Editor’s note: This week, NM Political Report will publish Q&As with candidates for U.S. House, U.S. Senate and governor about their policy platforms regarding a range of topics, including abortion, contraception, LGBTQ issues and domestic violence.
For links to all of our stories, see here.
The following is from a Q&A with Christopher Manning, the Libertarian nominee in the 3rd Congressional District.
NMPR: If elected, how will your beliefs about the separation between government and religion guide your work in Congress?
Christopher Manning: For me, that’s not a big concern. My religious beliefs don’t really play into how I would govern or any legislation that I would propose.
NMPR: Is healthcare a human right? Why or why not?
Christopher Manning: No because a right is something that you have regardless, you have it just because of the fact that you are alive. When you have healthcare that’s basically a consumer good that somebody has to be able to provide to you. A lot of times I think that people confuse healthcare and health insurance and use them in essence as interchangeable terms. I think it’s important to distinguish between healthcare as being the treatment that you actually receive from a medical professional and health insurance as the insurance you basically need to pay for that treatment. In essence…these are rights that you have because you exist. Basically, you don’t have to go to someone else to get that right, whereas in healthcare a doctor actually has to provide you the care.
NMPR: If elected, can you describe what measures you would take, if any, to ensure that contraception is easily accessible to anyone who needs it?
Christopher Manning: I don’t think we should have nearly as many restrictions on contraception as we have right now. I would be supportive of allowing pharmacists to make the prescription without having to go to a physician to get the prescription written. And even be open to considering allowing states to have it sold over the counter if that’s what they so choose.
NMPR: What measures would you take, if any, to ensure that abortion is legal, safe and accessible?
Christopher Manning: Particularly in New Mexico, I’m not real happy with how far [into a pregnancy] we allow an abortion to go. In New Mexico, you can have an abortion up until the day before birth. I think what what would be reasonable, and I think what was the original intent of Roe v. Wade, was up to viability, so I would be supportive of abortion up to 20 weeks, but beyond 20 weeks, I think we should have restrictions on abortion except for when needed to save the life of the mother.
NMPR: Please describe how an LGBTQ person in your life has affected your worldview.
Christopher Manning: I can’t think offhand of anything that comes to mind immediately. I very much see people as the individuals that they are. I obviously have many friends who [would] be in that community, but I don’t treat them any differently than anyone else. I’ve never really been big on grouping people into any identity. I just try my best to treat them for the individuals that they are.
NMPR: What are your priorities when it comes to addressing needs and concerns of LGBTQ people, including those in rural and tribal communities?
Christopher Manning: Obviously if you would point to a specific area where their rights or privileges that they are entitled to as citizens were being denied, I would work with them to ensure they are not denied any rights or privileges that they are entitled to. I can’t think of anything specifically that the community is denied that is available to other individuals who are not LGBT.
NMPR: What is your stance regarding proposals to enact federal work requirements for SNAP, subsidized housing and other public assistance programs?
Christopher Manning: I think we should go ahead and go more in line with what we had in the ‘90s, when we had those entitlement reforms and work requirements. If the individual doesn’t have any physical disabilities or anything that may preclude them from being able to be in the labor force, I think [requirements] are a good thing. I think unfortunately the Obama administration was lax on it, that we had a lot of people who really aren’t in need of the assistance but it was made available, and so they took the opportunity to use it.
As long as the economy is working as well as it is right now, where we have more jobs available than people actively searching for employment. I think we need to try to try to look into these pushes to help people back into the enforcement [workforce]. There’s always going to be more satisfaction and quality of life if people are earning everything that they have, rather than being given a public system handout.
NMPR: What is your stance regarding the Republican tax bill that includes major cuts to food assistance and a provision to repeal the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, a key part of the ACA, that will go into effect with the tax bill next year?
Christopher Manning: Obviously as a Libertarian, I’m very much against government mandates. I think if you offer a quality product or good that people will voluntarily purchase it. I can say for myself, I’ve been without health insurance since I left my employment with USAA back in 2016. Because of the mandates, because of the mandatory coverages that are required by the ACA, it pushed the individual market out of affordability. I can’t afford to pay the premiums with the deductibles, and I know many other people like me are in the same position.
As far as the tax cut overall, and the removal of the individual mandate—and I am supportive of that, because I think it should be voluntary whatever goods and services you decide to buy. But I think we aren’t doing enough to cut government spending across the board. With this year’s projection of $900 billion deficit, with the economy doing as good as it is doing there’s really no excuse for that. I think Washington is really lost in the sense of fiscal responsibility. Eventually that debt burden is going to come due and do harm.
NMPR: What is your agenda for helping combat our state’s and our nation’s high prevalence of substance abuse disorders?
Christopher Manning: A lot of times I think we look to government as a solution, when really the government doesn’t really have the ability to regulate behavior. This is a personal responsibility. But as far as addressing the opioid abuses specifically, I think we need to look towards the legalization of cannabis, because it has shown—in states where it has been legalized—it has shown a reduction in opioid use and fatalities. That is one way to address it. I think the decriminalization of marijuana would also have a great effect on our criminal justice system. We spend too much on non-violent and victimless crimes. But I also think we need to allow more substance abuse counseling, maybe in our schools, so that way there’s that understanding and awareness of what options are available…to take advantage of.
NMPR: If elected, what will you do to address the high numbers of families affected by incarceration, including rising numbers of women?
Christopher Manning: I think this is one of the areas that maybe the general public isn’t aware of the Libertarian position … which I support. Where there is no victim, we should not be incarcerating any individual. More specifically with drug crimes, I think we should focus a lot more on rehabilitation rather than punishment.
Sending individuals to prison for these sort of things generally only reinforces the habit. It also is a great networking opportunity for criminals. A lot of times people who spend a lot of time in prison can come out more of a criminal than when they went in. …
When it comes to property crimes, not every property crime is a crime against the state. If the victim of that crime had the ability to achieve restitution rather than to seek retribution, I think that would be a much better option while also reducing our criminal justice [system] burden.
NMPR: How will you take action regarding the federal government’s detention of asylees and immigrant families, including families with children?
Christopher Manning: Obviously, I know this is a very emotional topic. Nobody likes to see children separated from their parents. But the way it was handled in the Obama administration, where you had in essence anybody that came across illegally and had children with them, they were processed and then released into the general public. According to the CBP [Customs and Border Patrol] statistics, you had a large increase in … asylees and refugees who were not showing up for their proceedings. And so in essence these individuals had just basically found a way to come into the country, and then in essence they know they’re not going to be pursued.
Holding families [for] the amount of time that it takes to do full due process and have a court hearing—nobody wants children held in these family detention centers for 40-60 days, and in some cases it would be a year with the current backlog. Nobody wants that.
One of the solutions I think would be to stop this, is [increasing] our legal immigration. U.S. citizens don’t have any problem with people coming into this country as long as they come in through our legal channels. By increasing the number of individuals who are allowed to come in legally, that will reduce that demand for the illegal immigration.
Also, Congress needs to increase their refugee and asylum cap that they allow on their quota… Americans are very understanding, we understand why people want to come to America. We just want there to be a process where people come in legally so that nobody feels like they can cut in line.
NMPR: What are your top priorities for improving safety and support services for survivors of sex offenses?
Christopher Manning: In this area, I’m really pushing for the work of nonprofits. I have a client here in Farmington and that’s what they do, they offer sexual assault [response] services. They work with local police and also individually if an individual doesn’t want to go through the law enforcement route, providing counseling, medical care and treatment options to individuals who are victims of sexual assault. I would really like to see programs like that be expanded in the private sector and non-profits taking the lead on that, rather than, say, government. However, I think the government’s role in some cases where you do have these accusations, they need to be investigated thoroughly, and obviously making sure that the victim and the accuser are granted their due process rights.
NMPR: What are your top priorities for improving safety and support services for survivors of domestic violence?
Christopher Manning: Like I said, for the most part I’m very much a believer in the private sector and us as individuals. We’ve kind of given up our necessity in taking care of our neighbors and our friends. We look too much to the government to be the provider of that. The government is very inefficient in doing those sort of things, and there’s only going to be a lot more bureaucratic red tape any time you have the government involved in those roles.
I think either more social workers or nonprofit organizations can be developed. Maybe even a little bit of federal grant money, where you just get a block grant with no restrictions and the nonprofit is given the assumption that they are going to manage that money properly and put it towards good use. Obviously most organizations get audited and file reports, so that would help assure that the public tax dollars aren’t being wasted.
NMPR: Is there anything you wish I’d asked about issues that affect New Mexico women and families?
Christopher Manning: Not that I can think of, this was a good range of questions.
All of this week’s candidate Q&A’s were edited for clarity and length, although we did not edit the meaning of candidates’ answers. We did not include, however, tangents or off-topic issues candidates raised during the course of the conversations. It’s also important to note that the candidate’s answers aren’t annotated and we don’t point out any possible inaccuracies or misstatements.
Clarification: Minimal portions of this transcript have been updated for additional clarification.