I had lunch with Merrie Lee Soules recently.
She wasn't wallowing in whatever pain she felt over losing a hard-fought Congressional Race to the oil-and-gas funded incumbent.
She was already working on her direct testimony before the PRC opposing El Paso Electric's continued efforts to game the system in ways that cost you and me. EPE has plenty of money and plenty of lawyers. Citizens and customers have the City, the County, and four intervenors. She's one. EPE is expected to seek extra money for additional power plants. One source alleges that EPE has overcharged $100 million on fuel costs in the past three years.
Ms. Soules spoke not of where she'd been but where we New Mexicans are going. She expressed concern that the Democratic legislature might be too accustomed to playing defense, and not quite ready to pass all the right measures and worry later about whether the lame-duck governor vetoes some of them. Or all of them. And she was a fount of useful ideas to get our economy going again.
These included taking full advantage of our potential as an international crossroads, rather than quivering in fear because we live near a border; ending oil and gas subsidies; getting money circulating to improve the economy, partly by improving the minimum wage; and legalizing marijuana, a much discussed boon to New Mexico's economy.
When I finally asked about the campaign, her beaming face confirmed her words, that she had “no regrets” – except that failing to win might have “let down” some folks. “It was a new adventure every day.”
What did she learn?
“My heart really is in southern New Mexico.” She marveled at “how vast, how beautiful, and how diverse this district is.” She added that the campaign experience was so rich and varied, “I wished we could make a reality TV show out of it.”
What moments stood out?
The All-Pueblo Council of Governors. It struck her that “in this meeting of nations, there are the heads of sovereign nations meeting together to work together in the interest of their people, their culture, their lands. What an amazing privilege to be there!”
A Mescalero Apache woman invited her to a Feast / Celebration. The day before the parades and dancing her guide escorted her into teepees and arbors set up to celebrate five young girls reaching womanhood. Ms. Soules was introduced to people and helped to understand what was going on and why.
In Rodeo, a small boot-heel community, “There was a convention of 200 people there, to celebrate the life of a recently deceased herpetologist. They'd been out all day gathering samples. The main presentation concerned snake venom research.”
She said that pretty much everyone she met while campaigning was deeply committed to doing the right thing for New Mexico – whatever they thought that might be. “We had big differences of opinion; but it wasn't good and bad, black and white. Everyone seemed intent on doing the best for their community and state – as they conceive it.”
She found our Congressional District “filled with people who have stories to tell, fascinating people, good people. It's been a blessing.”
Our talk increased my regret that we'd all lost the opportunity to have Ms. Soules representing us in Washington. (Vastly underfunded, she carried this county handily, but lost the election decisively.) That's our loss. She's a tough-minded businesswoman with a big heart, with our interests foremost.
The fact that she's wasting no time and is already deeply involved in her next fight on our behalf only illustrates the magnitude of our loss.