Q&A: Cherise D. Quezada, Democratic Candidate for House District 26

Cherise D. Quezada

NAME: Cherise D. Quezada

POLITICAL PARTY: Democratic

OCCUPATION: Most recently, Assistant State Representative for District 26 Georgene Louis (the seat I’m running for), Policy Analyst to ABQ Councilwoman Klarissa Peña, worked at the NM Municipal League and at YDI.

TOWN OF RESIDENCE: Albuquerque

RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: Assistant to State Representative Georgene Louis, District 26; Committee Assistant to the House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee of the Legislative Assembly; Political Analyst to Albuquerque Councilwoman Klarissa Pena, District 3; Route 66 West Neighborhood Association, President, since 2014; South West Neighbors Alliance, Executive Council, since 2010; voter registration officer since 2013; Youth Development Inc. (YDI), Executive Assistant to Chris Baca, Past President/CEO, 2010-2016; Municipal League NM, 2000 – 2010

EDUCATION: High school equivalency diploma

CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: cheriseformm.com

1. New Mexico relies heavily on the petroleum and natural gas industries to generate revenue to fund state programs, as evidenced by the recent oil boom and bust cycles. What steps should the Legislative Assembly take to diversify the state’s economy and revenue base?

Continue to invest and develop the film industry; developing the renewable energy industry using wind and solar energy; investing in our workforce to make New Mexico attractive to industry; expand universal early childhood education and employment opportunities created by this industry.

2. During the last ordinary legislative session, efforts were made unsuccessfully to facilitate the retention of certain defendants behind bars until trial. Should New Mexico law be changed to make it easier to hold individuals charged with violent offenses such as murder and first-degree child abuse behind bars until trial?

Yes. The law currently allows judges to hold violent offenders behind bars pending trial. Courts must focus more on public safety when allegations involve murder and other violent crimes, including domestic violence or child abuse.

3. What steps should the Legislature take to address crime and public safety in the face of rising violent crime rates?

Implement pre-trial surveillance by enforcing all court orders and 24-hour GPS monitoring devices; increase public safety salaries and staff (police, fire, paramedics and guards); invest in new technologies for the AD offices; investing in behavioral health and rehabilitation programs; investing in crime-fighting technology; replicate the community policing model.

4. What changes, if any, should New Mexico make to its gross receipts tax code?

Lower the gross receipts tax rate to help small businesses. I support recent proposals to close tax loopholes in the tax code as well as make it more progressive to keep money in the pockets of low-income workers and local businesses.

5. New Mexico is currently the only state that does not pay its legislators a salary, although legislators receive per diems and are eligible for a statutory pension. Do you support or oppose a salaried legislature and, if so, how much should legislators be paid?

I support a salaried legislature and strongly believe this would diversify our leadership so that elected terms are not limited to retirees or wealthy individuals. A reasonable salary would make service in the Legislative Assembly more attractive to the younger generation and regular members of the community.

6. What more, if anything, should the legislature do to respond to a court ruling that found that New Mexico does not provide sufficient education for all students, especially Native Americans and those who do not speak English as a first language?

New Mexico must close the achievement gap for our state to succeed. We must recruit and retain the best teachers and work with our tribal leaders. The state should consider establishing and investing in statewide bilingual classrooms or bilingual education to make learning equitable.

7. What should be the priority as New Mexico seeks to strengthen its health care system?

I would create a “LEDA-like” program for health care. We need to encourage doctors and nurses to settle in rural New Mexico. NM needs a dental school so that our best and brightest can study medicine in the state. We need more school health centers and I will fight for a new hospital on the West Side.

How should the state address the shortage of nurses and other health care workers?

Expand and encourage university nursing programs; granting certifications to our military spouses so that nurses can start working immediately; providing rental assistance for healthcare workers; incentivize health workers working in rural areas; expand broadband and encourage telehealth to maximize resources. Strengthen assault and battery laws to protect health care providers.

8. In recent years, New Mexico has steadily increased spending on early childhood programs, such as home visiting, preschool, and child care assistance, and created a new fund Early Childhood Trust. Do you support or oppose the constitutional amendment proposed in the November ballot that would take more money out of the state’s permanent school fund to increase funding for early childhood services and K-education? 12?

I strongly support the constitutional amendment on early childhood. The annual distribution of our permanent fund of $26 billion is currently too low. With the creation of the new Department of Early Childhood Education and Care, the accountability structures are in place to build a world-class early childhood system for future generations.

9. In order to address climate change and air quality issues, do you support or oppose legislation that limits greenhouse gas emissions and requires the state to achieve net zero emissions of here 2050?

Support strongly. Increase incentives for homeowners and businesses to invest in renewable energy; be the leader in the demand for energy savings; encourage telecommuting as an energy saving effort; encourage electric cars and invest in the adequate infrastructure needed to support them; I support the closure of the San Juan plant.

10. New Mexico recently became the 17th state to regulate and tax recreational cannabis sales? What changes, if any, do you think should be made to the current law? We must monitor the cannabis industry by the next session to improve the existing legislation.

Prohibit public consumption to contribute to the safety of our roads. Cannabis legalization is long overdue, and we can learn from other states to make sure it’s done the right way.

11. Do you believe that any changes should be made to the emergency powers held by a governor during a pandemic or other time of crisis. If so, do you think these powers should be expanded or reduced and in what specific ways?

I think we need the University of New Mexico and Legislative Council Services to study the pandemic, once we have the information we can make the necessary changes.

12. What changes, if any, should New Mexico make to its election laws and primary system? Do you support or oppose opening state primary elections to voters who are not affiliated with any of the major political parties?

I believe in making voting more accessible to all members of our community, including same-day voter registration that would allow anyone to join and participate in the Democratic Party.

13. Would you support a merit-based evaluation system to determine how the state spends its capital expenditure funding?

I support the reforms that have been made requiring legislators to publicly disclose capital expenditures as this allows voters to determine whether their elected representative is adequately representing their constituency.

14. Do you support or oppose allowing an independent redistricting commission to perform the once-a-decade task of redrawing New Mexico’s political boundaries?

Support. I think the process should be led by a diverse group of citizens who redrawing the lines will affect rather than lawmakers and adjusting the number of those who are in jail or living in homeless shelters using their last known address so that the number of people is not so skewed.

Personal history

1. Have you or your business, if you are a business owner, ever been subject to any state or federal tax liens?

No.

2. Have you ever been involved in personal or commercial bankruptcy proceedings?

Yes. I was involved in a personal bankruptcy during a divorce.

3. Have you ever been arrested, charged, or convicted of a DUI, misdemeanor, or felony in New Mexico or any other state? If yes, explain.

No.

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