State Representative, District 48
SFR Pick: Luciano “Lucky” Varela, Democrat
The candidate and the district: State Rep. Lucky Varela has been in the Legislature for 23 years. He serves as the chairman of the Legislative Finance Committee, as well as vice chairman of the Appropriations and Finance Committee. District
48’s registered voters are 70 percent Democrat, 10 percent Republican, 17 percent undeclared and 3 percent “other.”
The challenge: Bob Walsh, a Republican, is challenging Varela for the seat under the auspices of offering voters a choice. A so-called progressive Republican, Walsh is a strong proponent for domestic partnerships, electoral reform and the environment. Regarding New Mexico’s budget, Walsh is fiscally critical of how it’s been managed thus far.
About that budget: When lawmakers and the next governor gather in January for the 2011 legislative session, money--or the lack thereof--will be the No. 1 priority. New Mexico faces a $260 million shortfall, in large part because federal stimulus dollars will no longer be plugging the holes.
The criticism: It’s not the first time Varela has received criticisms for simply having been part of the process for too long. In general, SFR agrees that new energy and new blood serves any public entity well.
But...in this case, SFR also believes Varela should return to oversee what will be a difficult and complicated budgetary process. We find Varela very in command of the numbers. Furthermore, folks should remember that, two years ago, Varela battled with the governor’s spending, and sounded an alarm predicting the very problems the state now faces.
Speaking of battles: If voters want independent lawmakers, perhaps they should recall that Varela is no favorite of the executive office, in part because he has been willing to criticize and question some of the governor’s pet projects.
Bottom line: Walsh has some good ideas (although we disagree with him that pre-K is not important), and deserves commendation for his work as citizen advocate and now as a candidate. But we believe Varela should return to help steer the next budget cycle.