Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
Police misconduct, racism and voting rights were the first issues candidates for New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District were asked about during a virtual forum Tuesday night.
Hosted by the New Mexico Black Voters Collaborative, the forum was the first in the race for the vacant Albuquerque-based seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. It began with a moment of silence to recognize the trial centered on the murder of George Floyd, which ended hours earlier with a guilty verdict against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
The trial was referenced throughout the night by the three candidates who participated: state Rep. Melanie Stansbury, a Democrat; Chris Manning, a Libertarian; and independent Aubrey Dunn. Absent was the Republican candidate, state Sen. Mark Moores.
“This is quite an emotional day,” Stansbury said. “Today, jurors in Minneapolis recognized that George Floyd’s life matters.”
Asked how to address police misconduct, Manning said qualified immunity – a legal principle that shields police officers and other government officers from civil penalties in some cases – should be reformed at the federal level.
“I don’t think agents of the state should be allowed to kill you without repercussions,” he said.
He added that police departments across the country should be barred from investigating their own shootings and use-of-force cases.
Stansbury said that if elected she would support the Breathe Act and the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act, which have been introduced in Congress and aim to reform policing and work to restrict qualified immunity. She also said that it’s important to address criminal justice matters by tackling underlying issues, such as education and behavioral health.
“The system is broken, clearly. People are dying, people of color disproportionately,” she said. “We have to reform policing in America and dismantle systemic racism.”
Dunn, a former state land commissioner, said he also thinks there should be a better way to hold officers accountable.
“We talked about systemic problems. The parties have pandered for votes rather than making improvement. What I bring as an independent is I want to work for you, not for a party,” he said. “I think one of the systemic issues is a two-party system.”
One of the forum’s moderators, Khalil Ekulona, the host of KUNM Radio’s No More Normal, said Moores declined to participate or provide a statement.
Moores was scheduled to appear at another event the same time as the forum. The state GOP had said he would attend the Republican Party of Sandoval County’s monthly meeting at a Rio Rancho church.
New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District includes most of Bernalillo County, all of Torrance County and parts of Sandoval, Santa Fe and Valencia counties.
The seat is vacant after former Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., resigned when she was confirmed to be U.S. secretary of the interior. Moores, Stansbury and Manning were all selected by officials in their parties to run for the post.
A special election to determine who will fill the seat is scheduled for June 1.