“This is a Democratic district,” said Eric Griego, a self-described progressive-Democrat. “It will elect a Democrat. The question is who will it elect, will it be someone who’s a kinder, gentler version of Steve Pearce or is it going to be a bread and butter Democrat?”
Griego is currently serving as a state Senator in Santa Fe, was a city councilor in Albuquerque and was, until recently, the executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children. Now, he is running hard to become the next U.S. Representative in New Mexico’s 1st congressional district.
While Griego was willing to talk about his candidates in the Democratic primary, much of the half-hour interview with Griego was about economic issues — gas prices, jobs and stimulating the economy. Griego has a plan for all of that.
The first issue listed on Griego’s website is jobs. On the page, Griego calls for a “New Marshall Plan for American jobs,” something that Griego elaborated on with Telegram earlier this week.
“I’m a strong supporter of something on the scale of the Marshall Plan after World War II to rebuild the countries that were really decimated by the war,” Griego said. “In today’s dollars its something like $1.5 trillion.” Acknowledging that is a large amount of money, Griego added, “It’s less than what we’ve spent in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
The spending in Griego’s plan would be in three areas: Spending on renewable energy, including research and development as well as infrastructure, spending on infrastructure such as highways and bridges, and spending on creating a broadband infrastructure from coast to coast.
As for tax policy, Griego says it has its place, but is not stimulative.
“Tax policy helps you when you already have some demand, maybe deliver a little bit more and maybe reinvest in some technology and infrastructure,” Griego said. “It’s not going to create demand.”
And how would Griego propose paying for this plan? A combination of ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, ending “the tax cuts for the top 1 percent” and taxing Wall Street speculation would create the revenue necessary for Griego’s “Marshall Plan,” he said.
No quick solution to rising gas prices
A topic of conversation around the country has been gas prices, with the price of gas skyrocketing in recent weeks. While the price at the gas pump is getting higher and higher, Griego says that drilling more in the United States will not significantly drop the price of oil.
“We do not produce enough of the world’s supply of oil and gas to affect the world price,” Griego said.
He said any time a Republican says that drilling more will drop the prices in gas, “They know they’re wrong. Because any credible economist will tell them we cannot affect price.”
Griego noted that oil drilling and production in the United States has gone up under Obama — and the gas prices have continued to skyrocket.
While there are few, if any, short-term fixes that will work, Griego says that focusing on renewable energy sources will help in the long term by “smooth[ing] out these crazy spikes we have in gas prices.”
The district is a Democratic district
One thing that Griego and his campaign manager, Ed Yoon, want voters to know is that they believe the 1st congressional district is a Democratic district and has been for some time now.
“In this kind of a district where Heather Wilson carried it by only barely 875 votes in 2006 and its been already trending Democrat since then,” Yoon said about the district. “In 2008, Heinrich carried it by 12 points, Obama won it by 20 points.”
And in 2010, “[Heinrich] won it with 52 percent of the votes in the biggest Republican wave we’ve seen in an entire generation and then some,” Yoon said. “The prognosticators and pundits all say this is a likely Democratic race.”
So Yoon and Griego kept going back to the theme that it will be up to Democratic primary voters to decide what kind of Democrat they want to support in June and send to the general election in November — and did not pull punches against their two primary opponents.
“If you’re a conservative and you want a Democrat who is really kind of conservative, [Martin Chavez] is your guy,” Griego said. “In my case, if you want someone who’s progressive, who stands for the Democratic Party, I’m your guy. But at least you know what you get, you know what you’re voting for. Michelle [Lujan-Grisham], she’s just this enigma, she’s a real enigma. And I think that’s the tricky part for voters.”
As for claims that Griego is too liberal for the district, Griego noted that people said they believed Udall and Heinrich were too liberal for the areas they now represent — but Heinrich was re-elected in 2010 and Udall continues to enjoy high popularity around the state.
The path that the Griego campaign will be taking towards the nomination is clear — claiming to be the Democratic candidate who best represents the Democratic party’s values — while saying Chavez is a conservative Democrat and that Lujan-Grisham has no record to prove how she would represent the district in Washington D.C.
The pre-primary convention
Griego won the three-way pre-primary convention earlier this month and some say this win catapulted Griego into the frontrunner position for the primary. Griego’s campaign credits hard work and voter engagement for winning the pre-primary convention and Griego says they used the convention as a test run for the June primary.
“It’s all the same, the very same components you need to run a strong active voter contact, right?” Griego said. “Because you’re in a field campaign, it’s canvassing, its calling, its running phone banks, its the candidate reaching out to voters, in this case they happen to be delegates.”
Griego said he personally called all of the 1st congressional district delegates and that his campaign sent multiple letters to the delegates to urge them to support him at the pre-primary. The organization and hard work paid off and 41 percent of the delegates cast their vote for the state Senator.
Yoon said the pre-primary proved that Griego has the strongest organization and that it would be important come June — and in November.
“Organization counts for four to six percent of any vote in a general election, a close, competitive election, you need a strong organization,” Yoon said. “If a candidate has not invested, has not had the wisdom to invest in an organization, then that’s a wisdom that’s lacking to win this race.”
Griego hopes that his strong organization and his progressive Democratic values will lead him to victory in June — and November — as they did in the pre-primary convention.