Amid storm of violent crime, a political haboob stirs - Albuquerque Journal

Amid storm of violent crime, a political haboob stirs

Like a desert haboob, the 2022 elections are approaching from a distance and, at first glance, it is difficult to ascertain if it will shake up anything in its way. But, like a haboob, New Mexico politics can be unpredictable because of an independent streak that keeps elected officials on their toes. With their recent election dominance, it is natural for Democrats to feel at ease. But they should keep a lookout for that unpredictable political haboob in the form of a specific issue, crime, which could upset politics from the Governor’s Office on down.

Recognizing the importance of the issue, Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller released a major initiative to tackle the problem – right on time for the November election. His prescience on the subject is something New Mexico’s governor might want to pay attention to.

A Survey USA poll conducted in June found Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham had an approval rating of 50% compared to a disapproval rate of 32%. These topline numbers are fine, but, on the topic of crime, her approval numbers drop to just 40%.

A deeper dive reveals Lujan Grisham faces fierce winds among an important constituency when it comes to crime: 45% of Hispanic voters give the governor negative ratings on the issue. Only 40% approve.

Crime is a serious concern in New Mexico, and especially in Albuquerque, where over two-thirds of all voters agreed crime was a “very serious problem.” This data represents an ominous political haboob on the horizon, stirring with fear and anger.

In the late ’80s and early ’90s, a crime haboob swept the country. Its collateral damage included the presidential aspirations of Michael Dukakis, who was attacked over a furlough program a felon took advantage of to commit terrible atrocities. Later, people elected Republican mayors in such liberal cities as New York and L.A.

Crime is stirring once again as a potentially potent issue, thanks to rising crime rates. According to the FBI’s “Crime in the United States,” violent crime is on the rise in New Mexico. Since 2016, major categories of crime, from rape to murder, are up from 21% to nearly 40%.

Despite Democrats’ commanding position, Republicans have had recent success; any shift in the political winds could lead to Republican victories. Just last year, Republican meteorologist Mark Ronchetti made a strong showing for U.S. Senate, despite being outspent over 2 to 1.

While the likeable weatherman lost, political radar is suggesting he merely may have been too early to benefit from a coming political meteorological event. Yet, the fact people are highly concerned about crime does not automatically mean Democrats will lose and Republicans will win. Democracy demands candidates run effective campaigns on vote-determinative issues to win.

As electoral winds stir in the Land of Enchantment, Democrats, beginning with Governor Lujan Grisham, would be smart to objectively survey the political climate and plan accordingly. Republicans, meanwhile, will need to find ways to best communicate to non-Republicans how their policies are ideally suited to subdue crime. Whichever political party or politician is ready for what could be a gusting political front may determine those who benefit from the potential political haboob and those who find themselves left in its dust.

Garrett Biggs has advised over 120 political campaigns in the United States.

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

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