis, renewable energy, film production – we’re a very diverse state with a diversified economy in innovation sectors. That’s how states grow their economies.
You support codifying abortion protections in NM. How do you propose to build support in the legislature? What do you say to opponents of your plan to build an abortion center in southern NM?
I was surprised to see this question. We’re clearly a reproductive rights access state. Today, after Dobbs, we’re staring the in the face of a national abortion ban. I don’t think I have to build support – it’s a rallying issue in this state. This legislature is expecting from me that we will not prosecute women for exercising their rights. We will protect our women and travelers and their families. It’s a reproductive health care clinic, by the way. It offers abortion and family planning access and reproductive services. I don’t think I have to build support.
Gun control laws in NM need to be strengthened according to data from Everytown for Gun Safety. Would you ban the sale and ownership of assault weapons? Are you working with Moms Demand Action to bring the matter before the legislature?
We have to get to the root causes [of gun violence] and make reforms. I inherited a state that removed behavioral health care. It took us two years to settle the lawsuits against the Martinez administration’s swift removal of mental health care. My opponents have no public safety provisions at all in their platforms. I’m on the record. In 2007, I committed to getting real gun laws with extreme risk orders. I have a plan that 1.) reinforces the efforts we currently have – expect to see real efforts to enforce the law of the land; 2.) has storage requirements and protections to reduce the liability aspects and protect people, especially children; and 3.) and as to long guns, rifles and assault weapons, private sales must be inspected in the same way that other sales are.