Lujan promises to keep in touch

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By David Giuliani

U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan came to Las Vegas on Monday as part of his thank-you tour, and he promised to make town-hall meetings a regular practice.

He cruised past two opponents in the general election earlier this month.

Lujan told a gathering of about 50 residents at Highlands University’s Leveo Sanchez lecture hall that he wants to have a strong presence in the district and plans to open constituent offices soon after he is sworn in Jan. 6.

He said he plans to keep the local constituent office.

During the election, Lujan held Standing Up for New Mexico town halls in every county in the district. He said once in office, he will continue holding meetings.

“As a new member of Congress, this is something that’s important to me. It’s something that I believe we need to do more often. We need to be able to sit down and have a dialogue that is needed so we can learn from one another,” Lujan said.

Lujan did more listening than talking, taking notes in a thick diary as the audience voiced its concerns and hopes.

San Miguel County Democratic Party chairman Martin Suazo said bringing good-paying jobs should be a priority. One audience member expressed his outrage over the recent bank bailouts, especially with much of the money being used to pay dividends or bonuses. Others were interested in fair trade laws, health care, renewable energy, a green economy, rural farming and ending the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

One constituent said he appreciated Lujan for holding public meetings and his willingness to care about what people think about issues. He got a laugh when he noted Lujan’s penchant for giving his phone number to voters during the election.

“I know that while you’ve been on the Public Regulation Commission and while you were running for office, you were famous for handing out your cell phone number,” the constituent said. “People call you and you actually call them back. I would like to take that another step further. It’s very difficult to call a Congress person’s office, so I’d like to offer you my cell phone number so you can call me and listen to what we have to say, in addition to what they’re saying over there in Washington. Just give me or some of these other people a call and we’ll chat, maybe we can keep you grounded, we don’t want to loose you to Washington.”

Another audience member encouraged Lujan to continue in the tradition of Tom Udall, “who made a very gutsy vote in 2002 when he voted against the Patriot Act.”

Lujan told the Optic he hopes to continue his work advancing renewable energy and to close loopholes that would improve consumer protections in health care. He said helping veterans was also at the top of his to-do list as a new member of Congress.

“I understand that New Mexico has more people in uniform, per capita, than any state in the nation. New Mexico veterans have a rich history of service, and we need to continue to advocate for them in the halls of Congress,” Lujan said.

Lujan said he is excited to get to work as the newly elected representative for New Mexico’s third district.

“This is exciting and truly an honor to receive the trust that people place in you. It is something I take very seriously, and I am going to work hard to best represent the people of this great district and our great state,” Lujan said.