2016 Roundtable: Ahead of June 7 Primary, New Mexico Politicians on Who They’re Voting for & Why

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We are on the road in New Mexico, where a presidential primary is set for June. We continue our conversation on the 2016 election with four guests and discuss key positions of the five remaining Democratic and Republican candidates and the role independent voters will play during the election in November. We speak with New Mexico State Senators Jerry Ortiz y Pino (Democrat) and Sue Wilson Beffort (Republican); Diane Denish, former lieutenant governor of New Mexico; and Gary Johnson, former governor of New Mexico and 2016 Libertarian presidential candidate.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, that’s interesting you talk about independents. It’s certainly what Bernie Sanders talked about, talking about the fact that 3 million New Yorkers didn’t vote, and saying that if he were the Democratic nominee, that he had the best chance of beating, for example, Donald Trump, because of all the independents that could vote in November that haven’t been able to vote in closed primaries. I wanted to turn to Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino. You are a Bernie Sanders supporter. Why?

SEN. JERRY ORTIZ Y PINO: That’s one of the reasons right there, that if you take a look at the electorate that’s going to vote in November, it’s very different from the electorate that’s been voting in these primaries. It will include those 50 percent independent. It will also give people that are part of the Green Party, the Socialist Labor Party, all the fringe parties, a place to vote, as well. And that, I believe, is one of the reasons why, in the national polling, yes, Hillary Clinton does outpoll Trump, and she does outpoll Cruz, but Bernie Sanders outpolls them by a wider margin, because you’re getting a bigger—you’re getting a bigger slice of the American pie. And when that American voice speaks, I think it speaks with a voice that sounds very much like Bernie Sanders. Its priorities are those that Bernie has made his priorities.

AMY GOODMAN: Which are what? What is it that appeals to you?

SEN. JERRY ORTIZ Y PINO: Well, I think that, you know, when he speaks about how our country has become very much of an oligarchy rather than a democracy, that its political processes are serving the top 5 or 1 percent, even, rather than the 95 percent, that resonates. People can look around them and see that, yes, the chief executive of their company now makes 10 times more than he did in 2007, but I’m making, you know, 14 cents an hour more. That really does resonate with people. They don’t think this is a—they think the game is rigged, and that when he speaks about trying to put the burden on those who can most bear the burden, they recognize that right now they’re the ones that are bearing the burden, and that’s not a fair system.

AMY GOODMAN: Former Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish, you were a superdelegate for Hillary Clinton in 2008?


AMY GOODMAN: And not now, though, though you support her.

DIANE DENISH: No, I’m not a superdelegate this year.

AMY GOODMAN: Why do you support Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders?

DIANE DENISH: Well, like many women, we understand that women’s economic security is—and a family’s economic security is dependent on women being able to make their own health choices, their own—have opportunities, have equal pay for equal work over a lifetime to impact their Social Security benefits. So, as—through the years, many of us—I’m a middle-income American, and I have—we all understand unequal pay. And we agree with Bernie Sanders that the game is overbalanced in terms of the 1 percent or those people. But I think what we understand is that she is actually—much like these primaries, she has a plan to win the primaries and become the nominee. She has a plan to fight for equal pay and make it actually happen, and she’s done it in the past. She has a plan to make sure that we are creating jobs. And while she’s not attracting big crowds like—she doesn’t campaign in the same way. Yesterday, she wasn’t in a crowd of 20,000; she was at a steel plant in Indiana, talking to workers about what is really happening in this country.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think Bernie Sanders has heavily influenced her campaign and her positions, even changing them?

DIANE DENISH: I think it’s been a great debate, and I think they’ve influenced each other, and, yes, I believe that, as time goes on. And the American people have been electing nominees. Now we’re going to elect a president. And they want substance. And they want people who can say how they’re going to actually get the job done, and know that they can go into that office and be ready to face the challenges of the world.

AMY GOODMAN: And those who say that Hillary Clinton is too close to Wall Street, too cozy with Wall Street, was paid, what, more than $200,000 for a speech from Wall Street, will not release the transcripts of that speech?

DIANE DENISH: Well, you know, I think one of the most interesting things about that debate is the reason we know about Hillary’s fees from Wall Street is because she’s released 30 years of tax returns, unlike her opponent Bernie Sanders, who has failed to release his tax returns. But the fact is that Wall Street is a part of America’s economy. It needs to be reined in. She’s worked very hard on Dodd-Frank. We have the tools in place now to face executive pay in a way that never before. Stockholders are paying more attention to what’s happening. Pension funds across the country, where people have millions and billions invested, are paying attention to Wall Street. And I think that effort will continue to rein in Wall Street and that she will lead that charge.

AMY GOODMAN: Jerry Ortiz y Pino, are you satisfied with that?

SEN. JERRY ORTIZ Y PINO: Well, I mean, I think it’s important that this debate continue. I mean, one of the things that would bother me a great deal is if the calls for Bernie Sanders to stop running now because he doesn’t have an arithmetic chance of winning, that he would heed those. I don’t think he will. He knows that the important thing is to keep the pressure on and to keep raising these issues. He has been a voice that has consistently said, throughout his senatorial tenure and in all of his public appearances during this debate season, this election season, that this is the number one issue. And I can only, you know, recall Bill Moyers a few years ago just kind of throwing his hands up in despair over the conversion of our democracy to an oligarchy, where money controls elections, and if you don’t have the money, you can’t be a player.

AMY GOODMAN: Why do you think Bernie Sanders doesn’t resonate more in the Latino and the African-American community, but very much so with blue-collar whites, certainly with young people across the board?

SEN. JERRY ORTIZ Y PINO: Well, I think it’s just familiarity. It’s just he’s represented a state where there wasn’t a great Latino population, and so he hasn’t been as visible in that community as Hillary Clinton and her association with her husband, as former president, was. But I think when people do listen to him, and when they—when he’s had a chance to meet with them, there’s been a great resonance and a great consonance in their views.

AMY GOODMAN: We have to break again, but we’re going to come back to this conversation. We’re speaking with two state senators—Jerry Ortiz y Pino, Democrat, and Sue Wilson Beffort, a Republican—also the former lieutenant governor of the state of New Mexico, where we are right now, Diane Denish, and the two-time Republican governor of New Mexico, Gary Johnson, who is now a Libertarian candidate for president. Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: That’s the Salt Lick Foundation’s “Road to Grand Saline.” This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. And we are on the road, as well, a 100-city tour. Today we’re broadcasting from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Tonight I’ll be in Flagstaff, Arizona, tomorrow in Phoenix and Tucson, then moving on to Fresno. And we’ll be in New Orleans and Houston before the weekend is out.

But here in New Mexico, where voters will head to the polls on June 7th, we’re joined by four guests: New Mexico’s former Republican Governor Gary Johnson, who’s running for president as a Libertarian; Diane Denish with us, former Democratic lieutenant governor here in New Mexico—she was Democratic lieutenant governor under Governor Richardson; and two New Mexican state senators, Jerry Ortiz y Pino, a Democrat, and Sue Wilson Beffort, a Republican.

You wanted to get a word in, Governor Gary Johnson?

GARY JOHNSON: I wanted to make a pitch for the website ISideWith.com, for everybody watching. Get online. Take this political quiz, 60 questions. At the end of the 60 questions, you get paired up with the presidential candidate most in line with your views. I tell people, “Get online, take this quiz, and then knock yourself out for the candidate that you pair up with.” In 2012, I’d have been the next president of the United States based on what people thought. Now, 30 million people have got online and taken this quiz. Now, about two months ago, I take the quiz. I was having some issues with ISideWith and their answers, so I sided with myself 90 percent of the time. That’s since been resolved.

But the next person that I—the next person that I sided with, of everyone running for president, was Bernie Sanders, which, in the first few seconds, was: “What?” And then, in the next few seconds, “OK, I get it.” On the social side; on the side of, yes, crony capitalism is alive and well; on the side of dropping bombs; on the side of let’s legalize marijuana; on the side of giving people choices in their lives; on, like I say, the inequity that does exist in this country—we side with, Bernie and I. Economics, I’m afraid we go two different directions. But like I say, just a surprise. I think everybody should get online and take this quiz, ISideWith.com.

AMY GOODMAN: Why is the legalization of marijuana important to you?

GARY JOHNSON: Well, first of all, I think it makes the world a better place. Legalization of marijuana from a medicinal standpoint, marijuana products directly compete with legal prescription drugs, painkillers, antidepressants, that statistically kill 100,000 people a year. Marijuana products not having been documented—haven’t been documented to kill anybody. On the recreational side, I have always maintained that legalizing marijuana will lead to less overall substance abuse, because it’s so much safer than everything else that’s out there, starting—

AMY GOODMAN: Spoken by a triathlete?

GARY JOHNSON: —starting—yes, spoken as an athlete, someone who hasn’t had a drink of alcohol in 29 years, but I do occasionally indulge in marijuana products. I want to point out to everybody watching, look, the campaign in Colorado to legalize marijuana was a campaign based on marijuana is safer than alcohol. And I think everybody recognizes that.

AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask something: State Senator Sue Wilson Beffort, could you see yourself—your Republican candidate, maybe you’ll be voting for Donald Trump, is that fair to say? Could you see yourself endorsing pot legalization?

SEN. SUE WILSON BEFFORT: Now, we’re talking about Donald Trump or pot legalization? But first of all—

AMY GOODMAN: You can answer both questions.

GARY JOHNSON: I think Sue’s going to vote for me at the end of the day, but I’ve got to work on that one.

SEN. SUE WILSON BEFFORT: Most probably I will vote for Donald Trump, although we have, you know, a very high-quality selection to choose. And to the marijuana issue, I can remember my father, who was a doctor, many, many years ago—he’s been gone for many years—said, “Sue”—this was after I got elected—said that marijuana was a gateway drug. And the problem with that is that it—the high is addictive and that it leads to other drugs. And I understand the governor, and he and I had all kinds of consternations when he came out, immediately, at the end of his term about that issue.

GARY JOHNSON: Middle of—middle-term. I did this when I was in office.

SEN. SUE WILSON BEFFORT: Middle-term. But, you know, I want our kids to get educated. I don’t want them to be lethargic. I want them to go on for higher ed. I don’t want them moving into other types of drugs.

AMY GOODMAN: Very quickly, on this Kasich-Cruz deal, that Kasich should fight for New Mexico, Cruz would give that up, because they want to defeat Donald Trump, perhaps the man of your choosing as president, your thoughts on this?

SEN. SUE WILSON BEFFORT: Yeah, I thought it was sophomoric, or, you know, I thought it really demonstrated what people are upset about, that the people want to elect their candidate, and they don’t want deals made, they don’t want insiders choosing. Apparently it disenfranchised enough people in these five states yesterday that I think that that backfired on them. And it pointed out that the people want to get in there and vote. And the person that gets the most votes should get the nomination, and then we go into a more sophisticated process.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you want, Diane Denish, Bernie Sanders to drop out right now?

DIANE DENISH: No, I don’t. And I was a Hillary supporter in ’08, and I wanted her to stay until the last minute. I want the debate to continue. And I want Senator Sanders—should he not be the nominee, I would very much hope that he would use the money that he has been able to raise to continue to bring the issues of income inequality to the forefront and keep the—and help to elect progressive Democratic candidates who can help the president, Hillary Clinton, actually do the things that we need to do in this country.

I want to say one thing about New Mexico. We always come into play somewhere. In 2000, we won New Mexico by 368 votes. We were called at the same time Florida was in the Gore-Bush. We have this funny way of bubbling up to the surface in terms of being a very important state. So, not only do I not want Bernie Sanders to drop out, I want there to be a very vigorous June 7th primary.

AMY GOODMAN: And, I mean, New Mexico may well look like what most of the country will soon look like: the first—I mean, after Hawaii, which was always a majority-minority state, it was New Mexico that was once majority-white, but changed. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, your thought on this?

SEN. JERRY ORTIZ Y PINO: Oh, it very much is, you know, a state that, I think, in the future, other states will increasingly look like. We have a over 55 percent Indian and Hispanic population, a very small African-American population. But it really is the way that the America of the future will be. I think, you know, it’s really—

AMY GOODMAN: We have five seconds.

SEN. JERRY ORTIZ Y PINO: I think it’s really important that Sanders stay in there. We need a vigorous debate, and he keeps the focus on the most important issues.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you all for being with us. That does it for the broadcast. The time does go quickly. To the New Mexico state senators, Jerry Ortiz y Pino and Sue Wilson Beffort, thanks so much, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, now Libertarian candidate for president, and Diane Denish, former lieutenant governor.

We’re on a 100-city tour marking Democracy Now!'s 20th anniversary. I'll be in Flagstaff tonight; on Thursday, in Phoenix and Tucson; Friday, in Fresno; Saturday, in San Mateo and Grass Valley, California; then Houston and New Orleans on Sunday.

Democracy Now! has two job openings. You can check our website.

Special thanks to Denis Moynihan, Mike Burke.

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