Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal
Editor’s note: The Journal continues a series examining contested statewide races.
A retired law enforcement officer and a businessman who co-owns an indoor shooting range will face off in next month’s Republican primary in New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District.
The winner between Michelle Garcia Holmes and Louie Sanchez will then face Democratic Rep. Melanie Stansbury in the general election.
Garcia Holmes ran for the seat in 2020, losing to Democrat Deb Haaland 58% to 42%. The retired Albuquerque police officer and former chief of staff at the Attorney General’s Office has also tried her hand running for lieutenant governor and she has been an Albuquerque mayoral candidate.
Sanchez owns Calibers Indoor Shooting Ranges and is a medical sales representative for a company that supplies pacemakers and defibrillators.
He grew up in the South Valley and started his career as a legislative aide for longtime New Mexico Sen. Pete Domenici, and he then worked in public affairs for the U.S. Department of Agriculture before returning to his home state.
“I don’t need to be in Congress, I make a great living. But somebody has to step up and actually do what they’ll say they’ll do, and actually fight for the people,” Sanchez said. “Because my whole family that’s in the South Valley and in the West Mesa, they are struggling.”
Garcia Holmes said she decided to run again after redistricting, which made the Albuquerque-based seat more conservative. The district now stretches farther into southeast New Mexico and includes Lincoln and parts of Chaves counties.
“The district is a lot more Republican,” she said. “It’s just a really great district. I think all three of the districts have a mix of rural and cities. So in my opinion, I’m really pleased.”
Though both Garcia Holmes and Sanchez said they are staunchly “pro-life,” or opposed to abortion, how they would approach the issue in Congress offers a contrast between the two candidates.
Garcia Holmes said she would vote for a federal ban on late-term abortion and consider other nationwide restrictions on the procedure. Sanchez said he thinks abortion should be a state issue. He said he wouldn’t consider bills that would place nationwide restrictions on abortions.
“It’s a state issue because the federal government, it was never meant to do that,” he said. “The federal government was never meant to do so many of the things that they’re doing right now.”
Garcia Holmes said her anti-abortion passion comes from getting pregnant at age 19. She said she never considered an abortion even though she faced challenges as a young pregnant woman.
“I’m not sure (a nationwide ban) would happen, because now it’s going to be pushed down to the state for the states to decide,” she said. “But if Roe vs. Wade wasn’t in place right now, yes, I would vote for restrictions.”
Sanchez said the biggest issue facing the district is inflation. He would work to rein in government spending and ease regulations on the oil and gas industry to drive down prices.
Garcia Holmes said people in the district are concerned about border security, inflation and crime. On crime, Garcia Holmes said police should spend more time “identifying” homeless people, to arrest those with outstanding warrants.
She is in favor of imposing the death penalty on people convicted of killing children and law enforcement officers, citing as an example Victoria Martens, a 10-year-old girl who was brutally murdered.
But who should be put to death in the Martens case, given that no one has been convicted, or is even currently facing murder charges, in the young girl’s death? Her mother and two other adults have been charged or convicted of child abuse charges. Authorities haven’t identified her killer.
“Well thank goodness I’m not in charge of that,” Garcia Holmes said. “I’m only running for Congress. I’m not a judge.”
Both candidates said they want to loosen regulation on fossil fuel industries while also trying to amp up solar, wind and nuclear energy production.
“Gas prices are out of control. We need to look at the leases that we have and start opening up and unleashing our oil and gas industry,” Garcia Holmes said.
On the raging fires burning in New Mexico, Garcia Holmes said she recently met with residents of Ruidoso, who were affected by the McBride Fire earlier this spring. She said they wanted the Forest Service to do more work “thinning” the forests.
“They also talked about the burial of their electrical lines, which isn’t a bad idea,” she said. “It’s rather expensive, but it’s something to talk about.”
Sanchez said political figures he admired include Domenici and former President Ronald Reagan, who Sanchez credited with piquing his interest in politics.
Increased government spending and stimulus checks during the COVID-19 pandemic are part of the reason for inflation, he said.
He also said he wants to “shut down the border” to stop undocumented immigrants from entering the country. He said undocumented immigrants are taking resources from Americans.
“We cannot be the world’s financiers,” he said. “And I know the U.S. has a big heart. But at some point, if we can’t take care of our own citizens or our own children, how are we supposed to be expected to take care of the world?”
Garcia Holmes reported raising $44,530 in the first three months of 2022, and had $148,460 cash on hand at the end of the quarterly reporting period, according to Federal Election Commission reports.
She reported receiving donations of $1,000 cash or more from 18 people, and reported a $100,000 loan from another one of her campaign accounts. Some of her biggest donors in the quarter included Albuquerque restaurant owners Larry Rainosek and Anna Marie and Nick Kapnison.
Sanchez raised $25,980 during that same period and ended the quarter with $131,963 cash on hand, according to the reports.
Some of his biggest contributors in that period include Janice and Harvey Yates, a retired New Mexico oil executive and former state Republican party chairman, and WinRed, an online fundraising platform for conservatives. Sanchez also reported that he loaned his campaign $127,630.