SANTA FE, N.M. — Alcohol-prevention teacher Peter DeBenedittis of Santa Fe on Monday announced his run for governor of New Mexico as a Democrat, pledging to seek progressive solutions to issues of early childhood education, access to health care and poverty.
A New Mexico resident since 1995, DeBenedittis described himself as a political outsider who does not owe favors to past campaign contributors.
The 58-year-old said he wants to pursue policies that expand preschool and provide universal health insurance coverage, while increasing taxes on alcohol and cigarettes to shore up state finances.
He has not previously run for public office but said he worked on political campaigns during the 1990s in the U.S. territory of Guam.
“I don’t owe favors and I’m a progressive who is going to stay a progressive,” said DeBenedittis, who grew up in Colorado.
Term limits prevent Republican Gov. Susana Martinez from seeking reelection in 2018.
The Democratic nomination also is being sought by U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham and former media executive Jeff Apodaca, the son of former New Mexico Gov. Jerry Apodaca.
No Republican has entered the race, though U.S. Congressman Steve Pearce says he may pursue the GOP nomination.
DeBenedittis said he will refuse corporate campaign contributions and evaluate donations from small businesses and other groups on a case-by-case basis.
“A union that supports the minimum wage (increase)? That would be a ‘yes,'” he said about accepting contributions. “If there’s a business group that opposes the minimum wage, that would be a ‘no.'”
On early childhood education, DeBenedittis wants to revive stalled efforts to increasing distributions from the state’s largest sovereign wealth fund to ensure statewide access to early childhood education.
He also wants to create a publicly owned state bank in New Mexico, similar to the Bank of North Dakota, to help expand access to capital and reinvest profits locally.
The campaign website for DeBenedittis says he founded a company in 1999 that provides education and drug prevention services to schools, counties and state agencies across New Mexico.