After the Gulf War began and the recession hit Santa Rosa I lost 40% of my restaurant clients. I ended up being chef, waiter, dishwasher. That loneliness, that fear--I know what people are going through. We've got to get them out of it. Jose Campos, candidate for Lt. Governor, October 30, 2009
Except for Edgar Lopez’s absence, this morning at Roberto’s was like the old days, when Richardson was still popular when he came to town, before the Gran Traicion (Great Betrayal), as someone there described the spaceport tax project: politicos, candidates, and plebe, mingling with the coffee regulars, gossiping about everything worthless under the sun. Oscar Butler, Chano Merino, Willie Garcia, Bill McCamley (PRC hopeful), Ralph Misquez, were among the regulars this morning. Sen. Mary Jane Garcia, National Committee Woman Mary Gail Gwaltney, PRC Commissioner (and candidate for Land Commissioner) Sandy Jones, candidate for PRC Kent Evans, Arturo Uribe, Jesus Carrasco, Robert Nava, Ray Ibarra, and Manny Garcia: a solid but not complete sampling of Who’s Who on the pecking order in county politics today. All in all I counted about 30 persons listening in both rooms to the campaign talk of candidate Jose Campos, from Santa Rosa, running for Lt. Governor.
Stressing his electability, Campos pointed out his district’s Democratic performance is only 51%, but he won it by 60-40 while being outspent 3-1 by his opponent, Matt Rush. His district includes Roosevelt County and parts of Curry County, strong Conservative enclaves, and the district’s Hispanic population is only about 36-38%. He’s been a state representative since 2003, Mayor of Santa Rosa for 12 years, and before that a county commissioner. But he describes himself, sincerely, as a businessman.
He also spoke earnestly about the possibilities of using renewable energy as an investment in high-paying jobs for New Mexico, something he apparently knows fairly well. This is one of his major campaign themes. He was interrupted at various times by applause. After the talk he mingled for about an hour with people and then sat down with me and his campaign manager, Michelle Mares, at an empty table in the back.
For the current fiscal crisis, as a state representative Campos has staked out a position. He will vote in January for a restoration of the state personal income tax back to ’02 levels for persons earning $200,000 or more. This, he asserts, will generate $250 million out of the 2010 shortfall of $390 million. Taking (“sweeping”) $150 million in capital outlay funds the legislature did not touch during the special session in addition to the PIT tax will, he claims, take care of the 2010 budget. He is against proposals to cut more than superficially into education and he wants nothing to do with the proposal to restore and increase the gross receipts tax on food. Campos is unusually fluent and clear when he talks numbers and the relationships between numbers, a reflection of the B.A. he earned at UNM in economics and the multi-faceted perspectives he has gleaned from running a business, running a town, and working in the legislature. He attended NMMI before going to UNM, and he spent some time in Guadalajara, improving his ability in Spanish, which is highly functional but not flawless.
Asked what he might do for Dona Ana County and the South Valley as Lt. Governor, he suggested he could help local communities with realistic assessments of how to get local projects moving through the maze of multiple levels of government. He said he didn’t need anything new for this role in the way of staffing or legislation: he would get on the road and travel to many communities, listening to their priorities, advising and helping where he could. So whereas Lawrence Rael envisions himself as actually helping manage selective large projects in the state, Campos sees himself as more of an unpaid consultant and advocate for communities, using his access and practical knowledge to help things along. He asserted flatly that there is no region in the state with as high a level of what he called “surplus labor” than the South Mesilla Valley and suggested that Sunland Park is an ideal place for manufacturing, perhaps building generators, windmill blades, assembling things, etc.—getting back to the renewable energy theme he struck in his talk. But he also stressed he wanted to learn about local priorities before jumping to conclusions.
Campos is fortunate to have two seasoned professionals working for him. His campaign manager is Michelle Mares, formerly a campaign field coordinator for Sen. Jeff Bingaman and political director for over two years with Lt. Governor Diane Denish: this gives him credibility in organizing for the preprimary process next spring. The other is Santiago Juarez, former director of the Progressive Alliance for Community Empowerment, an attorney with decades of experience in community organization, and a passionate and persuasive advocate. Expect some creative networking and unusual bases of support.
Bottom Line: my sense of Campos is that he approaches politics less from an ideological position as from a practical one: staying within the cone of what is achievable under the circumstances, using his extensive knowledge of how to get things done as mayor, as legislator, as county commissioner; and uncomfortable with symbolic politics or lost causes, no matter how meritorious.