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Angelica Rubio makes the case to stay District 35 rep


Angelica Rubio is looking to remain the state representative for District 35. First elected in 2016, she is seeking her fifth two-year term in the state House of Representatives. To do that, she’ll have to fend off a single challenger in the Democratic primary. There is no Republican candidate for the seat.

Gabriel Duran, who ran for Las Cruces City Council in 2023, is challenging Rubio for the Democratic nomination.

The Bulletin requested Duran and Rubio respond to questions generated by its readers. Only Rubio responded by the given deadline. Duran said he would supply the Bulletin with the questions before the print deadline, but did not. 

Due to limited space, Rubio’s responses have been abbreviated in our print edition, but appear in full at LasCrucesBulletin.com. 

Oil and gas made up more than half of the state’s revenue for the first time in New Mexico's history. This is unsustainable. How should the state move past this?

Since my election in 2016, my main priority has been to work not only to address climate justice but also to center frontline communities directly impacted by the fossil fuels industry. With New Mexico relying so heavily on fossil fuels for its revenue – almost 50 percent — the same can be said about our communities across the state who have only known this work, and one that provides so much for their livelihood 100 percent of the time, directly and/or indirectly. Most frontline communities believe that the climate is in crisis, but they’re just trying to survive another day. 

Despite the challenges of imagination in the New Mexico Legislature, little by little, policy by policy, we’re making some headway. While we have the answers to transition thoughtfully, the industry has an incredible stronghold and influence on the elected officials across the state–not by one party over another (both Republicans and Democrats are heavily influenced by the industry), making it so hard. But when we center frontline communities, and not industry, we have the tools to do it. We must look at this issue through the principles of restorative justice, prioritizing sustainability, equity and community well-being, centered around sustainable investment, equitable transition, community ownership, restoration and conservation, circular economy practices, environmental justice and education and awareness.

These have all been at the center of legislation I have sponsored, whether it was on studies that I helped to commission with the University of New Mexico, the creation of the Sustainable Economy Taskforce and Advisory Council that is made up of community folk providing incredible insight, or spending the last two years putting these ideas into policy like last year’s House Bill 188, which would have created the Economic Transition Division within the Department of Economic Development Department; expanded the membership of the Sustainable Economy Advisory Council; and enacted the Economic Transition Act, which would have asked for a $10 million appropriation for a trust fund for oil and gas workers who have no safety nets. 

While that legislation did not pass, what this effort has done is provide opportunities for other policy initiatives that we passed this past session, like a trust fund that came out of a symposium that I participated in last fall hosted by Speaker Javier Martinez, and HB 303, a pilot program within the Higher Education Department that would provide economic support to New Mexico residents participating in, and enrolled in certain workforce development training programs for specific industries or fields. We hope to develop all of this further over the next few months in preparation for the January session. All of these, I believe, are steps that we should continue to take in order to diversify our economy away from fossil fuels and extractive industries and let those directly impacted tell us what they need in order to make this transition. 

If we only allow industry to dictate that–in the way that they’re doing it right now with hydrogen, sequestration, nuclear, etc., we’re never going to make the break, hurting both our climate and our communities.

Oil and gas are also major sources of pollution. As New Mexico residents grapple with the effects of climate change — i.e., more wildfires, water shortages, heat waves and crop failure — what role should the legislature play in mitigating these effects? 

As mentioned above, we need a multi-faceted approach that combines revenue diversification, regulatory measures, community engagement and resilience-building efforts; the legislature can play a significant role in mitigating the effects of climate change while transitioning away from fossil fuels. If we prioritize the principles of community ownership, restoration and conservation, circular economy practices, environmental justice and education and awareness, this can make a difference. 

Our readers lamented the lack of access to doctors and health care. What will you do to increase access to health care?

First and foremost, I believe that health care should not be something that people have to pay for or that any institution should be profiting from those who are sick. Punto. The older I get, and the quicker my body is changing (and having just accessed health care myself for the first time in over 10 years through my new job), I still can’t fathom how this is still a debate in this country. However, because things in government work slowly, I think New Mexico has a prime opportunity to do things differently and could be a leader for the rest of the country. 

Like the climate crisis, we have to work on this issue in a multi-faceted way – and with a tremendous amount of up-front investments. First and foremost, we must center cultural competency in this work. New Mexico has a diverse and beautiful constituency, and so we have to be sensitive to our culture, make language accessibility a priority and ensure that health education is adequate for communities. Secondly, we must stop saying that we’re the poorest state and instead change this narrative to say that we have the resources to invest in our communities; we’re just choosing not to. This is one of those areas. Because the fossil fuel industry is so volatile, this is why we have so many living in poverty: Folks can’t catch up. So, in the case of health care, we need to make that up-front investment to also expand Medicaid eligibility to cover more low-income individuals and families. This could significantly increase access to health care services for those who currently can’t afford it. 

We need to fund community health centers across rural communities and underserved neighborhoods across the state, which can provide preventative health care like dental and mental health – and anything else that the specific community needs. When we tackle preventative care, the cost of health care is reduced significantly over time. This also includes telehealth services for even more disproportionately impacted communities where these centers aren’t available or a specialty is not accessible. The pandemic provided us the push to make this happen, but it’s something we should have been doing for a long time before that. By providing these services, we can support people with consultations, monitoring, and prescriptions. 

As someone who has her elder parents living in rural New Mexico, I recognize how important this piece is. But we can’t do any of this if we do not have an experienced and well paid workforce, especially in these disproportionately impacted communities. We need to provide incentives for professionals to practice in these communities, expand medical education so that they’re not only gaining hands-on experience, but bedside manners and cultural competency. Furthermore, attaining this education should not be costing students so much money. 

We need to work to lessen the costs of higher education, and if we’re not willing to commit to that, then we need to cancel their student debt in its entirety if and when they complete their tenure at a high-need community.

What steps, if any, would you take in the legislature to increase access to abortion?

I have and will always protect the right, and equitable and just access to an abortion for anyone with a uterus. I have demonstrated that in my votes time and time again since my start in the legislature eight years ago. From here on out, though, there is so much left to do to protect people’s rights due to what is happening at the national level. I am honored that New Mexico has become a sanctuary for nearby states who have traveled to or relocated to not only attain abortion access and healthcare but also that they’ve come searching for gender-affirming healthcare. I will continue to work on initiatives to expand these services and ensure that all providers can operate without restrictions or regulations that are absurdly unnecessary. 

I support the opening of new clinics and ensuring that existing clinics have the resources they need to provide comprehensive care. I want to continue to take steps to protect abortion clinics and providers from harassment and violence and will work with my colleagues to strengthen protections for clinics and providers and work to counter anti-abortion rhetoric and stigma. If a person needs abortion care, I want to make sure that they can attain that care immediately. I oppose waiting periods, mandatory counseling requirements, and/or restrictions on insurance coverage for abortion services. 

I want to make sure that this access remains as affordable and accessible as possible. If you’re not a fan of abortions, then let’s work to prompt comprehensive sex education programs that not only provide information about abortion healthcare, including contraception and abortion but also increase education and awareness to empower our communities to be as informed as possible regarding decisions that may need to be made if they’re ever confronted with having to make decisions about reproductive choices.

What steps would you take to protect democracy amid threats to public officials and attempts at undermining elections in the U.S.?

Since my election in 2016, I have worked to protect democracy in all possible ways through legislative policy. While we have made some significant updates to our election code over the last few years, more needs to be done, and I’m committed to being a part of that. First, I support measures that ensure the integrity of elections, whether we’re talking about the implementation of paper ballots, robust cybersecurity protocols and transparent auditing processes. 

Furthermore, and more importantly, my commitment to combating misinformation is critical–and I support initiatives that promote media literacy and fact-checking. I 100-percent support policies that expand voting access, such as automatic voter registration, early voting options and many of the other ideas that are being considered in this expansion. Anything that works to suppress voters, I will always oppose. 

Furthermore, I think it’s important to protect public officials. In recent years, many of our community leaders, specifically those who are from and represent marginalized communities, have faced threats of violence. I support adequate measures of security that protect these threats and harassment, including online harassment and threats. But with this also comes putting trust back into our government and our leaders. I support and will continue to advocate for transparency, ethics reforms and accountability measures within government institutions to build trust and confidence in those serving in these elected positions. 

Lastly, our young people have very little to no access to programming about civic life. I absolutely believe that we must invest in programs to educate not only youth but also the public on the importance of our democracy, civic responsibility and engagement, and the responsibilities of those of us serving in public office. I’ve been serving for the past eight years, and it has been increasingly important for me to figure out how to be better about bringing more people into this process, and I will continue to do so.

Various groups have pointed to different “flaws” in the legal system. Some have suggested that bail reform should be tweaked or removed. Others have pointed to challenges around competency. Others have said that more focus on poverty alleviation is needed to reduce crime.  Where would the legislature’s time be best spent to address crime in New Mexico? And what changes are you in favor of seeing?

This is a multi-faceted answer, but unfortunately the current political narrative does not allow for us to have this conversation because what people are experiencing day-to-day has heightened our inability to have this conversation and dialogue around more sustainable solutions. 

What is being considered today are short-term band-aids that will not solve our problems in the long term. With that said, I will continue and always advocate for policies that prioritize redemptive over punitive measures. I will only support funding opportunities for community-based crime prevention programs, and major investments to support efforts to address underlying social and economic factors contributing to the increase in crime. 

I have and will always stand by restorative justice as we head to a special session in July (to consider) legislation related to incarcerating those deemed incompetent and individual(s) who are panhandling and increasing penalties for felons with guns. I will not support it. 

This special session is purely for political optics and will not do anything to address any of the issues communities around the state (and nation) are facing. As mentioned, I believe we should be making long-term investments in community-based crime prevention programs and addressing underlying social and economic factors.

How do you intend to maintain contact with constituents during your term?

Since my election in 2016, I’ve done my very best to stay in communication with my constituents. Whether it was daily video updates shared on my YouTube channel, which was linked to all of my social media platforms from the legislative sessions to sharing details on Twitter, to a newsletter that I would send as often as I could, including a yearly letter I mail out, to hosting Spill the Beans w/Rep. Rubio at local coffee shops. Sadly, the response from the community was low in comparison to the amount of work it was taking me to do–especially as someone who is a volunteer legislator. 

Over the course of the last few months, I’ve lessened that connection due to time. The bottom line is that most of our constituents, not just here locally but nationally, do not know who their state legislators are, or the importance that they make in their everyday life–but that’s not their fault. The fault lies with those of us elected and politicos, who have perpetuated the awfulness that is politics, instead of focusing on governance. I’ve prioritized modernizing our legislature so that it is no longer a volunteer, unpaid role but one that is equitably salaried, with a dignified salary – that allows more people with lived experiences to participate in this process. 

I will once again re-introduce a constitutional amendment to create a commission to establish salaries, in the hopes that we can finally get the legislation heard in the Senate. (It has passed the House of Representatives twice with no hearing in the Senate ever.) Along with modernization efforts is the issue of staffing. In addition to not having a salary for legislators, legislators also have no staff to support our work in the legislative process. 

For years, we have been requesting investments in this area, including a study that was conducted last year by the University of New Mexico which concluded that we do, in fact, need staff to do our jobs. Later this year – and for the first time ever — New Mexico legislators will have the opportunity to hire their own staff to support them in their home districts. While the details are still being ironed out, this is by far one of the most exciting things I have had the opportunity to work on with a cohort of other women legislators, who have prioritized modernization–and will be a game changer in maintaining better contact with our constituents from here on out.

District 35, vote, House of Representatives, Angelica Rubio