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Daily Press intern Maegan Lemon, center, poses for a photo with U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce and his wife, Cynthia. (Courtesy Photo)

U.S. Representative and New Mexico gubernatorial candidate Steve Pearce made a stop Friday at the Daily Press offices to share his thoughts on some of the issues currently facing the state and the nation.

Pearce was interviewed by Daily Press intern and recent Artesia High School graduate Maegan Lemon. Following is a transcript of that interview:

What is your current stance on immigration?

“We all want legal immigration, so we need to secure the border, and we also need to just overhaul the immigration system completely.

“We had two bills last week that I voted for – didn’t especially like the whole package, but in a big bill, you’re never going to get it exactly the way you want it. So we are just saying we can’t keep working like we are, and the people who are voting ‘no’ and simply trying to obstruct the reform of the system, they’re part of the problem, in my opinion.”

What are your thoughts on the impending Supreme Court nomination?

“We are excited about the pros of getting a nomination. We’re watching as that develops. I believe that we will see a nomination sometime before the end of the month, and maybe during that August period, we may see the confirmation.

“The Senate, Mitch McConnell says they’re going to move very quickly on it. So I think we might see somebody in place. Neil Gorsuch has been a very good pick, so we’re excited about that. We’ll see as it goes forward. The Senate, of course, is the one that has to confirm, so we don’t really get to vote in the House, but still, that’s what a lot of people voted for President Trump on, just the Supreme Court nomination. They will affect the country for the next 30 years.”

How do you feel about the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on unions?

“We felt like it was giving more freedom to individual workers to decide which way they want to go. Lot of people opposing the position, lot of people supporting it. But anytime you can push liberty and freedom all the way down to the local level, I think that’s positive.

“I’ve talked to union members that feel like everybody ought to belong, but for me, the union members say that they ought to have the personal freedom to say whether they want to participate or not. I think that’s a very important voice. So I thought the Supreme Court was coming down on the side of the Constitution.”

Concerning your stance on education, why do you wish to eliminate teacher evaluations?

“Because the teacher evaluation currently is used as kind of a thumb in the back of someone’s neck. It’s causing great anger among the teachers. So I’m saying let’s just suspend it, let’s bring everybody to the table. I’m going around the state, I’m meeting with teachers and superintendents everywhere we go. I’m saying let’s figure out a way to hold teachers accountable – they don’t mind that – it’s just the current system has got such conflict associated with it on the part of the teachers, they feel like they have no input.

“They feel like test scores for students who never show up – how can they teach them when they never show up? The compulsory attendance law is not enforced, and so they think, ‘I’m being held responsible for something I’m not even in control of.’ So let’s just hit the pause button, let’s all take a look at it and reform the system to where teachers really like the classroom again in order to get more teachers in the future and improve morale again. That’s the reason people go to teaching.”

How do you feel about the elevator situation at Carlsbad Caverns? It affected tourism quite a bit; do you think those losses can be recouped?

“I’m glad it’s up. Took too long. The management is fumbling the ball. Missed a couple of big holidays, and you can’t go back and reclaim lost tourism. The parks service nationwide understands this. The fact that they can’t get it right just says that somebody needs to be paying attention.

“You just can’t recover. Once the date is gone, people have already spent their money somewhere else. So this idea that now we’re going to make it up; no, people have already set their vacations up for the whole year, and if they go somewhere else, then there’s no way to recover, because they don’t have another vacation until next year.”

Why should young voters vote for you?

“What’s your future in New Mexico? Increase the number of jobs. Put apprenticeship programs in our high schools. If you’re not going to go to college, we still need to prep you for those jobs. Those jobs are very high-paying, especially down here in this part of New Mexico. You don’t have to go to college to succeed. We need to accelerate high-tech jobs, but we just don’t have the high-tech kids here to win those bids from outside companies.

“Fixing the economy and making our jobs more diverse. Your generation is leaving to find opportunities elsewhere, so my full intent is for you to find productive, meaningful work here to where you can succeed in whatever you choose to do in life.”

Do you have any follow-up remarks?

“As we travel around the state, we’re in the middle of our campaign for governor, of course, and people want to know what makes a candidate best-qualified. My education, first of all. I studied economics, then I have lived a lifetime living economics and business, and then later, in service in the State Legislature, I was on the appropriating committee, so again – the economics background.

“Then going to Congress, dealing with the budgets of the entire nation there, I think my preparation has been very good. I think my background in the military, I know what we are asking our young men and women in the National Guard to do. Our National Guards are deploying into some of the toughest combat zones in the world, so I know from personal experience about the combat.

“I just believe that my background has given me the tools to lead our state properly. And people think, ‘Maybe it’s too late for New Mexico.’ I don’t think so. I just think we need good leadership and vision, and that’s what I bring to it.

“We’ve got to fix the economy, education, poverty, and deal with crime. All four of those issues simultaneously. And they all kind of work together. If you improve the education, you’re going to have higher-paying jobs. If you get better jobs, then you’re going to keep more people out of poverty. If you keep people out of poverty and give them good educations, then they’re not going to drift into crime so much. So the four issues really do meld really well together.”