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By Jacque Ritchie


Candidates Face Off at Candidate Forum


October 26, 2018


Candidates Face Off at Candidate Forum

By Jacque Ritchie TALON

With the most contentious mid-term election in recent memory fast approaching incumbent Congressman Paul Bandy (R) and challenger Mary "MP" Schildmeyer (D) face-off during a candidates forum on Monday, October 22. About 200 citizens filled the Aztec Community/Senior Center submitting written questions for the candidates before the forum began at 6:30 p.m.

Scott Michlin of San Juan College's KSJE Radio moderated the event, beginning by introducing the candidates for NM House of Representatives District Three.

According to Ballotpedia, Bandy 74, attended the University of Houston and the University of Texas, Austin. Bandy, an Aztec area rancher has served in the NM House since 2007. Bandy took over the District 3 seat from Sandra Townsend who retired in 2006. Bandy has run unopposed in the five primary and general elections since taking office.

In his opening statement Bandy described himself as a "Proven conservative," who is, "not afraid to work across party lines." Bandy cited his experience in the state house saying, "I have learned an awful lot over the years." Bandy currently serves as vice-chair on the Appropriations and Finance Committee, the chair of the House Rules and Order of Business Committee and is a member of the Agriculture, Water and Wildlife Committee. Bandy stressed the importance of, "the rule of law." Bandy said, "Most nations have similar ethnicites and have a history of being together." Bandy went on to say that the band of Honduran refugees were "...headed to this country because of the, rule of law." Bandy said his priorities for the state included, "Protecting energy jobs, property rights and support for family values."

A graduate of John Marshall University, Chicago, MP Schildmeyer currently serves as chairperson of the SJC Democratic Party and lives on the San Juan River near Bloomfield, "It's just beautiful there and I love it." Schildmeyer is a retired trial lawyer, who has also worked in the health care industry and retail management.

Schildmeyer opened by relating how she became interested in public service. Originally from Cinncinatti, Ohio Schildmeyer attended high school in Atlanta, Georgia. One day while at eating fries at Woolworth's, "Does anybody remember Woolworth's?" Schildmeyer found herself "sitting at the wrong lunch counter." Schildmeyer had unknowingly sat in the non-white section of the restaurant and went on to describe the disapproving stares and rude remarks she was subjected to. According to the candidate even after she realized the socio/racial faux paus she refused to change seats. This incident sparked what became, "a long history of civil disobedience." Schildmeyer has reportedly been arrested twice for civil disobedience including laying down in front of a South Carolina "nuclear bomb plant."On Monday Schilmeyer vowed, "As your representative, I will lay down myself, my life...for the people of District Three in San Juan County."

The Q&A portion of the event offered the audience insight about where the candidates stand on a variety of issues. Each candidate was given three minutes to respond. The following are some selected questions and answers.

On education; Is giving schools grades A thru F helpful to student achievement?

Bandy said that, more of what happens in the schools should fall under the control of local school districts. Bandy also said that NM schools, "Need more money" suggesting that the billion plus dollar surplus the state currently enjoys from oil and gas revenue (mainly from the southeast quadrant of the state) will mean that funding is available.

Schildmeyer answered the question of letter grading by saying, "It's not the grading that is bad, but it's the way the students get the grade." Schildmeyer went on to say that the current standardized PARCC testing system does not offer an accurate overview of a students academic standing. The democratic challenger also said that there was a need for more physical and mental health councelors Schildmeyer agreed with her opponent about NM schools needing more funding. Schilmeyer stressed the need for "...a consistent funding source," saying the GRT revenue from oil and gas industry, the lottery funding and even the general fund was always changing and that was a problem, saying, "It's a big job but I'm up for it."

How do we fix NM's "broken educational system"? Bandy related a story about a teacher touching a female student on the shoulder and how the girls parents called the police asking the audience, "How can anyone be expected to work under that kind of pressure?" He went on to recall how, when growing up, a favorite teacher had regularly thrown erasers at misbehaving students saying, "He had really good aim too!." Bandy lamented, "Today he'd be handcuffed and taken away."

Schildmeyer stressed the need for more access to, "early childhood education." The candidate had a laundry list of suggestions that could help fix NM's schools saying, "We've got to provide our students with more than we have been."

Some of the questions addressed the devisive politcal climate of the day and were met with nervous laughter from the audience. The republican incumbent was asked; As a conservative what good things do you have to say about liberals? Bandy explained that, when the word 'liberal' was used to describe a person who appreciates personal liberty then it was okay to be liberal in that sense. Schildmeyer was asked the same question as a liberal. Schildmeyer said these days, "Conservative are more interested in conserving their wealth than anything." The candidate then launched into a short speech about the need to transition to renewable energy in the region.

How do we protect San Juan Generating Station jobs? Schildmeyer said, "We need to start by renewing the Renewable Energy Program at San Juan College." Schildmeyer stressed the need to retrain the workforce to be ready for the future, "We need to keep our people here and retrain them." Schildmeyer remarked on PNM's decision to close the coal powered facility, "PNM is closing to protect their shareholders not the environment."

In their feelings for PNM the candidates may have found some common ground Bandy explained, that ten years ago lawmakers, "made a deal with PNM" to keep the power plant open at least a year longer than the expected 2022 closure date, but now he said, "It seems like we have been thrown under the bus." Bandy went on to say, "PNM is playing a shell game..." Bandy said he wanted to keep the SJGS open saying, "...the economy's is changing but the economy is not changing that fast."

Should people with a history of domestic violence have guns? Bandy had a more case-by-case attitude saying, "If the judge thinks it appropriate...I would have to look into it." While Schildmeyer was adamant, "So many victims of domestic violence have been killed by their abusers I am in favor of legislation to prohibit people with a history of DV from having a gun."

How do we end the Us versus Them political atmosphere?

Bandy said he would continue to do do what he has always done, "...using common sense...working with people across the aisle," Citing once again his ability to work with democratic colleagues and his desire to, "work together to save energy jobs."


Schildmeyer told about her recent campaigning efforts, "I've been knocking on doors (close to 1000 now) and the country is polerized...we probably can't agree on a lot of the big national issues...but don't be surprised, on local issues we can find common ground."

In a five minute closing statement, Bandy touched again on protecting property, water rights and energy jobs. He said his focus is on those things and making sure people have "easy access to the polls" saying, "I think I've done a good job...I've done my best job that I could."

In closing Schildmeyer thanked the audience for showing up "and listening so intently" she promised if elected to stay focused and in-touch with the community and, "I will remain true to my democratic values."

To view the entire Candidates Forum go to Democratic Party of San Juan [email protected]


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