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Udall seeks answers about Operation Legend

Count New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall among the skeptics about the Department of Justice’s decision to send additional federal law enforcement officers to Albuquerque as part of Operation Legend.

“Federal law enforcement should not be misused as part of the president’s political agenda, whether in Albuquerque, Portland, or any other U.S. city,” the Democrat said in a news release following President Donald Trump’s announcement at the White House last Wednesday.

He mentioned the federal law enforcement operation where demonstrators were allegedly taken into custody in Portland during recent protests. Udall also hinted the operation was an attempt by the president to politicize such issues as public safety.

But officials such as U.S. Attorney for New Mexico John Anderson insist protesters would not be targeted here, and there was no connection between this operation and what happened in Portland.

Still, the senator said he would seek “answers about the exact authorities, missions, duration and conditions attached to this operation.”

One of the men who hopes to replace Udall in the Senate, Republican nominee Mark Ronchetti, voiced support for federal assistance, and called out state and local leaders “who are demonizing law enforcement and attempting to distract New Mexicans from the extreme crime crisis within Albuquerque by calling for the resignation of Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales for fighting crime.”

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., was among the officials calling for Gonzales to resign. Ronchetti criticized the Democratic senator’s use of “stormtroopers” in reference to the federal law enforcement officers being sent to the city.

“Our political environment can’t be so poisonous that it blinds us to what bonds us all together … the desire for safe streets to raise our families,” Ronchetti said in a news release.

DEFENSE SPENDING BILLS MOVE ON: The U.S. House and Senate both passed their versions of National Defense Authorization Act of 2021 last week.

Both versions of the NDAA include funding for projects at Kirtland and Holloman Air Force bases, as well as White Sands Missile Range.

Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratory would also receive funds for infrastructure projects. Provisions also address contamination cleanup from years of use of fire suppression foam at military instillations around the country, including Cannon and Holloman Air Force bases in New Mexico.

The differences between the versions will be ironed out in a conference committee before a final vote in each chamber.

TORRES SMALL MOST VULNERABLE DEM? Another sign that the 2nd Congressional District race between Democratic incumbent Xochitl Torres Small and Republican Yvette Herrell will be one of the most watched in the country this election season came in the form of a July 17 Washington Post story called “The 10 House seats likely to flip in November.”

Post writer Amber Phillips listed Torres Small as the most vulnerable because Trump won the district in mostly rural southern New Mexico by a 10% margin in 2016. She pointed out the district leans conservative.

Torres Small won the seat over Herrell by less than 4,000 votes in 2018. But Phillips said the first-term Democrat is doing what she can to hold the seat, citing her substantial fundraising edge.

Scott Turner: sturner@abqjournal.com

 

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