New Mexico has its pick of politicians - Albuquerque Journal

New Mexico has its pick of politicians

a01_jd_20may_trump graphicSANTA FE – New Mexico is about to take center stage in national politics – if just for a few days – as presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump announced plans Thursday to visit Albuquerque next week for a campaign event.

The Trump rally, scheduled for Tuesday, would take place just days after Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders holds campaign events of his own in Santa Fe, Albuquerque and Vado, near Las Cruces.

And don’t forget about former President Bill Clinton’s two planned New Mexico campaign stops – in Española and Albuquerque – next week on behalf of his wife, Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton.

The election year visits from presidential candidates and a former president will happen with about two weeks left before New Mexico’s June 7 primary election, one of the last state primaries nationwide.

“It’s exciting,” longtime New Mexico political observer Brian Sanderoff said Thursday. “It’s about time. We’re getting at least most of the national candidates coming here.”

The Trump event, at the Albuquerque Convention Center, will mark the New York billionaire’s first campaign appearance in New Mexico, the state with the highest percentage of Hispanic voters.

Trump has angered some Hispanics with his remarks on the campaign trail, including a reference to Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and plans to build a wall along the Mexican border.

For that reason, University of New Mexico political science professor Gabriel Sanchez said, New Mexico might represent an opportunity – or a pratfall – for the GOP candidate as he looks ahead to the general election cycle.

“This might be a state where he thinks he can extend the olive branch to Hispanic voters,” Sanchez told the Journal. “He’s dug himself a pretty big hole. He’s got to look at this as a place to begin that effort (to get out of that hole).”

The Trump rally in Albuquerque could also put Gov. Susana Martinez on the spot. Martinez, who is chairwoman of the Republican Governors Association, has criticized some of Trump’s comments in the past but has remained noncommittal on whether she will back the presumptive GOP nominee. She had formally endorsed Marco Rubio, who has since dropped out.

A Martinez spokesman would not say Thursday whether the second-term governor would attend the Trump event next week.

However, state GOP spokesman Tucker Keene said the party is looking forward to Trump’s visit to New Mexico, adding, “Donald Trump events have been well-attended (across the nation), and we’re excited to have him here.”

However, a planned protest of the Trump rally in Albuquerque had already drawn the interest of more than 1,000 people on Facebook as of late Thursday.

Democratic Party Chairwoman Debra Haaland also blasted Trump in a statement, saying, “Donald Trump’s racist rhetoric and reckless policy ideas are not welcome in New Mexico.”

“His candidacy has brought the worst out in our country, and as Democrats we denounce his harmful attitudes toward our Hispanic communities, his offensive comments about women and his outlandish policy ideas,” Haaland said.

Across the nation, Trump rallies have drawn thousands of supporters who like his populist message, but the events have also featured – at least in some cases – incidents of violence.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton has not announced plans to hold campaign events in New Mexico, although former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who is also a former U.S. senator from Colorado, will stump for her this weekend.

That prompted GOP spokesman Keene to say, “I guess so far Hillary Clinton isn’t as interested in New Mexico votes.”

A state Democratic Party spokeswoman countered by pointing out that both Clinton and Sanders have set up campaign offices in New Mexico.

UNM professor Sanchez said the flurry of political rallies will be a flashback of sorts for New Mexicans, who have seen a limited number of visits from presidential candidates in recent election years, due in large part to the state’s lack of electoral stature and increasingly Democratic tilt – New Mexico last voted for a Republican presidential candidate in 2004.

“I think, big picture, it reminds us what it used to be like in 2000 and 2004,” Sanchez said. “It’s like a blast from the past.”


If you go

These campaign rallies are scheduled for New Mexico:

  • Bernie Sanders — 3 p.m. today at Santa Fe Community College, with doors opening at 1 p.m. Also at 7 p.m. today at the Albuquerque Convention Center, with doors opening at 4 p.m., and at noon Saturday at Vado Elementary School in Vado, with doors opening at 10 a.m. Admission is on a first-come, first-served basis, but you can RSVP on Sanders’ official campaign website.
  • Donald Trump — 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Albuquerque Convention Center; doors open at 4 p.m. You can register for tickets on Trump’s official campaign website.
  • Bill Clinton — Tuesday and Wednesday in Española and Albuquerque. Times and locations have not been announced.

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