Q&A: House District 31 candidate Athena Christodoulou

House District 31 candidate Athena Ann Christodoulou (Courtesy Athena Ann Christodoulou)

NAME: Athena Ann Christodoulou


OCCUPATION: Tech entrepreneur in carbon-free energy


RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: Navy veteran (commander, retired); environmental and energy engineer

EDUCATION: B.S., civil engineering, North Carolina State; MS, environmental engineering, University of Central Florida; MS, nanosystems and microsystems/business, University of New Mexico


1. New Mexico is highly reliant on the oil and natural gas industries to generate revenue to fund state programs, as evidenced by recent oil boom and bust cycles. What steps should the Legislature take to diversify the state’s economy and revenue base?

Discontinue any subsidies to new fossil fuel infrastructure projects. Continue to promote and nurture the film, space, bioscience, tech transfer, outdoor tourism, manufacturing and renewable energy industries while ensuring they pay fair taxes. No corporate welfare. Less taxes on the hard working middle class and more on the ultra wealthy.

2. During the last regular legislative session, there was an unsuccessful push to make it easier to keep certain defendants behind bars until trial. Should New Mexico law be changed to make it easier to hold individuals charged with violent offenses such as murder and first-degree child abuse behind bars until trial?

It is up to judges to make that constitutional determination. Good record keeping and proper communication between law enforcement and the judicial system is key for good decision making. Any legislation should bolster that aspect of our criminal system. New Mexico needs also to ensure speedy trials.

3. What steps should the Legislature take to address crime and public safety as New Mexico faces one of the highest violent crime rates in the nation?

One of our state’s jobs is to keep you safe from crime. Our state, counties and municipalities must collaborate in diverting the nonviolent and youth from future crimes, changing police procedures that lead authorities to wrong suspects, and using the best technology to protect the innocent while identifying the guilty.

4. Given the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, do you support or oppose codifying abortion protections in state law? And do you support or oppose enacting any restrictions on abortion in New Mexico?

Choosing when and whether to become a parent is deeply personal and private. No one likes abortion, and it is a complex issue for the individuals involved. Politicians should stay out of this very personal and private decision between a woman, her physician and God.

5. New Mexico has already implemented several gun control laws in recent years. Would you support or oppose legislation that banned or restricted the sale of AR-15-style semi-automatic weapons, such as raising the age limit for purchasing such weapons? And what about legislation making it a crime to fail to safely secure firearms around children?

Our community can’t be safe with military-style guns being sold. These guns should only be in the hands of military-trained personnel for combat. Veterans, though, need a firearm security law in the civilian world for suicide prevention. And it’s needed to protect curious kids from harming themselves or others.

6. The state agency tasked with keeping New Mexico children safe has faced recent scrutiny over transparency issues and its handling of high-profile child abuse cases. What changes would you support to improve the operations of the Children, Youth and Families Department?

Our children are our future and are the most vulnerable in our society. Major decisions by CYFD need to incorporate a process for public input. Respect for the agency and its effectiveness will benefit from greater transparency, better screening and training of new hires, and lower case loads.

7. What changes, if any, should New Mexico make to its gross receipts tax code?

The Tax Changes bill (HB6 2019) addressed online and out-of-state entities. We should consider more excise tax on dangerous products and long haul interstate trucking, and lowering GRT for startups, new doctors and other professionals we want to attract. Also, loopholes for some industries mean other industries carry the burden.

8. New Mexico is currently the only state that does not pay its legislators a salary, though lawmakers do get per diem payments and can qualify for a legislative pension. Do you support or oppose a salaried Legislature and, if so, how much should lawmakers be paid?

Having a professional Legislature would certainly open it to becoming a more economically diverse body with younger participation and less vulnerable to lobbying influence. Just as important, though, is having paid, year-round staff again reducing reliance on lobbyists and corporate influence. Legislator salary? Base it on teacher salaries?

9. What more, if anything, should the Legislature do to address a court ruling that found New Mexico is failing to provide a sufficient education to all students, especially Native Americans and those who don’t speak English as a first language?

Our public schools need to provide each child the opportunity to achieve their fullest potential in life. Let’s make sure we fund any effort properly, train our educators, and involve a professional society like the National Education Association to determine missing pieces to our education picture.

10. In recent years, New Mexico has steadily increased spending on early childhood programs, such as home visiting, prekindergarten and child care assistance, and created a new early childhood trust fund. Do you support or oppose the proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would withdraw more money from the state’s permanent school fund to increase funding for early childhood services and K-12 education?

New Mexico recently raised teacher salaries, established the early childhood department, and committed to broadband for remote learning. Taking a larger percent of the profits from our $26 billion fund is a wise investment in our future. Please do your part and vote “yes” on the constitutional amendment for early education.

11. In order to address climate change and air quality issues, do you support or oppose legislation limiting greenhouse gas emissions and requiring the state achieve net-zero emissions by 2050?

For too long, we have lost our right to life to corporate interests. We need clean air, water and land to live. Quickly transitioning to renewables with clean storage, electrification and avoiding fracked or mined hydrogen will take us to carbon zero and offer my granddaughters a livable earth.

12. Do you believe changes should be made to the emergency powers held by a governor during a pandemic or other time of crisis. If so, do you believe such powers should be expanded or reduced and in what specific ways?

My 93-year-old mother is still alive because our governor set mandates with public health and welfare in mind, not money. Her stepping up to the plate to protect us benefited everyone. Our government is by, with and for the people. I value people and the planet over profit.

13. Would you support a merit-based evaluation system to determine how the state spends its capital outlay funding?

Our capital outlay system lacks planning, is rife with quid pro quo, and needs changes. I would like to investigate alternative processes.

14. Do you believe former President Donald Trump’s claim that he was the legitimate winner of the 2020 presidential election? (Yes or No answer only, please)

No .

15. What changes, if any, would you support to New Mexico’s election laws?

New Mexico currently has excellent election laws. Our system is working. We might consider allowing 17-year-olds to vote in local elections as training to be a more engaged citizen while still at home.

Personal background

1. Have you or your business, if you are a business owner, ever been the subject of any state or federal tax liens?


2. Have you ever been involved in a personal or business bankruptcy proceeding?


3. Have you ever been arrested for, charged with, or convicted of drunken driving, any misdemeanor or any felony in New Mexico or any other state? If so, explain.


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