Rising up out of Poverty
“New Mexico has some of the worst poverty in the nation” says Steve Pearce, candidate for Governor. The statistics from the US Census bureau are startling. Nearly 1 in 5 New Mexico households are below the poverty level. The only state that has a higher level of poverty is Mississippi.
Discussions about widespread poverty in New Mexico have been around for years. Lack of a strong economy, a weak state education system, a history of poverty on reservations and small towns, and a lack of business capital to promote local small businesses all get some of the blame. The problems existing across many fronts have been made worse as the national economy has modernized in the last few decades, shifting jobs to major metropolitan suburbs like Dallas, Denver and Phoenix.
Steve Pearce sees the challenge of poverty through his own family’s eyes. When Steve was born, his father was a failing sharecropper. His family had to work their way out of poverty. That doesn’t mean it’s easy, but it does mean that Pearce feels a moral obligation for government to stand alongside and support people so they can work their way out.
“Many of the people in poverty have lost their courage to fight their way out. They’ve been set back so many times because they don’t have the job skills and support. We can step in, with job skills so they can regain their courage.” Pearce says.
The value of earn success is a powerful emotion. Equipping men and women with the skills to get and hold a job puts them on the ladder of success to a better life. Pearce outlines; “We can’t expect people to get that first step by themselves. They’ve faced too many setbacks.”
Programs to help lift people out of poverty need to work on many fronts. Matching people with available jobs. Teaching people skills for job available around them. Apprenticeship programs for new graduates to learn skills and trades. Expanding rural jobs in agriculture, farming, oil and gas, and timber. All these are part of the network that needs to be established to help people. “There isn’t one silver bullet solution that magically fixes everything for everybody. It’s hard and you need a variety of plans to help people across New Mexico”
Steve Pearce tells the story of Fito. “He had tattoos up and down his arms. People thought looking at him that he didn’t carry himself with pride that he wasn’t worth hiring. But we took a chance on him and hired him, first cleaning floors, then moved up to the steam bay, cleaning petroleum off tools and equipment with a steam hose and on to driving a truck.
Months after being hired, he came to me and said, “I am over 40 years old, have been in and out of prison and this is the first job I have ever had.” A job transformed him. It allowed him to take pride in himself. It helped remind him that he was worthy of the success he could earn. From there he provided for himself and his family. We need to help more people like Fito.
Programs to train people in job skills are successful all around the country. We need to copy them in New Mexico. As Governor, Steve Pearce will come and stand alongside the people working to get out of poverty and say, “if you want out, I will be by our side. And we will deliver the jobs to make it happen and help you with the skills to take advantage of it.”
The One Who Stayed
Steve Pearce’s parents were sharecroppers and not very successful ones at that. The house they lived in was tiny and wasn’t more that a converted chicken coop. Steven’s father would tell the story when the wind blew, his mother needed to put cardboard in the windows to keep the sand out. At that time Steve was the youngest of 3 children.
One day Steve’s mother realized that the crops were failing and there was no future if they stayed. So the family moved to find better pay. That would lead to a move and starting at the bottom rung of an oilfield camp. Work in the oil fields and as a roustabout allowed Steven’s father and mother to feed the family and scrape by.
Life in the oil field camps was hard. Steve’s mother would be the engine that drove the family forward to achieve. She instilled hope for better prospects. Both of his parents taught him the grit and determination to push forward and see the job done. But it was his mom that made sure he knew you always wanted to be striving upward.
Eventfully there would be six Pearce children, all growing up in New Mexico. Early on Steve’s mother signed everyone up fo 4-H, the program of youth organizations that helps instill character and skills. In Lea County 4-H was particularly focused on values and agriculture. The organization's motto is, “To make the best better.” That motto encapsulates the American spirit and hope for our children and our nation.
But for Steve Pearce, 4-H expanded his world, made friends and learned to raise and feed animals especially pigs. Steve remembers the joy and camaraderie of those days, but also the principles that were instilled in him by his parents including faith and respect for others. The sense of community and caring about neighbors would stick deep down inside Steve.
Growing up Steve Pearce and his sister and brothers all were taught to keep working and building more. With time, all his siblings would move away from New Mexico looking for that better life. They valued where they came from, but like many opportunity pulled them away from New Mexico. Steve Pearce would be the one who stayed.
Steve Pearce stayed because he loved New Mexico. He saw, the same as others, that a lot of people felt future opportunities for themselves and their families lay elsewhere in America. That passion for his community would lead Steve to run for political office. He stayed because he wants the people in our state to have the opportunities and hope that he learned growing up. Steve Pearce know that the future of New Mexico is different from the where he grew up. But he wants that future to be one, where it is normal that people want to stay here because there is a future of hope and prosperity for everyone at every level and in every community.
Serving in the Skies over Vietnam
“I didn’t volunteer for the military. I drew a very low draft number and the next day the drafts board called me and said ‘you won the lottery’. It was the only lottery I ever won. But I did get free flying lessons and a trip to Vietnam out of it.”
That’s how Steve Pearce describes the beginning of his military career.
“My time in the military, even though it wasn’t part of my original plan, is one of the most important in terms of shaping who I am today. I taught me the function of the military in detail and how important our men and women in the armed service are to our state and nation.” I know first-hand what we are asking of our soldiers when we send them into combat. You cannot learn that from a book.
“It also taught me a lot about myself. Truth is, I was afraid of flying. I was more afraid of Vietnam and I learned a lot about myself and how each of us can rise to be better than we imagine.” Pearce continued.
During the Vietnam War, Steve Pearce served as a combat pilot. He flew over 518 hours of combat flight and 77 hours of combat support.
For his service, Steve Pearce was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and two Air Medals, as well as seven other military medals and four exceptional service awards.
After the war, Steve continued service at Blytheville Air Force Base in Arkansas, and attained the rank of Captain.
In Congress, Steve Pearce has been an advocate of making sure promises made to veterans and active military are kept. He has been a consistent supporter of our military and is working hard to fix the disgraceful problems with the VA.
“When I came home from Vietnam, I was appalled at how our services members were treated. That’s why I have worked so hard, and will continue to make sure, that our men and women serving today are given the support they need when they come home,” said Steve Pearce.
Recently, Pearce found another way to honor America’s Veterans. In his solo around the world flight he stopped at airbases and left memorials to those who served.
Standing up for New Mexico in Congress
Steve Pearce has served in Congress almost 14 years (2003-2009, 2011-current) and in that time he has been a champion for the people of New Mexico and getting results. Along with his strong conservative reputation he has also built a track record of working across party lines.
Pearce points out, “I have not been afraid to criticize Republicans when they are wrong and Democrats when they are wrong. Equally true, I am willing to work with both sides to get results.” He wasted no time making that point when he opposed both Republican John Boehner and Democrat Nancy Pelosi for Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Pearce developed a strong conservative reputation, opposing the reckless spending and spiraling debt that strangles our economy. He worked against radical environmentalists who would distort the Endangered Species Act to threaten jobs in New Mexico. In retaliation, they have set up a number of shadowy dark money groups and paid former Hillary Clinton’s political operatives to distort Pearce’s work.
Proving he can work across party lines, he joined with President Obama and other Democrats to reform and keep down the cost of college education; pass the Violence Against Woman Act, and protect White Sands Missile Range.
He has opposed ObamaCare, but worked with Democrats on immigration reform and particularly to train the Border Patrol so they secure our border but treat people with respect.
Pearce has stood strong for our native American communities in a number of ways. He has been a national champion for the Native American Housing and Self Determination Act (NAHSDA). He stood with our Pueblos to reclaim their lost relics that were being kept in Europe and passed the Esther Martinez Act to preserve native American languages. He worked to get land returned to the Navajo and Zuni tribes after Fort Wingate was closed. This land will help give tribes the highway access they need to expand economic development.
While legislation often gets the most attention, Pearce has also worked to protect New Mexico families from the powerful Washington bureaucracy. He helped ranchers protect their water rights, opposed out-of-state corporations that threaten our military bases and stood up for Veterans being discarded by a broken VA system.
Throughout it all he has worked to support New Mexico jobs across the spectrum-from protecting funding for our national labs, preserving the critical testing and training missions at our military bases to expanding our agriculture and natural resource industries to preserve a rural economy.
Throughout his time, people have learned that Steve Pearce is a relentless champion for New Mexico values and families.