Six candidates vying for three spots on the Edgewood Town Commission spoke their truth during a candidate forum in front of about 75 local residents. The Greater East Mountain Chamber of Commerce put on the forum Oct. 18 at the Estancia Valley Classical Academy.
Edgewood Commission candidates include District 2, incumbent Jerry Powers who is running unopposed after his challenger pulled out of
the race. In District 3 there are two challengers, Patrick Milligan and Colin Clausen, who are vying for the seat left by outgoing Commissioner Audrey Jaramillo. District 5 incumbent Sterling Donner has opposition from Mary Kozik and Michael Peters.
The Edgewood governing table has been rocked with controversy after drama, lawsuits and infighting gobbled up time and racked up legal bills.
In April, on a 4-1 vote, commissioners passed an ordinance that restricts access to abortion pills and allows individuals to file lawsuits against those that provide the pills.
The state Supreme Court is set tohear arguments Dec. 13. The State Attorney General will face off with Lea and Roosevelt counties along with the cities of Hobbs and Clovis. All of these have passed similar ordinances that are contrary to state legislation that has formally legalized abortion.
Then there was the ousting of then- Mayor Jaramillo after allegations of overstepping her role in what was designed as a largely ceremonial position, racking up $60,000 in public records fines and other allegations. Jaramillo decided not to run again for her commission seat.
Moderator Linda Burke, chamber executive director, asked about 20 questions of the candidates. The topics ranged from water sustainability, police support, whether commissioners will uphold the constitution over religious or other beliefs and much more.
Powers was one of the organizing members of Citizens for Open and Responsible Edgewood and one of three commissioners who sponsored the abortion pill restriction.
He was also one of three commissioners who a couple of years ago filed a lawsuit causing the removal of former Mayor John Bassett over nepotism allegations. Powers said in his closing statement that, “Government should basically be a housekeeping facility to protect the rights of the people. I am running to make sure this government is a reflection of the will of the people and their values.”
He said he would uphold his oath of office to do the will of the people because “that is how democracy works.”
District 3 has political newcomers Milligan and Clausen facing off for this seat left open by Jaramillo. Both candidates said they support the police and would not advocate to defund them. Both say water sustainability is a top issue for the town.
Milligan said he brings experience in economic development and would look for bonds and grants to keep funding flowing into the town for road improvements. Edgewood, he said, needs growth but it should be local businesses.
When asked which he would uphold in matters that conflict with personal or religious beliefs or his oath of office, he answered his oath of office and the laws and constitution of New Mexico.
In closing he said it was Albuquerque’s crime that brought him to Edgewood for a better place to raise his family. He said would like to “bring people together for better ideas for the town and stop the fighting to get some things accomplished.”
Clausen said he brings his experience working with underserved populations and his ability to work with a wide range of people.
He said Edgewood needs growth in the business sector with more local and less large corporate businesses.
Clausen said he will always uphold the state constitution and his oath of office. He said he is running to “bring back government for the people and to work with constituents so the town can get things done and move forward.”
District 5 has Donner facing Peters and Kozik. All three said they support police and would not advocate to defund the police. These candidates also felt water sustainability was a top concern for the future of the town.
Kozik said she wants to find common ground with people and she brings experience that can help the administration run smoother.
Edgewood growth is a Catch-22 with many not wanting growth, but Kozic acknowledged a certain amount is necessary because the area needs young people and there are no real high-paying jobs to keep them.
Kozik said she would always follow her oath of office and the state constitution because religion in government is wrong.
She said she is running “to give the people of District 5 a choice…to help Edgewood regain some of what is lost by the interference with a new group of commissioners focused on running the town in a civil and efficient manner.”
Peters said he brings the experience of managing money and people after a career as a beverage distributor. He would like to see managed growth with a real town center where people can gather.
The commission should stay away from hot button issues that have no business coming before the commission, he said.
A separation of church and state is still important and he would uphold the state constitution and his oath of office, Peters said.
“I would hope we could keep issues local and if you promise to keep out of divisive issues with each other than keep your promise,” he said in closing.
Donner said he has significant experience working in government and has an economic mind.
He is one of the three commissioners sponsoring the abortion pill ban as it complies with the federal Comstock act that restricts the mailing of so- called obscene materials.
Donner said he would like to see sustainable growth with things for the area’s young people to do.
Donner said mentioned Venus Park as something he was proud of working on and would continue to work on additional recreation initiatives.
Donner said he will uphold his oath to the constitution and state laws as long as it doesn’t violate the constitution of the United States he said he has no problem upholding his oath.
He said he is running because the work isn’t done yet and he wants to build community, keep young people there, attract the right businesses and grow recreational opportunities.
Early voting begins locally Oct. 21 and the Nov. 7 election day is just around the corner. For more information on the election to sos.nm.gov/voting-and-elections/voter-information-portal-nmvote-org
To watch the forum see rumble.com.