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Heinrich puts New Mexicans first

October 1, 2018

An opinion piece (“Change and prosperity for New Mexico,” Sept. 25) by John Block was published by the Santa Fe New Mexican. Despite being welcomed into Sen. Martin Heinrich’s office as an intern while not sharing his political views, the author attacks the senator in a partisan way and cites his experience in the senator’s office as justification. We worked alongside the author in Sen. Heinrich’s office as interns, and we want to set the record straight.

First, it must be acknowledged that as temporary employees of the U.S. Senate, the nature of our duties were apolitical. If any member of staff were overheard discussing the senator’s campaign, they were reminded that the office’s job is not to serve the senator’s electoral chances, but instead the people of New Mexico. To be frank, at no time did we ever hear talk of the senator’s campaign, side chatter or otherwise. Instead, we worked to process and listen to the hundreds of phone calls, letters and emails that poured into the office every week, from people across the political spectrum. It was of utmost importance to help show Sen. Heinrich what issues were affecting New Mexicans, regardless of whether they voted for him or not.

As for Sen. Heinrich’s supposed lack of travel back to New Mexico, during our nearly four months working in the Washington, D.C., office, Sen. Heinrich made regular trips back to New Mexico to visit with constituents. As interns, we, including our former colleague, were kept in the loop of all visits so that we could keep constituents updated through our various duties.

Our former colleague also lambasted the “starkly partisan message” Sen. Heinrich advocated. During the summer of 2017, Sen. Heinrich advocated for every New Mexican to have access to quality, affordable health care, called for reforms in the Department of Veterans Affairs and sponsored legislation to conserve New Mexico’s beautiful landscapes. As two proud New Mexicans, these are issues we see as far from being overtly partisan. Instead, we see them as the embodiment of the values on which so many New Mexicans have been raised — making sure no one is left out to dry; respecting and honoring the heroes among us; and protecting our public lands.

Working to help serve the communities in which we were born and raised is something we consider a great honor. Sen. Heinrich’s Senate staff, both in D.C. and in New Mexico, are all incredibly dedicated to ensuring every New Mexican, regardless of party affiliation, has active and engaged representation in the U.S. Senate. Working as a staffer in the Senate often is a thankless job, but we are grateful for the work and dedication they pour into their jobs every day.

Writing this response was not easy, as we had grown close to our former colleague during our time in Sen. Heinrich’s office. Regardless, we believe it is important to insist that integrity, honesty and truth continue to be the basis of our political dialogue. It is unfortunate our former colleague felt it was appropriate to politicize and publicize our experiences in an inconsistent and unfair light. His comments are untethered from reality and seem as if they were written by someone we have never met. Therefore, as some of the very few who are able to publicly respond to his accusations, we will not apologize for holding our former colleague accountable.

Regardless of party identification, beliefs or which candidates we support, the truth matters.

André Gonzales is a student at George Washington University. Elena Purcell is a student at Wellesley College. Both were born and raised in New Mexico and interned for Democratic U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich in his Washington, D.C., office between June 2017-September 2017. Megan McCorquodale also is a student at George Washington University and interned for Heinrich. She supports and contributed to this op-ed.

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