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Failed family leave bill spurred challenger to take on incumbent for House District 27

Courtesy Candidates' Campaigns

Representative Marian Matthews is defending her seat against challenger Greg Seeley in the Democratic primary for House District 27 in Bernalillo.

Matthews won in 2020 after seeing the district through the stressors of the pandemic.

Matthews said during her time in office she has sponsored legislation to curtail organized retail crime and support small businesses. If re-elected to the seat, she will focus on the health care provider shortage, and especially increasing access to specialty care.

"There’s over 34 states that now all participate in a physician interstate compact. That allows you to be able to get treatment and get care from a doctor who is licensed in another state," said Matthews.

Matthews earlier in her career as a lawyer wrote the original rules and procedures in theNew Mexico Children’s Code. Since then, the Children, Youth, and Families Department has seen its fair share of scandal and hardship.

Matthews said that the agency has a lot of good workers but they are not supported and the Code needs to be revised to hold the agency publicly accountable.

"One of the first things you have to do with CYFD is change the culture. And one of the ways you change the culture is you change the secrecy," Matthews said.

Matthews received criticism on the handling of the 2024 Paid Family and Medical Leave bill. She said that she wrote an alternative bill because she was concerned about a potential burden on caretaking organizations.

"If the only way we can provide paid family medical leave is by reducing services to the most vulnerable people in New Mexico, I think we need to go back to the drawing board and figure out a better way to do this," said Matthews.

Democratic challenger Greg Seeley is a strong supporter of the original bill, which ultimately led him to run for this race.

Seeley said that Matthews failed to consider that the caregiver organizations would not be as financially impacted as they said they would be and that decision led to 750,000 New Mexicans not reaping the benefits of Paid Family and Medical Leave.

"We realized the companies she’s talking about protecting, it would cost them approximately $100 a year per employee and while that would matter on your balance sheet, is that enough when weighed against denying most working families in our state the ability to take time off when your loved one is dying, when you have a new child?" said Seeley.

Seeley says he’s prioritizing safe, healthy, and prosperous communities by focusing on crime. He has the endorsement of Bernalillo County Sheriff John Allen, and says the number one crime deterrent is the certainty that you would be caught and prosecuted, which means more funding for law enforcement.

"If we really want to put a dent in crime, we have to close more cases. If we’re going to be doing that, we have to add to the capacity of our court system because they are deeply, deeply under-resourced," said Seeley.

Seeley also acknowledged there’s a health care provider shortage. He said there’s a capacity issue and New Mexico is not creating or recruiting the workforce that’s needed.

"We can put money into funding, recruiting companies and providers to come to New Mexico that just specifically for healthcare providers that would make a massive difference in solving this problem," Seeley said.

Matthews has raised nearly $195,000 and Seeley has raised over $64,000. KUNM did reach out to Republican candidate Greg Gallegos but did not hear back.

Taylor is a reporter with our Poverty and Public Health project. She is a lover of books and a proud dog mom. She's been published in Albuquerque The Magazine several times and enjoys writing about politics and travel.
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