Editor’s note: To quote the great Tip O’Neil, all politics is local. For this reason, LR Net frequently covers state and local races around the nation. This week, we’re looking a candidate in our very own state of New Mexico, Paul Moya, who is running to be the Democratic candidate for the 1st Congressional District of New Mexico.
Paul Moya is running for the U.S. House of Representatives. Specifically, he wants to be the Democratic candidate for the first Congressional District of New Mexico in 2018. He is also, whether he likes it or not, a part of a grand old American narrative—to wit, the farm boy goes to the big city, makes good, and comes back home to fight a few demons.
“I grew up on an alfalfa farm about thirty minutes south of here [Albuquerque, NM],” he says. “That’s where I learned my values. That’s where I learned my work ethic. That’s where I learned you keep your word.”
And, right now, he sees his work as being in politics in general, and in New Mexican politics, in particular.
A Farm Boy At Harvard
Moya is a graduate of Notre Dame and Harvard, and is as well an extremely successful entrepreneur and consultant. However, he says, his personality is best understood by starting with his boyhood, and his years on the farm. “When I went off to college, I heard people complain about how early they had to get up for classes,” he says. “But, for me, an eight a.m. class was a chance to sleep in.”
The farm was also where he discovered the value of education. “When I was four or five,” he says, “I still remember my grandfather telling me that education is one thing they can never take away from you.”
All of this was useful training for a career that would involve a great of hard work on relatively few hours of sleep. Finishing high school, he found himself a scholarship student at, first, Notre Dame, where he studied finance, and then at Harvard, where he received his master’s degree from the Harvard School of Education.
“I actually had a sort of triple focus,” he says. Though his Master’s was from the School of Education, “I actually completed an interdisciplinary degree, working with the Kennedy School of Government, the Business School, and Education.”
Shortly after graduation, he discovered he had an unusual, and very marketable talent. Himself a young man, he could explain Millennials to Baby Boomers, and vice versa. That can be harder than you might think. The Baby Boomers, after all, came from a very different place and time than do today’s young people. “The Baby Boom executives would say to me, ‘Hey, Paul, why do these kids do what they do?’” And then Moya would do his best to explain.
At about the same time, he was getting frustrated. “I was getting job offers from everywhere…except for New Mexico,” he says. And he wanted very badly to go back to his home state.
Then, about “the third time” a Boomer asked his advice on his generation’s behavior, it struck him. His ability to bridge generations could lead to a consulting business, which in turn “could be my ticket home.”
Millennial Labs, Zia, and Congress
Moya then set up Millennial Labs. “[It] is a full service management consulting firm,” he explains, “devoted to solving large-scale problems in the workplace and the marketplace.” It has been an extremely successful venture with clients ranging from AT&T to IBM to Visa to Nestles.
After that, Moya launched Zia Ventures, another consulting firm, though with a different focus. “Zia Ventures is for small businesses,” he explains. “While Millennial Labs is for large companies and organizations.”
Either way, though, the two enterprises have thrived and made it possible for Moya to move back to his beloved New Mexico. Moreover, they have given him the resources to pursue a seat in Congress.
But, of course, the question is why? Given that Washington isn’t a pleasant place for Democrats and Progressives to be at the moment (the current occupant of New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District seat in the House, Michelle Lujan Grisham, is leaving Washington to pursue a run for the governorship of the state), why not stay away from D.C. until it is a little less toxic to human life?
To explain, he refers back to the narrative of the country boy who makes good in the big city. “I know that from those who have been given much,” he says, “much is expected in return.” Having gained success at an early age, he now needs to pay it back.
He says that he might never have considered a career in politics if it hadn’t been for the election of Donald Trump. “I grew increasingly frustrated with the direction of our country,” he says. So he set out to find a candidate to back who might help move the nation in a positive direction.
Unfortunately, he didn’t find any that liked. They all seemed to promise nothing but a return to politics as usual. After he’d looked at “ten or eleven candidates,” and found them all wanting, he realized other measures were necessary. “I had to look myself in the mirror and ask, ‘What are you going to do about this?’”
What he decided to do was run for the seat himself.
If he’s elected…
Assuming he wins, what will Moya do for his constituents? Basically, he says, he intends to work with the Federal government to help New Mexico residents address their problems—most of which are economic. New Mexico is a Sunbelt state with considerable natural resources, a world-class university system, several Federal laboratories (Los Alamos and Sandia, just to name two), and quite a lot of room to grow. It should be an up and comer, like its neighbor Colorado to the north.
But it isn’t. For a variety of reasons, ranging from the intense poverty of some of its rural communities to long years of Republican imposed “austerity,” New Mexico, “The Land Of Enchantment,” is among the poorest states in the Union.
Moya has plans to deal with that. First, he wants New Mexico to seek Federal assistance in bringing more high tech enterprise to the state. He counts off the areas where the thinks the state could make significant progress in the near future: “Defense, I[ntellectual] P[roperty] commercializing, start-ups, cybersecurity, technology, and microsats.”
Microsats…Micro-Satellites…are one of New Mexico’s more unusual but promising industries. The state owns and operates Spaceport America, a facility meant for the launch and return of spacecraft. Spaceport America has had some trouble finding and keeping tenants in the past, but it might be perfect for companies interested in putting microsats into orbit.
Likewise, notes Moya, IP Commercialization could offer the state a lot in the way of return. The Federal Labs pump out tons of basic research, but very little of it is adopted and used by New Mexican companies. He hopes to change that with incentives and other inducements. “Traditionally, we have put the labs on a pedestal,” he says. “We need to change that. We need to change the pedestal into a springboard [for commercial development].”
But Moya isn’t just counting on high-tech. “We need more apprentice programs,” he says. “We need relationships with community colleges, and we need strong unions. We need to be able to raise a new generation of trained individuals.”
Moya believes that white-collar jobs aren’t the only path to personal wealth. Indeed, given the speed at which such professions are being automated, they may not be a path period. He notes, “I once heard Mike Rowe [of Dirty Jobs fame] say that at the rate with which people are becoming doctors and lawyers, in a few years it will cost more to hire a plumber than a lawyer.”
What this means, he says, is that we need to rethink career counseling. We need to realize that blue color jobs aren’t “second class jobs,” but rather real professions, and promote them accordingly. “If a ten year old girl wants to be a scientist,” he says, “then we have to do everything to make that possible. But, if she wants to be a HVAC technician, then we need to do everything we can to make that possible, too.”
But then, he notes, he has personal experience in this. His own brother decided the academy just wasn’t for him, and is now a very successful diesel engine mechanic and a proud member of Albuquerque Fire Department.
Can he do it?
Moya has other issues he considers important—not the least of them crime. “If you have a struggling economy,” he warns, “you have a high rate of crime.” And dealing with New Mexico’s crime, with Federal help, is going to be one of his goals should he be in office.
He also thinks that New Mexico should, as quickly as possible, legalize the recreational use of marijuana. He points to Colorado, which has already done so, and in the process turned a law-enforcement nightmare into a well-behaved source of public revenue.
And, finally, when he’s in office, he thinks one of his major tasks will be finding those places where he can intelligently and rationally co-operate with Republicans. “Gun control, immigration, these are places where we need to have rational discussion,” he says. He thinks a deal on gun control might be within reach. Perhaps Democrats could agree to protect the right of gun ownership if Republicans would agree universal background checks.
On the other hand, there will also be places where his job will be stand up to the GOP in no uncertain terms. “The deficit is one such area,” he says.
But all of that assumes he can be elected. And there is some question about that. He has some vulnerabilities. While he has been very successful in business, he hasn’t yet held any elective office in state, local, or Federal government. He is known in the state’s Democratic circles, but he isn’t well known. He has competitors, some of whom are perhaps better positioned to operate the party’s machinery. And then there is his age. He is young, and New Mexico is one of those states that has traditionally preferred a touch of gray at the temples of its candidates.
Still, these can also be advantages. Moya is, by his own admission, an outsider. That may not be a bad thing to be at the moment. At a time when so many of our professional politicians seem complicit in a corrupt, Trumpian regime, an outsider can look damn clean by comparison.
Besides, he has one other advantage—his real, and obvious enthusiasm for his home state. He describes it as “a Mecca of under-utilized resources.” New Mexico’s people, he says, could remake the state …if they just had a little help from Washington.
And he thinks he is just the man to get that help. “As a farm boy who grew up in Central New Mexico [who made good],” he says, “I would be naïve, or even foolish, to think I wasn’t meant to share my gifts.”
So, maybe, the very best to share those gifts will be Capital Hill.