In defense Sen. Candelaria, a true leader

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COMMENTARY: Three years ago, Sen. Jacob Candelaria took heat from party hard-liners when he voted against the Health Insurance Exchange. His decision was arrived at not by slogans or emotion, but rather it was prompted by legitimate concerns over coverage for New Mexico’s most vulnerable.

Jerry Apodaca

Courtesy photo

Jerry Apodaca

That’s when I knew we had a potential Democratic leader.

Sen. Candelaria would continue to evolve from that experience and take on issues that didn’t necessarily fit comfortably into his party’s worldview. Enter Senate Bill 47 in the current legislative session and the group New Energy Economy (NEE). 

NEE has been recalcitrant to acknowledge that energy producers for decades were responding to market demands (when renewables were not viable), and when they acquiesced to environmental and political demands in the form of national leading renewable portfolio standard (RPS) percentages and stiff economic concessions this year, they scoff and claim that villainous PNM is trying to circumvent regulatory protocol. 

Sen. Candelaria’s evolution has manifested itself in a policy approach that is founded by a desire to build consensus and work with opposing forces to craft legislation that reinforces New Mexicans’ belief that Santa Fe endeavors to balance consumer, industry and environment.     

Sen. Candelaria’s progressive street cred should be immune from suspicion. He championed the prohibition of the medieval conversion therapy practices and he cast the deciding vote to bury right-to-work legislation. But certain folks, in true nuclear option tact, responded this session with, “What have you done for us lately?”

NEE so injected itself into a “bond” bill that the late-session, behind-scenes negotiations were solely between NEE and other environmental groups. If you recall, a few months back at the PRC, NEE refused to engage in a responsible compromise reached by PNM, the attorney general and other environmental groups, opting to be obstructionists instead. NEE may be more interested in using potential legislation and regulatory action to raise money than raising our ranking nationwide. 

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Some of those on social media have made irresponsible and loaded comments about dispatching Jacob in the primary. Here is my call to action for those of us not bent on quixotic posturing: Send a message to our elected officials that we want those who strive to govern from the middle to represent us. 

Obstructionists like NEE will always take advantage of a flawed governmental system. Aligning themselves with an apparatus married to parliamentary tradition that breads roadblocks and suspicion, NEE uses long-standing political riffs to dis-incentivize future collaboration between PNM and environmentalists.

Jerry Apodaca, a Democrat, is a former New Mexico governor. Agree with his opinion? Disagree? We welcome your views. Learn about submitting your own commentary here.

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