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New Mexico lawyer joins possible House race

Prosecuting two Albuquerque police officers on murder charges for the on-duty shooting of a homeless man and volunteering to try rape cases that stem from testing backlogged rape kits are among the tougher assignments that veteran attorney Randi McGinn has taken on.

Add running for Congress to the list.

McGinn told the Journal on Tuesday that she is running for the seat as a Democratic candidate should there be a special election for Congressional District 1 if Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., is confirmed as President-elect Joe Biden’s Interior Secretary. News of Haaland’s nomination has sparked a political frenzy, with numerous candidates from both political parties joining the fray.

Randi McGinn

“We are losing one of our fiercest warriors in Deb Haaland. And when one of your fiercest warriors decides to go fight ahead of you, you hope someone just as fierce is going to pick up the banner,” McGinn said, referring to the legislation that Haaland sponsored during her term. “Somebody needs to pick it up and make sure those bills are passed. That’s me.”

McGinn has never run for public office. But she’s well known as one of New Mexico’s top attorneys who has been in the middle of major cases and trials.

McGinn was tapped as the special prosecutor, and tried Keith Sandy and Dominique Perez, Albuquerque police officers charged with murder for fatally shooting James Boyd, a homeless man, in the Sandia foothills in 2014. Their trial ended in a hung jury.

Earlier this year, McGinn volunteered to lead Project Predator, an effort where dozens of attorneys volunteered as special prosecutors and oversaw any cases that resulted from the state’s attempt to test thousands of backlogged rape kits. McGinn said her firm is ready to handle several of those prosecutions, whether or not she’s elected.

“We’re in such crisis with the pandemic and the economic stress we’re in,” McGinn said. “But I see opportunity in crisis.”

FIGHT FOR THE SEAT: Speaking of the CD1 race, another surprising person is contemplating throwing his hat in the ring – err, make that the octagon.

Greg Jackson, famed mixed martial arts coach and owner of Jackson Wink MMA Academy, said he is “seriously considering” a run. He would be an independent.

Greg Jackson

In an interview, Jackson described himself as a political moderate who was raised in Albuquerque’s South Valley and wants to give back to the community. Like any good fighter, Jackson said, he’d go to Washington with an attack plan that he’s narrowed down to four key goals: invest in under-served communities; expand criminal justice reform; bring money and resources to counter homelessness and addiction; and make childcare more affordable for working families.

On some of those issues, he said he’s been on the front lines in many ways. He volunteers to train police officers with non-violent control techniques and he owns two businesses in under-served areas – his gyms near Downtown and the International District.

“If I can do this, maybe I can give back to the people of New Mexico. Maybe I can improve somebody’s life,” he said. “How cool would that be?”

MODERATE LEAVES MARK: The coronavirus relief package approved by Congress draws largely from the work that New Mexico’s outgoing centrist lawmaker and other moderate house members have been doing for months.

The $900 billion relief package that has broad, bipartisan support largely follows the framework put together months ago by the Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of 50 moderate House members, including Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, D-N.M.

In September, Torres Small told the Journal that she was hopeful the group had come up with a compromise that could bridge the gap between Democrats and Republicans, who had reached an impasse on a relief package.

“It’s taken a long time to get folks back to the table,” Torres Small said in an interview Tuesday. “I’m pleased now to see folks finally come to the conclusion that it’s better to work together than just politically and publicly grandstand.”

The bill includes money to help fight the coronavirus, and financial relief for individuals and businesses. It includes a temporary $300 per week jobless benefit, a $600 direct payment to most Americans and subsidies for hard-hit businesses, as well as other types of relief.

Torres Small said she’s trying to finish her term on a strong note. She lost her reelection to Republican Yvette Herrell in what is New Mexico’s most conservative congressional district, which represents the southern part of the state.

Last week, Torres Small hosted a final telephone townhall, which Herrell attended as a “special guest.” Torres Small said she invited her opponent to show her constituents that there will be a smooth transition of power.

Ryan Boetel: rboetel@abqjournal.com

 

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