Sunday, March 09, 2008

Congressional Candidates (New Mexico District #1) Speak About Global Poverty

A total of seven candidates are competing for the seat being vacated by Rep. Heather Wilson in the New Mexico First Congressional District. Each of the two parties will hold primary elections on June 3 to determine who will represent them in the November electoin.

There are two Republicans: Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White and state Sen. Joe Carraro. Five Democrats have thrown their hat into the ring. I caught up with the four of the Democrats who participated in a forum sponsored by the organization Democratic Women of New Mexico on March 8. Those in attendance were ex city councilor Martin Heinrich, former state health secretary Michelle Lujan Grisham, attorney Robert Pidcock, and former secretary of state Rebecca Vigil-Giron. The fifth candidate, Jessica Wolfe, did not attend the forum. She is a former staff person for Gov. Bill Richardson.

I asked the four candidates what their thoughts were on increasing poverty-focused development assistance and whether they were familiar with the Global Poverty Act and the U.N. Millennium Development Goals, which are the subject of our 2008 Offering of Letters. Incidentally, three of the candidates had heard of the MDGs but didn't know a whole lot about them, and one had not heard of the goals at all. They all asked for more information. (All got the Bread for the World position sheet on poverty-focused development assistance).

As I wrote in a related piece in the Bread blog, it is often up to us Bread members (and allies) to ensure that global poverty becomes part of the discussion during debates and forums this election season.

Please note that this post is NOT INTENDED to promote any of the Democratic candidates. Bread for the World and The ONE Campaign are non-partisan. I will try to find forums where I can get ahold of Sheriff White and Sen. Carraro and ask them the same questions.

In the meantime, here are excerpts of comments from the four Democratic candidates (all of whom agreed to wear The ONE white band). I listed them alphabetically.

Martin Heinrich
I think it's just a matter of priorities. We need to realize that when we do invest in developing nations and in reducing poverty, that has such an enormous impact on how people feel about us as a nation.

(See) where we’ve put ourselves in the past seven or eight years, basically destroyed generations worth of goodwill worldwide.

A dollar spent on education, a dollar spent on finding ways for people to provide themselves…these are things that come back to us in terms of less money spent on military engagements, less money spent on all kinds of other problems...It's just like in the United States, where we realize that for every dollar spent on things like prevention, you typically save yourself five, six, seven dollars down the line. It's the same worldwide. And it just hasn't been a priority of the last administration in Washington.

Michelle Lujan-Grisham
The basic premise is to make sure that it’s a priority, that we recognize that…the poverty of another nation makes us all at risk.
(Poverty) has an impact on security. It has an impact on terrorism...

We ought to be a leader, and part of being a leader in ending global poverty is ending poverty here at home. We still have some of the highest poverty rates around the world. We have children and older folks, even with social security, way below the federal poverty guidelines who are malnourished, who don’t have access to basic services and basic needs. We need to be poverty busters here at home.

Robert Pidcock
The resources are there, if we care enough to go find them.
It’s just a matter of how we allocate national resources. Do you choose to spend the money in a war like Iraq, do you choose to spend the money on subsidies for oil companies?

I think everyone of those programs would have to be looked at individually. I don’t think we can throw that in a basket and say we’re going to fund all of those at some certain level…because it would have to be looked at individually for a program like clean water, and then individually for each country…

Rebecca Vigil-Giron
(To address the problems of poverty), of course we have to work with the United Nations.
I have experience of working and having access to individuals throughout the world.

For the candidates in the Angolan election that I observed (in the early 1990s), it was about clean water, it was about clean streets, it was about providing education, these were the issues that the presidential candidates that were flying around the country addressed…we will bring clean water to you, we will bring education to your children, we will bring jobs….I mean, they were excited about clean water.


michelle meaders said...

Thanks for asking them, and for sharing it with us. I was sorry that poverty or foreign aid didn't come up in the forum, even in connection with school achievement under No Child Left Behind. I hope there will be many more candidate forums, and that they will be well-publicized and on important topics like this. (I'm a member of the ONE campaign.) By the way, which congressional candidate didn't know about the MDGs?

Bread for the World-New Mexico Blog said...

Michelle: Thank you for your comments on the blog post. In defense of the candidate who did not know about the MDGS, that candidate did give me a very thoughtful answer. That candidate's answer was perhaps better than the one from one of the other candidates, who started talking to me about homelessness in Albuquerque when I asked about global poverty. (I left those comments out and put in the relevant stuff).

Still, in my humble opinion, everyone running for Congress should at least know of the existence of the MDGs. The candidate who had not heard about them is the one who does not have a record of public service.