Congressional candidates Michelle Lujan Grisham and Mike Frese took on health care reform, the economy and immigration Monday in a forum sponsored by commercial real estate groups.
The forum was held at the Albuquerque Marriott as part of the monthly luncheon of the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties and was hosted by Tom Joles, the anchor of KOB-TV 4. The questions were given to the candidates ahead of time.
Lujan Grisham, the incumbent Democrat, said she was “working for New Mexico families” by focusing on the preservation of the Sandia Mountains, standing up for veterans, and funding an elementary school for high-risk students in Albuquerque.
Frese, a Republican scientist and small business owner, said he was focused on a mission to “restore America’s future” through freedom from federal funding, instilling respect for the Constitution, and gaining respect from friends and foes.
The pair’s opening statements were quite different, as were their answers to questions including about immigration.
Frese said the state “cannot afford open borders,” while Lujan Grisham said reforming immigration policies would be more productive.
On health care reform, Lujan Grisham, a former secretary of the state’s Department of Health, said “access, coverage, quality, and cost” are key to balanced reform.
Frese, by contrast, said the current healthcare reform is “strangling job growth.”
On the topic of taxes, both agreed the system could use a revamp.
Frese said he’s “in favor of a fairer, flatter, and simpler tax system for everyone,” while Lujan Grisham said she thinks “it’s time to rebalance the entire tax system.”
During the 46-minute long forum, Frese went on the offensive in his opening and closing remarks, bringing up Lujan Grisham’s “Santa Fe” style of government, support of Obama and Obamacare, and what he calls “the bureaucratic ways” of voting in Washington.
He described the Santa Fe style of government as “creating one job with subsidies kill another with taxes and three or four more with regulations.”
After the forum, Frese, an underdog in the polls and fundraising, said he enjoyed the event.
“The forum was filled with really great economic questions, and those are right in my wheelhouse so I was very happy to answer those questions,” Frese said.
It was clear that Frese during the event was reading from notes but Lujan Grisham said she liked to listen to what her opponent’s answers and then bounce off of his remarks, although she said she had prepared some remarks as well.
“You want to identify the core issue, make sure the things that you think are the right priorities, that they are fitting those questions effectively, but you want to be open to a changing environment,” Lujan Grisham said.
The forum was a different setup than a more interactive debate between Frese and Lujan Grisham on KNME-TV earlier this month.
The two candidates will face off again, this time online, for a Twitter debate hosted by the New Mexico News Port on Oct. 23.
Follow the debate using the hashtag #nm2014 from 12:45 to 1:45.
The election is Nov. 4.