False allegation surfaces against Democratic candidate in CD2 race - Albuquerque Journal

False allegation surfaces against Democratic candidate in CD2 race

A conservative news outlet’s investigative report on 2nd Congressional District candidate Gabe Vasquez alleged he “gave a fake name” during a interview with an El Paso television station at a Black Lives Matter protest in the summer of 2020.

The sleuthing didn’t hold up to much scrutiny, however.

The television station took responsibility for the confusion, saying it was the result of a mistake made during a live newscast.

Nonetheless, the Republican National Congressional Committee, the Republican Party of New Mexico and U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell, R-N.M., who Vasquez is trying to unseat, were among those who piled on the Democratic challenger, with Herrell accusing him of “trying to dupe voters” and calling on him to drop out of the race.

The Washington Free Beacon on Monday alleged Vasquez donned a neck gaiter over his face and misidentified himself during a segment that aired in the summer of 2020. The Free Beacon cited an anonymous former city official as a source, and even traced the neck gaiter to a Las Cruces fly-fishing shop. The story included images of Vasquez’s social media posts which showed him sporting the same gaiter when angling for fish.

KVIA, the ABC-affiliate in El Paso that aired the interview, said Monday evening that the misidentification was the result of a “technical error.” Brenda De Anda-Swann, the general manager, said in an email that “James Hall” was superimposed in front of Vasquez by mistake during the live newscast. Hall, a New Mexico State University assistant athletic director, was the next subject to be interviewed in the segment. Hall was also misidentified.

Herrell and other Republicans accused Vasquez of misrepresenting himself and called his positions on police as “radical.”

In the 2020 interview, Vasquez said: “We need serious police reform in this country. It’s not just about defunding police, it’s about defunding a system that privileges white people over everyone else.”

De Anda-Swann said there should have been no name in front of Vasquez in the news segment. She said the station wasn’t contacted by the Free Beacon or the Herrell campaign.

“It really was just a technical error during a live newscast,” she said.

Torunn Sinclair, a spokeswoman for the RNCC, said that Vasquez still shouldn’t have been quoted anonymously because he was a city councilor at the time.

“Gabe Vasquez’s extreme support for defunding the police has no place in Congress,” she said. “New Mexicans who want safer streets and less crime will vote for Yvette Herrell this November.

Herrell said in a statement that Vasquez’s statements on police are extreme. She also accused him of trying to hide his radical views behind a fake name.

“Thankfully, his deception has now been exposed,” she said in a statement shortly after the story was published. “I call on Vasquez to immediately apologize to the voters he is trying to dupe – or drop out of this race.”

Herrell’s campaign didn’t respond when asked if they wanted to clarify their statements.

“This claim was clearly debunked by the TV station in question,” Vasquez said in a statement. “I do not support defunding the police and as a Las Cruces City Council member I worked closely with our police chief and officers, repeatedly voting to increase our police budget and hire more law enforcement personnel.”

DISASTER AID: New Mexicans have something to keep an eye on as Congress tries to iron out a stopgap funding bill that is quickly approaching a deadline at the end of the month.

A funding bill slated to be voted on in Congress this week includes $2.5 billion for New Mexico residents and businesses harmed by the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak fire, which destroyed hundreds of homes and left the area susceptible to flash floods. The legislation is part of a package that keeps the government funded through mid-December.

Democratic members of the state’s congressional delegation announced early Tuesday that the New Mexico funding was included in the proposed legislation. The proposed spending package also authorizes the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire Assistance Act.

The fires started as Forest Service burns that broke containment lines and merged, causing a massive amount of destruction. It was the largest fire in New Mexico history, burning about 534 square miles, which is more than twice the size of Chicago.

Ryan Boetel: rboetel@abqjournal.com

 

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