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Challenger brings up crime issue in congressional debate

From top left, Kent Walz of the Albuquerque Journal with Doug Fernandez and Shelby Cashman of KOAT ask questions of 1st Congressional District candidates Michelle Garcia Holmes and Deb Haaland during a debate on KOAT. (Courtesy KOAT)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Republican Michelle Garcia Holmes accused Democratic Rep. Deb Haaland of trying to defund law enforcement.

Haaland questioned Garcia Holmes about her support of President Donald Trump.

Haaland and Garcia Holmes appeared from separate locations in a debate that aired Sunday on KOAT-TV. The two women are seeking to represent New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District, which includes most of Albuquerque.

Garcia Holmes has some ground to make up in the final weeks of the campaign, according to a Journal Poll conducted Aug. 26 through Sept. 2 that showed Haaland leading by 27 percentage points, 58% to 31%.

Haaland, who won her first election by 23 percentage points two years ago, said she’s an active policymaker who always shows up for votes and committee hearings. She tried to link Garcia Holmes to Trump, who Haaland said has failed the country during the coronavirus pandemic.

Garcia Holmes, a former Albuquerque police officer, repeatedly brought up her law enforcement career and criticized Haaland for attempting to cut funding for Operation Legend and Operation Relentless Pursuit, two federal law enforcement initiatives underway in several cities, including Albuquerque.

“How can someone vote to defund law enforcement coming to help us apprehend the worst of criminals?” Garcia Holmes asked.

First Congressional District candidate Michelle Garcia Holmes during a debate on KOAT. (Courtesy KOAT)

Haaland said she had concerns about the federal operations in Albuquerque after learning of tactics used against protesters in Portland, Oregon.

“I wanted to make sure that people’s human rights and civil rights weren’t violated,” Haaland said.

The debate was hosted by the Albuquerque Journal and KOAT-TV. KOAT anchor Doug Fernandez moderated the debate, and Journal senior editor Kent Walz and Shelby Cashman, a KOAT anchor, asked the candidates questions.

The debate was strictly moderated, as Fernandez cut off candidates who went over their allotted time. Neither Haaland or Garcia interrupted or talked over the other.

Haaland, when given an opportunity to ask Garcia Holmes a question, brought up the fact that Garcia Holmes wore a “Make America Great Again” hat at a political event.

“We’ve got to make America great again. I know it’s our president’s slogan, but yes, I did latch on to it,” Garcia Holmes said. She also defended Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Garcia Holmes criticized Haaland for not supporting police and not speaking out against protesters.

“I think peaceful protests are good, but when it comes to violent protesters like antifa, we shouldn’t be calling them peaceful protesters,” Garcia Holmes said.

First Congressional District candidate Deb Haaland during a debate on KOAT. (Courtesy KOAT)

Asked about the pandemic, Garcia Holmes said many restaurants and other small businesses are at risk of going out of business, and the state and country need a new plan.

Haaland said any plans need to rely on science.

“We absolutely need to reopen, but we need to do it in a safe way,” Haaland said. “We have to follow the science in this horrible, horrible pandemic.”

On Trump’s recent Supreme Court nomination, Haaland said the Senate should not vote on confirmation until after the election. She declined to say whether she would favor Democrats trying to add additional seats to the court after the election.

“I’m not worried right now about packing the court or doing whatever it is,” she said. “I’m working to make sure New Mexicans and Americans can live another day.”

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