Timothy Krebs is an associate professor of political science at the University of New Mexico. Krebs, who earned his Ph.D. in 1997 from Loyola University Chicago, has been at UNM since 1992. His research interests include urban political campaigns and elections and local political institutions. The following is an interview with him about the General Election.
Q: Why should New Mexico residents care about this election?
A: Obviously, the choices that people make in this election determine the composition of Congress and in the state Legislature.
The state Legislature’s already Democratic, and Democrats would be helped at the state level (by a Congressional change of power).
Q: If re-elected, what will four more years of Gov. Bill Richardson mean? If he runs for president?
A: He’s likely to be re-elected. I think there’s going to be an even bigger push to achieve his priorities through because, as a presidential candidate, he’ll want a long list of accomplishments as he enters that Democratic primary. I think he would do it regardless of if he was running for president … but I think it’s particularly important as he’s considering running for president.
The Democrats control (the Legislature), but you’ve got more conservative Democrats from the southern part of the state and more liberal Democrats in the northern part. They don’t always see eye-to-eye with (each other and) the governor, but he gets a lot of (his agenda passed).
Q: How are we most impacted by an election?
A: Obviously, we’re all affected by the policies. We’re going to get different policies. The major (national) issue is Iraq. I think participation in the elections has a direct effect. Obviously, people prefer different things, and you’re going to get different priorities (with Republicans and Democrats).
At the state level, it will remain in Democratic hands. At a state level, there are a lot of things such as education and criminal justice that affect people on an everyday basis.
Q: An easy index of American frustration, whether the government is culpable or not, is a high price at the pump. How are pocketbook issues such as these impacted by an election?
A: Gas prices have been dropping, (so that’s somewhat) undermined as an election issue. The economy overall is going OK, so I don’t think you’re going to get a lot of difference with a Democratic Congress in place. If they can push a president to soften his approach on tax cuts and move to balancing the budget, it will affect people’s budgets because they can borrow easier. It depends on who’s getting the tax and how they deal with it.
It’s going to be status quo until ’08, my guess — but you may be able to force a Republican president to soften his position (on taxes).
Q: What state races have the most impact on individual communities?
A: I think the governor’s race is the big race at the state level. Especially with this governor, his agenda and governing style works its way into communities across the state.
Obviously the state legislators are going to be pushing things individual to those districts. How successful they are depends on what the rest of the state (legislator body) decides.
Q: Besides the governor, what is the candidate race that will impact us the most?
A: I think the state legislative races impact people the most.
The Wilson-Madrid race in the 1st Congressional District … how’s it going to affect people in New Mexico? If Madrid goes in with a much tougher stance on (withdrawal from) Iraq, she’ll be representing views in this district that haven’t been represented for a while. They vote along with 435 members of the House. Their one vote isn’t necessarily going to have a great impact on New Mexico directly. But it will affect how people feel about representation. If Madrid wins, people are going to expect a different voting record than if Wilson gets re-elected.
Day-to-day stuff, I think the governor matters and what the Legislature as a whole produces has a bigger effect than whatever an individual Congressman does. Mayors and councilors, what they work on has a direct impact on day-to-day life as well.
Q: The 1st District race doesn’t involve Portales, but it has garnered local and national interest. What should the winner and her constituents expect in the 110th Congress?
A: Given the nature of this district, my sense is if Madrid wins and Democrats take Congress, leadership will try to give her some pork back in the district so she can run stronger in two years. Likewise, if the Republicans maintain Congress, they’re going to protect Heather Wilson’s seat. Whoever wins is going to be in a good position to get support for this district.
But if Madrid wins and Republicans maintain Congress, they’re not going to lift a finger to help her. That’s the reverse. If the Democrats control the House and Wilson’s back, they’ll do the same to her. That’s my hunch, given how these things work.
Editor’s note: Based on an interview by Freedom Newspapers Writer Kevin Wilson and edited for clarity and style.