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 Lloyd Princeton, the Libertarian nominee in the 1st Congressional District.
NMPR: If elected, how will your beliefs about the separation between government and religion guide your work in Congress?
Lloyd Princeton: Let me start by saying I am a practicing Episcopalian. I was raised with a degree of religiosity. I went to parochial schools—public school for a few years—but mostly Catholic private [schools]. I think when it comes to religion and government, I believe that it is our duty as citizens to elect individuals who best represent our beliefs and wishes. If the person is religious—practicing and/or spiritual at whatever level, atheist or non-practicing—it is their right and obligation to find a candidate that speaks for them. I don’t know that it’s fair to say that there’s a complete separation between church and state. … It’s in our Constitution, it’s on our dollar bills. God and religion play a part in our country any way you cut it. Religious organizations, of many denominations, are in many respects the backbone of most major communities across America. For the most part, it works really well. That being said, I do not perceive it to be a problem. I know we have lawmakers who have been going to the same parishes for many years, and people that elect them because they represent their wishes. … What makes us a rich country is that there are a lot of perspectives and a lot of opinions, and I think that our government should recognize that it represents a body of people who are mostly faithful and that there needs to be an adequate number of representatives to make sure their needs are met.
Let me give you a really good example where I don’t think there needs to be a separation of church and state: education. I believe in school choice, and I believe parents should have the ability to direct where their children should go to school. I’m a taxpayer, and I know that half of my taxes go to fund the Albuquerque Public School system. Rather than it necessarily go to the public school system, I’d rather see my property taxes go to the—I’m making this up—the Albuquerque education fund. Parents get their check from the fund, and they can take it to whatever school is best for them, whether it be a public school, a parochial school, a charter school, a STEM school. Maybe one could even argue that they could get a credit for homeschooling and things like that. Public money could be put into a parochial education.
NMPR: Is healthcare a human right? Why or why not?
Lloyd Princeton: I’m going to err on the side of saying yes, though I think this needs a nuanced answer. At the end of the day, we are a wealthy society. I think it is completely conceivable that American citizens should have access to affordable healthcare, and I also believe that each person should contribute to their ability, if it’s $5 or $500 or $5000, whatever’s appropriate. That to me would be fair, because there’s no free ride.
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?
Lloyd Princeton: I would take whatever measures are necessary to make sure it’s easily accessible.
NMPR: What measures would you take, if any, to ensure that abortion is legal, safe and accessible?
Lloyd Princeton: I would take all measures necessary to make sure that abortion is safe, legal and accessible as a last resort.
NMPR: Please describe how an LGBTQ person in your life has affected your worldview.
Lloyd Princeton: I have helped the LGBTQ community fight for recognition … since I was a little boy growing up in San Francisco. … I grew up in a city that was very much on the forefront of this as a focus. Fast forward to today, gay couples are facing discrimination even just ordering flowers or a cake for a wedding. That goes into religious rights, but at the end of the day, someone from a minority group or subgroup is being denied access to a service or product because of their sexuality. I have plenty of friends who are gay, and at the end of the day, the community is fighting for recognition and access, access to get married or access to visit a hospital and see a sick partner. For years, if they weren’t married, they weren’t allowed to go in to the hospital, the partner wasn’t allowed. We know these stories have been going on for a long time. This has all been part and parcel of my upbringing and DNA.
NMPR: What are your priorities when it comes to addressing needs and concerns of LGBTQ people, including those in rural and tribal communities?
Lloyd Princeton: I believe is my duty to make sure that all of my constituents, including the LGBTQ community in urban and rural and tribal communities, are treated fairly and with equality, period. There are no exceptions. I’m not going to give them special priority over a Muslim, over an African-American, over a woman.
Let me give you a part two to this answer: Discrimination in America is alive and well. … Men try to keep women down. Gays can commit reverse discrimination against straight people by making them feel uncomfortable in certain places. There are a lot of people living in ghettos still. Chinese students in New York are fighting not to be discriminated against because their test scores are higher than other people because maybe they work really hard. … It is my duty to make sure that discrimination is fought at all and every angle, from hiring, to pay, you name it. If you’re asking if I’m going to give special attention to one section—absolutely not. Everyone needs help and it’s my duty to make sure that my administration and anywhere we’re spending federal money has strict rules and a zero tolerance policy for any kind of discrimination, for hiring practices and otherwise.
NMPR: What is your stance regarding proposals to enact federal work requirements for SNAP, subsidized housing and other public assistance programs?
Lloyd Princeton: … At surface level, I do not have a problem with that. Just like medical, everyone needs to pay something. There’s no free ride. Just because you’re not making much money doesn’t mean you should get free medical or free food. The fact that you have children, and please scream this loud and wide for me, does not make that the problem of the rest of the community. Then if you decide to have a second and third child does not make it everyone else’s problem. People need to be responsible for themselves.
If you’re making $900 a month, $9000 a month, or $90,000 a month, each of us needs to be contributing something toward what we’re doing. If you get free utilities, guess what? You leave the lights on, you use a bunch of water, you flush the toilet 9,000 times, and you push all this shit in the trash and leave in on the street. You don’t care because you don’t pay for it. Same thing with medical. Studies have shown that if you don’t at least have a small co-pay, a couple of bucks, you’ll show up whenever you feel like it. Even a $5 copay makes people think twice about going to the doctor.
So if you want SNAP benefits, no problem. If you’re down and out, I totally believe in a safety net. I do not believe in dependence. … Anything that comes with no strings attached gets abused and people become complacent over time. I think that that’s one of the most deleterious effects on our society right now. … It’s like a muscle; if you don’t work for something and it’s just handed to you, you have no pride. I think that is exactly what New Mexico is lacking: pride. We’re lax, people are complacent about it, and what people need is leadership. What they’re going to get from me is not a whitewashing and a continuation of saying, “You’re down and out.” You’re going to get leadership that says, “ … We’re where we are because it’s a mess we’ve created. It’s no one else’s fault.”
And if we want to get out of it, we have to work hard and work together as a community. It’s not the federal government’s responsibility to bail out New Mexico, it’s New Mexicans’ responsibility to figure it out. We’re already one of the most reliant states on the federal government in the union. Please don’t tell me that the federal government has failed New Mexico.
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?
Lloyd Princeton: I’m a Libertarian, and we haven’t mentioned that word yet in this interview, but I’m running as a Libertarian, and yes, I definitely am very pro-business vis a vis Republicans. But I’m also very socially liberal. I understand where Democrats are coming from, and I used to be a Democrat. … If people can’t eat, sure, it’s hard to focus on finding a job, getting work and raising a family. … When your basic needs aren’t met, everything else is meaningless. You cannot plan for the future and take personal responsibility for your future the way I want New Mexicans to do when you’re fighting for subsistence. The idea that we would compromise food programs is just ludicrous to me.
… Let’s look at the real, bigger issues. In terms of the Affordable Care Act, I think our entire medical system is screwed up. I think the entire approach is wrong. … At the end of the day, I think that we need an overhaul of the medical system. I could give you my answers as to what I would do, but I don’t think you can just repeal the ACA and start chipping away at it. I think you need to put in place something very fundamental. It is eliminating vast amounts of administration and insurance and things like that which are sucking up all the money.
… My simple response to medical is that we need to move to a direct, primary care model where for day-to-day things, we pay cash, out of pocket, which, by the way, many physicians around the country are switching [to]. It works, and it’s simple. Then we retain insurance for major medical things, hospitalization, things like that. The majority of Americans can afford the basic things. That’s not talking about the needy or the very rich, but the majority. … What Republicans are trying to do I think is a smokescreen, I think it’s ineffective. …
NMPR: What is your agenda for helping combat our state’s and our nation’s high prevalence of substance abuse disorders?
Lloyd Princeton: I believe in legalization of recreational substances, so that addiction can be treated as a medical problem and not a criminal problem. Someone who is addicted, whether because of opioids that were legally prescribed or because of recreational abuse gone too far, they can actually seek medical care.
… By legalizing drugs and making it a medical problem, allowing addicts to get medical care, we will solve two other problems. We’ll help our immigration problem, because a lot of people try to leave Latin American countries because of civil unrest created by drug cartels. We’ll have much less civil unrest, because the cartels will be making less money, and there will be less resources for drugs. We will lower our incarceration population in the U.S., which is the highest incarceration rate in the world.
NMPR: If elected, what will you do to address the high numbers of families affected by incarceration, including rising numbers of women?
Lloyd Princeton: Criminal justice reform is the number one priority for me. By the legalization of basic drugs, we will do two things. We will take people out of the system who have committed victimless crimes. … In victimless crimes, we do not need those people in the system. We need our resources, our judiciary, our law enforcement available to go after violent offenders. Violent offenders are the bane of New Mexico’s existence particularly. It’s keeping away a lot of big business and it keeps people from immigrating to the state because they’re afraid, with good reason. Drug reform is right at the top of the list, because women are falling into that, too. And look how it goes. You lock a father up for drug possession. Now you’ve left a woman and however many children without a provider. She has to try to make money in any way that she can. Really, by design, she might make some mistake. And now what we’re doing is destroying a family and putting children into a system. Our CYFD is overwhelmed. We have no place to put these children. It’s a complete travesty and complete mess, and it’s also a money-making system. The root of all evil in America is big business being greedy. I have no problem with business, no problem with people making money. It’s when people get greedy, and the prison industrial complex is a machinery. We need to stop feeding it with minorities, women, people who are committing victimless crimes.
NMPR: How will you take action regarding the federal government’s detention of asylees and immigrant families, including families with children?
Lloyd Princeton: I think we need wholesale immigration reform, point one. I think we need extensive work visas. And I think we need to grant residency and immigration application to many more people who have … come to this country with a job offer, clean medical and clean criminal record.
… In terms of asylum, look at the applications and do them much faster. I cannot believe we’re separating children from families. But I do also have to tell you that there is a degree of much faster process, much faster catch and return. I do not think we should be housing them. Just because someone steps into the country illegally does not make it my problem.
… If you’re throwing yourself at our mercy as an asylum seeker, I think we need to move to process those as quickly as possible. … I think we need to clean up and make more liberal our work and immigration process … and we will free up resources and attention so the system can start processing the illegal entries faster. Keep them in short-term detention and have a requirement of turning it around in seven days. If you come in with kids, you’re kept together, you’re fed, and we give you a decision as quickly as possible. … It’s hugely complicated, but I do believe it’s being grossly mismanaged.
NMPR: What are your top priorities for improving safety and support services for survivors of sex offenses?
Lloyd Princeton: I believe there’s always a one-time grant or seed money to initiate any kind of program. I would be tossing that around for education, for help for a variety of things, just to get the ball rolling so the local entities could continue with it. At the end of the day, I look at the federal government as stimulus, and I look at the state as continuous.
NMPR: What are your top priorities for improving safety and support services for survivors of domestic violence?
Lloyd Princeton: A lot of that stuff is going to be at the county and state level. Those aren’t federal offenses.
… Let’s go back to criminal justice reform. If I can go ahead and reduce prison and jail populations of non-violent offenders, I now have resources to catch the violent offenders who abuse their spouses. That’s where resources should be focused, not toward people who don’t hurt other people. … If we can get the wrong people out of prison, … then the cops, the attorneys, the DAs, the judges have more time and wherewithal to go after these people.
A lot of these spouse abusers and people like that, these sex offenders, pedophiles … a lot of the time, they’re repeat offenders. The system is so overwhelmed that they’re overlooked or we ignore the signs. You look at a number of these recent shootings, and we realize people saw the signs. The system ignored it because the system was busy. If you actually focus more on people who are potentially doing harm to others, you can actually stop them.
… A lot of this is not federal, but I think that it’s part of a leadership thing. As a Congressional person, … I can look into these issues and say, ‘Wait a second, I don’t need to do something about it, you need to do something about it. Before you come to ask me for something else, I expect you to do x.’ I think that’s the leadership I can provide.
NMPR: Is there anything you wish I’d asked about issues that affect New Mexico women and families?
Lloyd Princeton: No, this was very comprehensive, and … I definitely feel like I was able to get my philosophy across.
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.