Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – Khalid Emshadi spent much of this year knocking on doors as he campaigned for a seat in the state House.
Now he has halted public appearances and fears for his life.
Emshadi, 44, isn’t alone in taking new steps to protect himself as police investigate the killings of four Muslim men in Albuquerque since November – including three in an 11-day span this summer.
But he said he feels particularly at risk as a Muslim man running for a public office. As with other candidates, his address and similar information is listed in public records.
“I’m a target right now, I feel, because I’m running for office,” Emshadi said in an interview Monday.
Emshadi, a Republican who works as an engineer, is running in the Nov. 8 election against Democratic Rep. Elizabeth Thomson in a district covering a chunk of the older Northeast Heights of Albuquerque.
The shootings have thrust Albuquerque into the national spotlight and been condemned by President Joe Biden.
As part of the investigation, police are asking the public for help finding a dark gray or silver four-door Volkswagen with tinted windows. It may be a Jetta or Passat, with some damage.
Officers haven’t said when or how investigators came to be interested in the vehicle. But a notice from the Albuquerque Police Department said the sedan may have been used as transportation in the homicides.
Emshadi is running in House District 24 – a Democratic leaning district, covering neighborhoods along Wyoming and Eubank, between Comanche and Interstate 40.
Thomson, a physical therapist, has represented the district for about eight years, not all of them consecutive. She is chairwoman of the House Health and Human Services Committee.
Thomson said Monday that she hopes police catch the killer or killers soon so that Emshadi can resume campaigning however he chooses.
“We have to support law enforcement and do everything we can to get this person or people caught,” Thomson said. “My prayers are with the four families and communities affected.”
Emshadi – perhaps the only Muslim man running for a state office this year, according to New Mexico’s major political parties – is a Libyan immigrant with five children. He came to the United States with his wife in 2008.
He has a doctorate in electrical engineering and is employed by a company that works with solar energy and space technology.
The city’s crime rate, Emshadi said, is part of what motivated him to run after moving to Albuquerque last year.
He is now campaigning from home, he said, and limiting his trips outside the house.
Emshadi said he carries a handgun when he leaves and has his “head on a swivel,” constantly checking his surroundings for suspicious activity.
“I have to protect myself, my kids, my community,” he said.
Only one Muslim legislator has ever served in New Mexico – former Rep. Abbas Akhil, an Albuquerque Democrat who won election in 2018 but didn’t run again in 2020.
“This crime is not targeting or hurting only Muslims,” Emshadi said. “It hurts everybody in Albuquerque and the entire state.”