After an Albuquerque police briefing about 35 years ago, rookie officer Michelle Garcia Holmes, then in her early 20s, volunteered for a unique undercover assignment: Pose as a student at Eldorado High School to investigate a drug ring.
The three-month sting led to the arrests of several adults affiliated with a Mexican drug cartel who were using young people in a drug and burglary operation, she said.
“I was the original ’21 Jump Street,’ ” said Garcia Holmes, a Republican candidate for the U.S. House District 1, referring to a television show and movie with a similar plot.
Garcia Holmes said that case is one of several from her 20-year career with Albuquerque police that continues to shape her policy opinions on criminal justice matters.
Those opinions include increasing funding for police in some cases, seeking federal assistance for the city’s crime-fighting efforts and working to bring an end to a yearslong Department of Justice reform effort underway at the Albuquerque Police Department.
That starkly separates Garcia Holmes from her opponent, first-term Democratic incumbent Deb Haaland. Haaland helped pass legislation in the House that was an effort to defund Operation Legend, a federal law enforcement initiative underway in several cities, including Albuquerque.
Garcia Holmes, 58, said calls for defunding the police during protests following the death of George Floyd are “ludicrous” and would be a disaster for New Mexico.
She believes quite the opposite.
“We do need reform in law enforcement,” she said. “That should be uniform across the nation. I’d like to see more federal funding for law enforcement.”
But she thinks that police reform should come from internal affairs and nationwide standards, not DOJ investigations and reform efforts such as the one in Albuquerque.
She also served eight years as chief of staff for former N.M. Attorney General Gary King, where she said she worked on several legislative initiatives, including helping King establish the first state corruption division.
“Crime is a huge issue for New Mexico,” she said.” It’s one of the main reasons why businesses don’t want to come here. It’s one of the main reasons our families are not thriving. It’s one of the main reasons New Mexico is at the bottom of the list in many categories.”
Garcia Holmes said she welcomed federal assistance with the crime issues New Mexico faces, including Operation Legend earlier this summer.
She said she was surprised by the current congressional delegation’s reaction to President Donald Trump’s decision to send more federal officers to the state.
“I was shocked by what the federal delegation said and the language they used for federal agents who are offering their expertise and equipment,” Garcia Holmes said.
“This isn’t anything new,” she said. “When we had gang problems in New Mexico, we worked with the feds and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. I think it’s a great plan that the president has, especially since it’s going to focus on violent crime.”
She said she’d like to see more collaboration with “the FBI, DEA, U.S. Marshals office and Homeland Security.”
“We’re a border state,” Garcia Holmes said. “We’re going to face different issues than other states, especially with drug trafficking and human trafficking.”
Garcia Holmes said another priority if she is elected will be education.
The mother of five said she understands the challenges educators and families are facing.
“I know we can have a better New Mexico,” she said. “We can do better than 50th (in the nation).”
Garcia Holmes said she will also focus on “pro-life” legislation. Her campaign was endorsed by the Susan B. Anthony List’s Candidate Fund PAC and the National Right to Life Committee, which oppose abortion.
“Michelle Garcia Holmes is 100% pro-life and we are proud to endorse her,” Marilyn Musgrave, the SBA List’s vice president of government affairs, said in a statement. “As a mother, grandmother, and longtime advocate for women and children, Michelle understands the inherent value of every human life and will fight tirelessly to defend life in Congress. We look forward to working together with her in Washington to accomplish our shared goal of protecting the most vulnerable among us.”
Garcia Holmes also said she would support the oil and gas industry, and would seek to serve on committees in Congress that are involved with energy industries.
“We have to tout the resources we have, and utilize them for new jobs and to strengthen the economy,” she said.
Garcia Holmes acknowledged climate change was real, and believes there can be a balance between protecting the oil and gas industry and protecting the environment.
“It’s a global issue,” she said. “We can’t work on it alone. We’ve got to hold other countries accountable.”