The East Mountain Democrats will host Democratic candidates currently seeking the First Congressional District seat at a candidate forum Feb. 17 at 2 p.m. at Edgewood Middle School. The forum will address issues important to rural New Mexico communities.

Dave Mulryan, a State Central Committee member and part of the committee organizing the congressional forum series, said, “The East Mountains region is rural and the needs of rural communities are different from the needs of other parts of the district. With more than 25,000 residents living in contiguous areas of four different counties covering the East Mountains, this area can be decisive in determining the outcome of the primary. We are determined to make sure every area in our district has access to hear candidates address the issues that are important to them.”

The forum will concentrate on questions that will allow voters to evaluate where candidates stand on the issues unique to rural communities.

Leo Sullivan, an organizer for East Mountain Democrats, said a high percentage of the residents of rural New Mexico are beneficiaries of federal “safety net” programs considered by many to be “at risk” in Congress. Sullivan said, “Voters in communities all over the country want healthy food, clean air and water, renewable energy, living wage jobs, quality education and nearby quality healthcare to support a better life for themselves and their families. But in areas outside large urban centers, we see falling incomes, especially for farm families, and a decline of independent main street business activity as well as deterioration in overall economic resources and vitality in small communities.”

Agricultural specialist Christina Allday-Bondy said, “Urban areas have not always recognized their dependence on rural communities for fiber, food, or access to the healing powers of nature. Our rural areas in New Mexico have even more to offer now, such as space for sun and wind energy infrastructure, carbon drawdown (absorption), and a population of young people and older adults ready to learn and use new skills. Rural New Mexico is especially sensitive to issues impacting water, transportation, health, sustainable development, telecommunications, public safety, and high speed internet.”

Sullivan also said, “Good paying jobs, job training, rural community investment, and reliable internet services are vital to economic recovery and development in the region. We are interested in hearing the innovative solutions the Democratic candidates bring to the table.”

According to Torrance County Democratic Party chair Margarita Hibbs, the “litmus test” for public policy proposals is whether they will to bring an end to the neglect of struggling communities and areas seen as “sacrifice zones” in the push to build thriving communities in rural New Mexico.

The League of Women Voters will moderate and time the discussion.

The seven remaining Democratic candidates for the seat are Albuqerque city councilor Patrick Davis, journalist John Flores, former Democratic Party of N.M. chair Debra Haaland, attorney Damian Lara, former U.S. Attorney Damon Martinez, businessman Paul Montoya and former executive director of Enlace Communitario Antoinette Sedillo Lopez.

Edgewood town councilor John Abrams withdrew from the race. Residents may email questions to