COMMENTARY: 2014 was my first campaign for public office. In the past I was not involved in the campaign or political process. One of my main issues, for over 20 years, has been transparency in government. I successfully tried lawsuits and handled cases on open-government issues throughout New Mexico.
When I was asked to run as the Republican candidate for the New Mexico House of Representatives District 20 in southeast Albuquerque, my wife Nancy and I spent several days making the decision. I agreed to run with the condition that I would not accept any political action committee (PAC) or lobbyist money as contributions in our campaign.
Needless to say several of the experienced campaigners questioned my decision. This was a matter of principle with me, and I felt that our District 20 constituents and New Mexico would see that an election could be won this way.
During the campaign I returned several thousands of dollars of unsolicited contributions from PACs and lobbyists. The November election results showed that almost 55 percent of our District 20 voters supported us.
During the campaign, while I was walking door to door, when the contribution issue arose I noticed that doors opened wider and the conversations increased because folks were supportive of this position. They wanted to know more.
No free meals or gifts
After the election I decided that I would continue my approach — and not accept any of the many free meals and gifts provided to legislators during the legislative session. If I attended a breakfast, lunch or dinner I paid my own way. The free gifts were placed into boxes, and my wife delivered them to Saranam, which is a nonprofit that seeks to end homelessness.
During the last week of the 60-day session, KRQE did a story on this position. Viewers can watch it here.
When I returned after the 60-day session, our District 20 constituents wanted to talk with me more about my stance of not accepting those campaign contributions or free meals and gifts, rather than what we did or did not get passed in the legislature. Clearly these issues are on the minds of many folks, regardless of political party affiliation.
Within the past two weeks, after talking to a group of constituents, a man approached me. He said the only reason he voted for me was because I did not accept that money during the campaign. My stance made a difference to him, and I believe it made a difference to others.
A break between government job, lobbying
The goal in my first campaign and my first legislative session was to work on regaining New Mexicans’ trust in their government. We have enough of the bad stories, and I wanted to show that there is a different way of doing business that can be successful.
During the legislature I co-sponsored House Bill 241 with Rep. Javier Martinez, a Democrat from Albuquerque. Briefly, the bill would restrict legislators, cabinet secretaries and N.M. Public Regulation commissioners from being compensated lobbyists for two years after their government service.
At the time the bill was being debated approximately 32 states had enacted laws that established different types of restrictions. Also, a recent poll in New Mexico had shown that the two-year restriction was favored by 82 percent of those polled.
During the campaign I learned our constituents were interested in this type of restriction. Perception can be reality, and this bill addressed that perception.
We worked hard on the passage of the bill. Our bill passed the House on a bipartisan vote of 57-10. We had good momentum when we took the bill to the N.M. Senate. Unfortunately, the bill failed to pass the first Senate Committee, so it was never heard on the Senate floor.
This is a good government bill. Efforts to enact this legislation will continue.
Hard-working, well-intentioned folks
My first year in the Legislature showed me that there are many hard working, well-intentioned folks. We must be willing to work together in all levels of government, with the commitment and help of the public and the various interest groups, if we expect to provide the life our New Mexico residents deserve.
The turf wars need to end, and the foundation for decisions needs to be based on good government and what is good for New Mexico.
Step one is to regain the trust of our citizens. I am proud to be a part of that process.
Dines, a Republican, represents the Albuquerque-area District 20 in the N.M. House of Representatives.