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CD1 candidates clash in debate

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – With a special election to fill a vacant Albuquerque-area congressional seat just over three weeks away, the four candidates on the ballot sought to spotlight their credentials – and their opponents’ records – during a Sunday debate.

As in a previous debate, Republican Mark Moores repeatedly described Melanie Stansbury as a “radical” on environmental, immigration and criminal justice issues during the hourlong debate.

Specifically, he claimed the Democratic candidate supports legislation that would halt deportations of individuals convicted of criminal offenses and even brought up Stanbury’s graduate thesis at Cornell University.

Meanwhile, independent candidate Aubrey Dunn, a former state land commissioner, at one point questioned Stansbury’s motives for moving to New Mexico.

“It almost appears you’ve come here to run for office,” Dunn said.

In response, Stansbury highlighted her upbringing in New Mexico and said she only left the state in 2010 to work as a staffer for a White House budget office.

She returned to the state in time for the 2018 election cycle and ran successfully against an incumbent Republican lawmaker that year as part of a blue wave in the Albuquerque area.

Stansbury, now a two-term state representative, defended her votes in the Legislature this year in favor of bills dealing with mandatory paid sick leave for private-sector employees and barring the defense of “qualified immunity” in lawsuits against police officers and other public employees.

“I stand with our communities, I stand for social justice and I stand with our workers,” said Stansbury, who claimed it was “offensive” for Moores to politicize discussions over criminal justice and policing.

And she questioned the three-term GOP state senator about his vote during this year’s 60-day legislative session against a bill repealing a long-dormant state abortion ban.

The 1st Congressional District seat is empty because former Rep. Deb Haaland, a Democrat, resigned in March after being confirmed as U.S. interior secretary.

Early voting in the race began last week, and Election Day is June 1.

The district was previously considered a swing district but has been increasingly Democratic in recent election cycles.

In last year’s presidential election, Democrat Joe Biden trounced Republican Donald Trump among district voters – with roughly 60% voting for Biden and just 37.4% for Trump.

The Sunday debate touched on some of the same issues that surfaced in the presidential race, including gun control, climate change and pandemic response efforts.

Stansbury said she supports reimposing a federal assault weapons ban, saying the country is facing an “epidemic” of gun violence.

The other three candidates indicated they would oppose such firearm restrictions.

On the issue of the pandemic, Moores described himself as the most qualified candidate due to his work as a partner in a state medical laboratory.

But all four candidates largely agreed on the need to safely reopen New Mexico’s economy and reduce the state’s high unemployment rate.

“We’ve got to get these small businesses back so the economy can get roaring again,” Moores said.

The debate also featured some lighter moments, such as when Libertarian candidate Chris Manning asked Dunn about his favorite memories of his mother.

In response, Dunn fondly recalled his mom – who is now 91 years old – teaching him how to play tennis as a child.

And during a later exchange over gun restrictions, Dunn cited his recent shooting of a badger that had damaged a water tank on his ranch.

The debate was hosted by KOAT-TV and also sponsored by KKOB radio and the Journal.

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