AZTEC — San Juan County residents looking for a direct line to the state Capitol got one in Aztec on Friday.

Lt. Gov. John A. Sanchez took time out from his planned schedule in Farmington to carve out a few hours for constituents in a small conference room at the San Juan County Administration Building, just down the hall from a steady stream of voters casting their ballots.

But before any local issues or concerns were addressed, constituents were eager to hear his take on the previous night's vice-presidential debate in Kentucky.

"It was a tie," the Republican official declared, "and ties always go to the challengers."

Sanchez, a politician with an easygoing manner and winning smile, got nothing but affirmative nods from the conservative community leaders and officials in the room.

"New Mexico is going to play a key role in this election," Sanchez said. "Either it will be razor-close like 2000 or a surprise like 1980, when Carter, who was ahead at this time in the race, lost."

County officials, concerned about looming power plant closures, asked for help from the state.

"We need support from Tax and Revenue to follow through with appraisals, which tend to be enormously expensive," said Clyde Ward, county assessor. "We can't do it with self-funding through delinquent tax sales alone."

Mike Stark, project manager for San Juan County, added: "We need you and the governor to take a stronger stance on the shutting down of the power plants in the region. We are looking at a grim picture.



Sanchez stuck to his talking points but added that he would speak with the relevant officials.

"We will continue to support and develop remedies for the concerns of the county," he said.

Sanchez emphasized the axiom that all politics are local, inveighing against the Obama administration.

"We will fight the federal government and the EPA with common-sense solutions," he said.

Sanchez said his "Mobile Office Day" was meant to increase access.

"I want to hear directly from my constituents — to hear their unfiltered, direct views on issues that matter most," he said.

But Sanchez never strayed far from his central message. "The common theme is jobs, and that means pushing back against the overreaching regulations that negatively affect the oil and gas economy of this region," he said.

Sanchez said San Juan County needs increased tourism and greater identification and direction of students into vocational careers, many of which, he said, "pay more than those jobs held by folks with master's degrees."

"I just got back from Germany, where they actively identify students at an early age who don't plan on going to a traditional four-year college," he said. "Early on, they place these students on a workforce track that leads to stable, well-paying jobs."

Sanchez pointed to BP America's $4 million gift to San Juan College last August.

"Look at BP's recent investment in high-skilled workforce jobs at the School of Energy," he said. It is the joining of business and education like that I believe makes a lasting difference in the lives of our citizens, today and going forward."