Janice and Michelle: Competency and communication

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Janice Arnold-Jones and Michelle Lujan Grisham, candidates for Congress from New Mexico’s 1st District, shared a stage recently to debate the issues. Before taking their places at separate podiums, they hugged each other.

Both have a record of working on a bipartisan basis.

Republican Arnold-Jones worked across the aisle for eight years as a state legislator. She developed a reputation for mastering the details of issues and insisting on open practices. At this forum, she said that before she votes on a bill, she will read it – a practice unfortunately not done by all members of Congress.

She talks about the advantages of seeing issues from multiple perspectives and building relationships as a way to work on the issues.

In response to a recent query from me about signing pledges related to taxes or other topics, Arnold-Jones wrote, “I do not sign any pledges because my only obligation is to the people of the First Congressional District … I will not submit the people of New Mexico to extreme views that have left government in a stalemate.”

Democrat Grisham served as an agency head and cabinet secretary under three successive governors: Democrat Bruce King, Republican Gary Johnson and Democrat Bill Richardson. She was head of the Agency on Aging and later secretary of the Department of Health.

Grisham has not yet answered my question about pledges, but I find no mention of pledges in her literature, on her website or in several instances when I have heard her speak (some Democrats have signed a pledge related to Social Security).

One clear reality emerges about these two candidates: Each is a highly qualified expert in a critical area of public policy.

Arnold-Jones, who is married to a retired Navy commander, has worked in information technology as a contractor to Sandia National Labs. She has considerable knowledge about the role and potential of New Mexico’s national laboratories and military bases in national security and the harm to the nation if the “brain trust” gathered here is diminished. She can explain in some detail how, when Congress enacts continuing resolutions instead of a real budget, the laboratories’ contracts with small high-tech companies cannot be funded and those contractors may be forced to close their businesses, jeopardizing a piece of that national security apparatus as well as the New Mexico economy.

Grisham is one of New Mexico’s leading experts on health care. In addition to in-depth professional expertise based on her career, she has personal experience from shepherding family members and others through the health care maze. She recognizes the health care industry as one that will grow and be a source of jobs, and at the same time sees opportunities to shrink the inefficiencies in the system as a way to reduce costs and improve performance. As an example in one recent talk, she cited electronic medical records: They have the potential to save billions of dollars, yet today records are being stored on proprietary database systems that do not communicate with each other. She talks about New Mexico’s medical brain trust and suggests that the University of New Mexico should become a center for biomedical engineering. While supporting the Affordable Care Act, she emphasizes that much needs to be done to fix it, including improvements in patient access to health care. “Congress cannot afford to be stagnant on health care reform,” she said.

There is too much expertise here to waste any of it. It’s probably not realistic, but I wish that whichever of these remarkably competent candidates wins the November election will hire the other as a consultant. At the end of the forum, they gave each other another hug. Washington, are you watching?

Contact Merilee Dannemann through www.triplespacedagain.com.