Q&A With Congressional Candidate Kyle Tisdel

CD3 Candidate Kyle Tisdel

Los Alamos Daily Post

Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series in which the Los Alamos Daily Post presents the same set of questions to each of the candidates running for Congressional District 3, which serves the northern half of New Mexico.

Democratic candidate Kyle Tisdel provided the following answers:

POST: Why do you believe you are qualified to represent New Mexico in Congress?

TISDEL: We are in a climate emergency, representing an existential threat to people across New Mexico, our country, and the entire planet. Our response to this threat requires bold, ambitious, and transformational leadership, not more talking points or half measures. As a non-profit environmental attorney, I have dedicated my career to fighting on behalf of people and communities, holding our federal government accountable to the science and timeline of the climate crisis, and taking on the oil and gas interests that have held our state hostage for generations. At this critical point in our history, there exists a tremendous opportunity for New Mexico and our communities to lead the clean energy economy of the future. We can grow jobs, restore our landscapes, protect our watersheds, and build resilience in our communities and for our families. I have the courage and track record to take on the vested interests and big money that has crippled our government and fight for the future of people and families in our state.

POST: What is your overall governing philosophy?

TISDEL: As a non-profit attorney, my philosophy has always been to build power and create change from the ground up. Through community engagement, organizing, and information sharing, I have successfully fought against corporate profiteering—protecting the landscapes and waters that are the lifeblood to our communities. In Congress, that means rejecting big money and corporate interests, and returning power to the people and communities of New Mexico and the 3rd District. It means my presence and availability, ensuring access and the responsiveness of my office to people and the needs of our communities. And it means that the principles of equity, inclusion, and justice will operate at the core of every policy and piece of legislation I propose, ensuring that the future we build and the opportunities we create lift us all.

POST: What would you do to promote the interest of Los Alamos National Laboratory in Washington?

TISDEL: To solve the climate crisis, we must transform our economic and energy systems, increasing security and incentivizing innovation, while reducing systemic risk. LANL has a proud history of leadership in renewable energy technologies and biofuels development, funding for which was slashed under the Bush administration that has yet to be restored. The expertise and innovation of LANL is fundamental to our state and country’s economic standing and future. If we fail to seize the opportunity to develop and improve the clean and renewable technologies that will dominate the future, we will cede our economic and moral leadership in the world. Our national labs and research institutions need the funding and support of Congress and our government to accelerate decarbonization and diversify our economy.    

POST: How would you balance arms proliferation with national defense?

TISDEL: This President has done more to erode the stature and standing of the United States in the international community than any other administration in our history. Mr. Trump has shunned and abandoned our allies, undermined strategic alliances, while at the same time embracing the world’s despots and dictators. This has made the world less safe, has directly placed our allies in harm’s way, and represents an ongoing threat to our national security. Quite literally, Russia has stepped in to fill the void left by this administration. The U.S. must resume our place in the international arena as a stabilizing force for democracy. We must uphold the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, prevent new nation states from developing nuclear capabilities, and work towards international disarmament. Domestically, Congressional authority to declare war has been eroded by executive overreach. Congress must work to restore the balance of powers articulated in the Constitution as a fundamental check on this and future Presidents.

POST: In general terms, what would your foreign policy goals be?

TISDEL: The single largest threat to our nation and the world is the worsening climate emergency. We are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction, losing plant and animal species at a rate not witnessed since the dinosaurs, threatening our own future on the planet. After a major breakthrough with the ratification of the Paris Agreement in 2016—which created a framework for international cooperation to keep warming below scientifically prescribed thresholds—this administration has started the process to formally withdraw from the Agreement in November of 2020. This would leave the U.S.—the world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gases—isolated on the global stage. The move surrenders our authority, slows progress toward an international climate solution, and cedes our economic future as leaders in the clean energy technologies that will dictate the next century. While a new administration could re-enter the Paris Agreement through executive action, Congress should work to strengthen domestic and international commitments to reduce emissions as necessary to ensure we are on a pathway to avoid catastrophic warming (with current commitments, warming is expected to reach 3.5C by the end of the century), and resume our position in international leadership.

POST: What do you think should be done about the growing income inequality in the United States?

TISDEL: Income inequality is greater now than at any point in U.S. history, with the richest 1 percent now amassing more wealth than the bottom 90 percent. This inequality has been exacerbated by Trump tax cuts to the ultra-wealthy, where the effective tax rate for billionaires is now lower than for the bottom 50 percent of households. We cannot thrive as a nation under such inequity. The solution lies in a suite of reforms aimed at addressing this disparity and growing the middle-class, including higher individual income and capital gains taxes on millionaires and billionaires; progressively higher corporate tax rates where CEO to median worker pay is grossly disproportionate; and the elimination of tax loopholes that allow companies like Amazon to make over $11 billion of profits in 2018, but where a federal income tax rebate of $129 million resulted in a -1 percent tax rate. At the same time, we must guarantee a living wage to all workers, reduce taxes on small businesses, and remove obstacles to union membership that is the foundation of growing the middle-class. Worker reforms should include collective bargaining for wages, benefits, and working conditions, as well as sectoral and multi-employer bargaining.

POST: Do you have a plan for increasing access to healthcare in the U.S.?

TISDEL: Healthcare should be a right, not a privilege. While the Affordable Care Act made substantial gains to expand coverage, medical bills remain the number one cause of bankruptcies and almost 10 percent of New Mexicans remain uninsured. At the same time, we spend more per person on medical care in this country than any other major country, with worse outcomes. We waste hundreds of billions on executive compensation, administrative costs, and pharmaceutical costs. I believe in Medicare For All, which would guarantee healthcare access for everyone and ensure people can maintain their choice in doctors and healthcare providers. Particularly in places like New Mexico, we must also work to ensure access to healthcare. We should apply antitrust protections to fight hospital mergers that raise costs, increase Medicare reimbursements for rural hospitals and healthcare facilities, and incentivize doctors and healthcare workers who provide services in rural communities.

POST: Where do you stand on increased regulation of firearms?

TISDEL: Gun violence is an epidemic. Every day, over 100 people are killed by guns in this country. Since December 2012, when a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary, there have been over 2,293 mass shootings. This is simply unacceptable. Over 64 percent of Americans favor stricter gun laws. I believe we should immediately reinstate the ban on assault weapons and large capacity magazines—which the Republican Congress allowed to expire in 2004. We should also require universal background checks, increase waiting periods, and strengthen the domestic violence ban on gun ownership. We should respect people’s Second Amendment rights, but you don’t need an AR-15 for hunting or home protection. People should not live in fear of sending their children to school or going to a movie. Weapons of war should be limited to our military, not used to terrorize our communities and rip apart our families.

POST: What programs do you support on immigration to deal with the situation at the border?

TISDEL: The United Nations predicts as many as 700 million climate refugees by mid-century. Such migration will occur both outside and within our borders. We must develop a comprehensive plan that deals with the realities of this growing international crisis. We are, of course, already dealing with the early effects of this immigration crisis, which is driven both by climate and geopolitical instability in Latin America. We should pass comprehensive immigration reform, including a pathway to citizenship for those already living and contributing to our communities. We should protect Dreamers and preserve the legal status for our young people. It is unconscionable that this administration had detained over 100,000 migrant children this year alone. We should immediately end family separations, the inhumane detention of asylum seekers, and dismantle unjust deportation. But to handle this growing crisis, we should also increase resources and funding for our currently overloaded system, allowing us to efficiently process and adjudicate asylum seekers and those crossing our borders.

POST: What would you do to combat climate change?

TISDEL: The actions we take now will shape the future for ourselves and all future generations. Though there is still time to reverse the trend of warming, our window for success is rapidly closing. We need leaders in Congress who will make climate change a top priority, and recognize that the work we do to solve this crisis will help usher in a new age of American prosperity for all. Our vision and ambition must be commensurate with the magnitude of the crisis, and our imagination must reflect the scale of the opportunity. I have stood toe-to-toe with major oil and gas corporations in courts of law and prevailed. In New Mexico, we have operated as an energy colony where our people and resources have been exploited by corporate profiteers, and where our state budget rises and falls with the price of oil. The future of our state depends on breaking this cycle. And in doing so, there exists a tremendous opportunity to be leaders in building the clean energy economy of tomorrow. We must rapidly transition away from fossil fuels and keep carbon in the ground, while at the same time building renewable energy, storage, and manufacturing within New Mexico. This would allow us to become net exporters of clean energy throughout the region and nationally. We must also hold the oil and gas industry accountable for the tens of thousands of wells drilled across our state—without which the costs of reclamation would fall to the state and taxpayers, evaporating our state’s permanent fund. Such measures would also create stable, middle-class jobs for those working in the oil and gas industry by plugging and abandoning nonproducing wells, while at the same time operating to restore our landscapes, reducing greenhouse emissions and air pollution impacts, and building resilience within our communities. Nationally, I would work to improve and pass the Green New Deal, which recognizes the intersectionality of climate solutions and the need for social reforms as well as emission reductions. I would also work to institute financial reforms needed to avoid systemic collapse precipitated by fossil fuel companies operating under mountains of debt, and manage the transition to a clean energy economy.

For more information about Tisdel’s campaign, visit https://www.tisdelforcongress.com/