Election Day is six weeks away and while the Democratic candidate is leading the race for New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District, neither of the other two candidates is giving up.
In fact, both Republican candidate Janice Arnold-Jones and Libertarian candidate Lloyd Princeton are confident they can beat Democrat Deb Haaland. Arnold-Jones isn’t worried that a recent poll shows she is behind by eight points, and says voters have told her they often don’t participate in polls or answer questions honestly.
“People I talk to don’t support the agenda that’s being pushed [by Democrats],” Arnold-Jones said. “They don’t support abolishing ICE, they don’t support doing away with police.”
Princeton, who recently earned the support of only three percent of likely voters in a poll, is optimistic he’ll gain more supporters before Election Day.
“If everyone voted their conscience and if everyone truly is disgusted with the state of political affairs, at a state level as well as at a national level, then the only way to change it is to immediately get in third party people,” Princeton said. “Ignore the polls and ignore what your party is doing.”
Meanwhile, Haaland is hoping to keep the seat in the Democratic column and further her party’s fight against President Donald Trump’s agenda.
“Right now, no Republican is speaking out against Trump unless they’re not running for reelection and even if they aren’t, very few of them are saying anything,” Haaland said. “And they should be, they should be holding his feet to the fire.”
All three candidates have their own plans for strengthening New Mexico’s congressional voice and tackling what they see as some of the country’s biggest problems.
Arnold-Jones has long embraced government transparency and was at the forefront of a battle to allow legislative meetings to be broadcast live. A decade ago, the Santa Fe Reporter deemed her “Lady Sunshine,” a name that she has fully embraced and now uses for her Twitter profile. She served four terms as a legislator, was briefly an Albuquerque city councilor and ran unsuccessfully for Congress against U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham in 2012.
During an arguably tough time for Republicans, Arnold-Jones has been portrayed by Democrats as being in lockstep with Trump. But, she said, she has not been publicly asked her about her thoughts on Trump.
“Oh, isn’t that nice?” Arnold-Jones asked rhetorically. “I would say, they didn’t ask me.”
She said her support for Trump comes on a case-by-case basis.
“If the president is doing the right thing, I’m going to support him,” Arnold-Jones said. “If he’s doing the wrong thing, I’m going to pitch a fit, and it’s really that simple.”
Of course, what is considered “right” differs between political parties.
Arnold-Jones said she “certainly” wishes Trump “wouldn’t tweet” and said Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz was actually her first choice for president.
Still, Democrats have had plenty of ammunition: Arnold-Jones held a recent campaign event with controversial, conservative, political figure Dinesh D’Souza and made comments on Fox News about Haaland’s Native American heritage that she later apologized for to a tribal leadership group.
Despite online jabs from her political adversaries, Arnold-Jones maintains she is a “pragmatic person,” namely on things like climate change, also calling herself a “real steward of the land.”
“Is it all human caused? No. Does that relieve us of our obligation to take care of the Earth? No, it doesn’t,” Arnold-Jones said of the warming climate.
The most important issue for the U.S. and New Mexico to tackle in Arnold-Jones’ mind? Immigration.
She said she would like the government to better track immigrants, regardless of why they come to the United States. Arnold-Jones said the biggest “abusers” of U.S. immigration policies are those who use vacation visas and whose whereabouts are not tracked.
“And who’s fault is that? Is that their fault or our fault?” Arnold-Jones asked.
She said special recognition technology, or biometrics could solve the tracking problem.
“I want people to want to come to this country and I want them to want to be Americans, but that’s not for everybody,” Arnold-Jones said. “But there are people who want to come here to work, whole groups of people, and let me suggest, one of the things that we could do on regular work visas is put up some kiosks in Mexico near the border, have people do all of their paperwork there.”
But Arnold-Jones, just as her opponents, would be a freshman lawmaker if elected and would be just one voice of many in Congress. Her plan to get her voice heard is one she said she would take from the state Legislature—by building personal relationships.
“I’m not above delivering biscochitos and a chronology of the state of New Mexico to every member,” Arnold-Jones said.
Her Democratic opponent didn’t mention state history or cookies as an ice breaker, but did say she would hit the ground running, gunning for positions on key committees.
Laguna in Congress
If elected, Haaland could be the first Native American woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Her voice in Congress could offer unique views, she said, adding that she wouldn’t waste any time lobbying for key leadership roles that could boost her visibility.
“I’ll be busy on the phone as soon as I win,” Haaland said.
She is interested in the House Armed Services and Natural Resources committees as her late father was in the U.S. Marine Corp and because she sees climate change as the “most pressing issue” facing the U.S.
“The Democrats need to have a comprehensive infrastructure plan that includes renewable energy infrastructure,” Haaland said.
In the fight against climate change, Haaland said she would implore both Kirtland Air Force Base and Sandia National Laboratories to increase studies on the environment.
“I would like to see their environmental sector grow to fight climate change,” Haaland said. “I think that would be a worthy expenditure for taxpayer money.”
The former chair of the Democratic Party of New Mexico and one-time candidate for Lt. Governor is an enrolled member of the Pueblo of Laguna. When Arnold-Jones made a comment about both candidates being “military brats,” and that Haaland did not grow up on a reservation, many Haaland supporters took to social media to admonish Arnold-Jones. Haaland said Native Americans living in the the heavily metropolitan area of the 1st congressional district do face some unique challenges, but that all New Mexicans face similar challenges.
“Their issues aren’t any different than anyone else living here,” Haaland said, speaking of affordable healthcare, access to education and income inequality.
“When I think about what the district needs, we need jobs and we need healthcare,” she said.
“Quality public education transcends party affiliation.”
Haaland said, as a single mother, she understands the challenges of supporting a family.
“I know what it’s like to struggle,” Haaland said. “That’s 99 percent of people in New Mexico.”
A third option
Libertarian Lloyd Princeton has been both a Republican and a Democrat. Though he readily admits his political views lean to the right, he is quick to talk about taking care of the less fortunate, with one caveat—that they use their bootstraps as well.
“We need to give the people who are less fortunate the tools, and access to the tools, for them to join in this abundant economy,” Princeton said. “What was designed as a safety net has become safety cages.”
Princeton hopes that between now and election night, enough voters hear his message of “people over party” and vote Libertarian. He also hopes that they hear his message that less government regulation means more overall prosperity.
Princeton said healthcare reform is one of the first things he would try to tackle in Congress.
“Health care is far from reformed, Obamacare is far from doing what it’s supposed to do and we need an overhaul in the form of a simplification,” Princeton said.
Still, traditionally partisan voters would likely have to compromise on some issues in order to vote for Princeton. For example, his limited government regulation stance includes support for marriage equality, marijuana legalization and immigration reform, but also spending cuts and increased privatization on things like healthcare.
Put simply, Princeton said, “No one party is all good or all bad.”
If elected, Princeton would be the only Libertarian in the U.S. House, and he said he would not feel obligated to caucus with any party. Instead, he could provide the “best of both worlds.”