House Dist. 22 candidates face off

A doctor and a teacher are running for the state House of Representatives in District 22, which encompasses much of the East Mountains and about half of Edgewood—and not surprisingly, healthcare and education feature prominently in the race.

The two candidates will take part in a candidates forum hosted by The Independent Oct. 21 at the Edgewood Community Center, starting at 1:30 p.m., along with both candidates for House District 50, which includes most of the Estancia Valley and the other half of Edgewood.

Dr. Gregg Schmedes, a Republican and medical doctor who was appointed to finish the term vacated by Jim Smith—who moved to a position on the Bernalillo County Commission—is facing Democrat Jessica Velasquez, a teacher and small business owner.

The two have taken different approaches to the campaign, with Schmedes scarce at area events, while Velasquez has appeared at many festivals, parades and other events in recent weeks.

Velasquez is also going door-to-door in the very large district—and she said that many people she meets that way are very surprised to have a candidate for public office introduce themselves in person.

Both candidates live in the East Mountains.

Schmedes said he “witnessed an immense need for better leadership and a new direction for our state,” and cited “access to healthcare” as one of his top priorities if elected.

Schmedes said he would take a multi-pronged approach to improving healthcare in New Mexico, from recruiting and retaining more doctors and nurses to transitioning people “off Medicaid so they’re able to get better plans.”

Schmedes does not favor a Medicaid for all approach, or universal healthcare. “Our goal should be prosperity for those families so they can transition out of Medicaid,” he said, adding, “I’m starting to hear from constituents who feel the government is incentivizing their poverty.”

For Schmedes, the answers to many social ills come down to improving the economic situation in New Mexico, through reduced regulations on businesses.

“I want to increase wages in a natural way, not in a government-mandated way,” Schmedes said.

While economic development is a top priority for him, Schmedes acknowledged that he is talking about a long process. “I’m not saying it’s going to be easy—achieving prosperity is not going to be easy and would take a generation.”

Velasquez owns a small business, and said that while she does favor an increased minimum wage, she would want to raise it incrementally to $12 an hour by 2022, and to look at exceptions for the smallest businesses, which would be hit hardest by such a move.

She said that small businesses employ 55 percent of New Mexicans in District 22, and supporting small business would be a priority if elected.

Velasquez said one of the surprises on the campaign trail has been both the numbers of voters registered outside the Democratic and Republican parties, and the level of sophistication and interest she has found while knocking on doors.

“People are aware that there are not simple solutions, that you’re not going to have one answer that’s going to solve the problem,” she said, whether the subject is education, economic development or healthcare.

Education is a priority for both candidates, who both favor paying teachers more, getting rid of Common Core, and vastly reducing standardized testing.

Both support early childhood education, and different paths to student success including vocational education and the arts. Both said they trust teachers and would support giving teachers greater freedom in the classroom.

Velasquez said she supports legalizing recreational marijuana and taxing it. She also supports an open primary system in New Mexico that would allow voters to cast a ballot in any race regardless of party affiliation, pointing to the increasing numbers of unaffiliated registrations, especially among young voters.

Schmedes says he would be “especially tough on crime” and is an ardent supporter of the 2nd Amendment and the rights of gun owners. He also describes himself as “100 percent pro-life.”

Both candidates have campaign websites and can be found on Facebook for additional information. To learn more about the Oct. 21 candidates forum, contact The Independent at 505-286-1212 or editor@edgewood.news.

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