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  D e s e r t   E x p o s u r e   October 2008

Senate Race

Page: 2

As these numbers dramatize, it would be difficult to pick two more disparate candidates. To put it in comic-book terms, if the candidate you prefer is Superman, his opponent is Bizarro.

So when you go into the voting booth next month, there's really no excuse for flipping a coin — at least not when it comes to New Mexico's next US Senator. This is not a race that should be decided by which candidate has the best haircut, wears the sharpest suits or kisses the most babies. When the next Congress convenes in January, if your candidate wins, your voice should be heard in Washington, loud and clear.




Second District Fog

Seeing a bit more clearly in the Teague-Tinsley race for Congress.

 

Making an informed choice in the race to succeed Steve Pearce in representing New Mexico's Second Congressional District is more challenging, because neither candidate has a voting record on the issues he might face in Washington. We're largely left to divine their positions from campaign ads, patriotic platitudes and comments from their pals and employees about the candidates' character. To the extent that issues infiltrate the campaigns at all, it's mostly either as distortions about their opponents or "motherhood" statements about their own support for such unassailable principles as "strong energy policy" or "the interests of working families."

Neither Harry Teague nor Ed Tinsley responded to Project Vote Smart's "Political Courage Test" to declare their positions on a set of key issues. (Neither did Pearce or Udall, but they can't hide their votes.) So no help there for confused voters.

The candidates' Web sites — Teague's at the folksily URLed www.harryforcongress.com (what about all those other guys named "Harry" who might want to run elsewhere?) and Tinsley's www.edtinsleyforcongress.com — aren't much better. Sections on "the issues" occupy only one-sixth and one-seventh, respectively, of the sites' navigation menus. Clicking there brings you to still more platitudes and personal testimony: Teague's position on energy and the environment begins, "I went to work in an oil field for $1.50 an hour when I was 17. . . .," and his healthcare policy also starts with his teenage years ("At the age of 17 my father became ill. . . ."). Voters wishing to learn how Teague's views have evolved since the tender age of 17 must drill deeper. Eschewing personal anecdotes, Tinsley boldly proclaims in the third person, "Tinsley believes it's every American's duty to do their part and be proper stewards of the earth and its natural resources." Below that, in case you've been living under a rock for the past 20 years, Tinsley informs voters, "Illegal immigration is a growing problem in the United States." And so forth.

A close parsing of these Web sites, clicking beyond the truisms and teenage tales, teases out a handful of substantive differences between Democrat Teague and Republican Tinsley — none terribly surprising given their party affiliations. (Those party labels, tellingly, never seem to get mentioned in either man's campaign commercials. Presumably Teague wants to broaden his appeal in a GOP-leaning district, while Tinsley hopes to avoid identification with an unpopular Republican president.) While again we encourage you to seek for such substance on your own, we've done some of the homework for you.



The candidates directly disagree on only a handful of issues. On illegal immigration, while both support increased border security, Teague favors a path to citizenship for those already here illegally; calling it "amnesty," Tinsley opposes a path to citizenship as part of any comprehensive immigration reform plan. Tinsley also opposes government benefits and driver's licenses (technically, a state issue) for illegal aliens, on which Teague states no position.

On energy, while both support research on alternative energy, Teague specifically calls for tax credits for wind and solar power; Tinsley specifically supports nuclear-power research. Only Tinsley calls for reduced regulation on domestic oil and gas producers, along with opening more federal lands for drilling. Tinsley also opposes government-mandated energy conservation, which presumably would include further upping the CAFE standards for automobile fuel economy. Teague praises Congress' 2007 efforts to boost energy independence (including raising CAFE standards) and cut carbon emissions, along with the (blocked) push to require utilities to generate 15 percent of their power, over time, from alternative sources.

On the war in Iraq, Teague supports bringing home troops from Iraq "as soon as possible" while beefing up forces in Afghanistan. Tinsley opposes any "timetable" for withdrawing troops.

Each candidate also details a number of positions on issues that his opponent simply does not address, although the opponent's party in some cases has generally taken the opposite view. For example, Teague supports:

  • Increasing the federal minimum wage to keep up with inflation.
  • Eliminating the "punitive aspects" of No Child Left Behind.
  • Allowing Americans to buy healthcare coverage through the same plan that members of Congress enjoy.
  • Expanding Medicaid and SCHIP for lower-income families, while increasing the cutoff for family coverage to 25.
  • Allowing Medicare to negotiate drug costs and individuals to import prescription drugs from Canada and Mexico.

Teague opposes private-school tuition vouchers, which many in the GOP have backed.

Conversely, Tinsley supports these tax policies that Democrats have generally opposed:

  • Making President Bush's 2001 tax cuts permanent.
  • Repeal of the estate tax.

Tinsley also calls for reform of the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), but does not state whether he would join fellow Republicans in opposition to paying for this fix in part by raising taxes on profits from hedge funds.

While far from complete, this crib sheet can at least take some of the guesswork out of your Nov. 4 voting-booth decision. However you vote, it's vital to keep in mind that the winner will be casting his own votes in Congress — perhaps, given the power of incumbency, for many years to come. Don't let your dislike for Teague's Texas-y drawl or your grudge over that time your steak was overcooked at one of Tinsley's K-Bob restaurants color your decision. Don't be swayed by either man's professed patriotism or the relative depth of their New Mexico roots. Both are New Mexicans who love and want to serve their country — but only one will be your proxy in the nation's capital.



David A. Fryxell is editor of Desert Exposure.



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