U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham and her challenger, Republican Mike Frese jousted over climate change, the economy and immigration reform during a debate Thursday hosted by New Mexico PBS.

Veteran journalist Sam Donaldson moderated the hour-long debate, which was relatively civil as the candidates kept to their allotted response times and worked to avoid direct arguments with each other ahead of the low-key Nov. 4 contest.

Donaldson kicked off the debate with a question about economic development, asking the candidates, “If you are elected to Congress, what would you do to promote jobs for this state?”



Grisham said she believes the best course of action to boost job creation would be to invest in infrastructure to create more “tech transfer opportunities.”

“We can’t be risk-averse. We ought to be leveraging every public dollar, every private dollar and creating a sustainable, diverse economy for the future,” Grisham said. “You want the federal government, your state government and the private sector to all be working together.”

Frese, in contrast, articulated a conservative approach by calling for a reduction in federal regulation to alleviate the burden on small businesses.

“I think that in order to promote job growth in this state we have to create a vibrant, growing economy nationwide,” Frese said. “I think the way to do that very clearly is to reduce federal regulation.”

The difference between the candidates was most prominently highlighted in the discussion on climate change.

Though Frese acknowledged there is clear evidence that average global temperatures have increased over the last century, the MIT graduate is skeptical of whether mankind has been a contributing factor.

“The only evidence we have for man’s contribution to that rise in temperature is the predictions of computer models,” Frese said. “I worked with models that are equally complex to climate modeling, and I was very confident that ‘I wrote the models, I thought they were good,’ but I knew very well that we had to compare them to experiment. Beginning 15 to 20 years ago the temperature of the surface began to remain the same ... the models do not show that stopping of temperature rising.”

Grisham responded by saying that it would be irresponsible to ignore human impact on the changing climate and that modern science should be trusted in guiding policy.

“I agree with the vast majority of scientists — not just in this country, but worldwide — that the best thing we can do immediately is not to ignore it, not to wait any further, but to use current science to reduce our carbon emissions.” Grisham said.

Grisham, elected in 2012, leads Frese in fundraising ahead of the Nov. 4 election. Although the Albuquerque-area district from 1998 to 2009 was represented by Republican Rep. Heather Wilson, the seat has been in Democrats’ control since Martin Heinrich, now a member of the U.S. Senate, was elected to the House seat in 2009.

The pair will face off again in a forum on Oct. 20 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. during a commercial real estate development forum .

Additionally, the New Mexico News Port on Oct. 23 is hosting a Twitter town hall debate with the candidates from 12:45 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. MST. Tweet us your questions and follow the debate with the hashtag #nm2014.