Protesters, disappointed with a mistrial in the case of two Albuquerque police officers, blocked traffic, chanted and had a few tense moments with police Wednesday night in downtown Albuquerque. The protesters, under 100 at the peak and almost a quarter that by the end of the protest hours later, began at the 2nd Judicial District courthouse, before marching to the police station. After returning to the courthouse, protesters briefly clashed with police wearing tactical gear. Reporters saw pushing and shoving between the two groups. Police eventually got protesters to retreat to the sidewalk next to the courthouse without any arrests.
The Bernalillo County district attorney race is essentially decided two months ahead of election day, as the Democratic candidate is officially running unopposed. Former federal prosecutor Raul Torrez will now head to the polls with an almost guaranteed win for the DA race this November. “From the beginning of our campaign, we have set out to build a modern, thoughtful criminal justice system in this community that not only keeps our families safe, but also makes us proud,” Torrez said in a statement to NM Political Report. “Over the coming weeks and months, I look forward to discussing these values and ideas with stakeholders from all across the community as we prepare to take office in January.” Torrez won the primary election against former Albuquerque police officer Ed Perea and briefly ran against Republican Simon Kubiak until Kubiak dropped out of the race in June. The Republican Party of Bernalillo County confirmed earlier this week that no Republican candidate would run for the position.
Republican Simon Kubiak announced Thursday he is dropping out of the race for District Attorney in Bernalillo County. Kubiak, an Albuquerque defense attorney, told NM Political Report his reasons for dropping out are “purely financial” and that he was at a disadvantage against his Democratic candidate Raul Torrez. “I just can’t raise as much money as Raul,” Kubiak said in a phone interview. According to its latest filing, Kubiak’s campaign reported having slightly more than $1,600 in cash on hand with $500 of unpaid campaign debt. Kubiak loaned that money his campaign to open a bank account.
While Democrats and Republicans in New Mexico began casting ballots weeks ago with early and absentee voting, today is election day where tens of thousands more are expected to cast their ballots. While much of the attention will be focused on Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders duking it out in the presidential primary, there will be a number of down-ballot races with big implications going forward. We took a look at the thirteen races you need to watch tonight when polls close at 7:00 p.m.
Senate District 17
Democratic incumbent Sen. Mimi Stewart’s runs to retain the senate seat in SD17. In 2014, the Bernalillo County Commission appointed her to fill the vacancy left by Tim Keller when he became State Auditor. Former State Senator Shannon Robinson, who held the SD17 spot for 20 years before losing to Keller in 2008, will face Stewart and try to reclaim his old Senate seat.
Billionaire George Soros is taking a stake in the Bernalillo County district attorney’s race, backing Raul Torrez with a $107,000 contribution to an independent expenditure committee. Soros made the donation May 26 to the newly created New Mexico Safety and Justice political action committee. That group reported spending $92,527 on media production and ad buys supporting Torrez and about $11,500 for polling ahead of Tuesday’s primary between Democrats Torrez and Edmund Perea. The super PAC has raised and spent more than Perea’s campaign. Most of the PAC money appears to have been spent on local radio spots, which feature Torrez speaking at rallies about his plans to reform the high-profile, sometimes controversial DA’s office in New Mexico’s most populous county.
New Mexico’s State Auditor is gearing up for the next step in clearing the backlog of untested sexual assault evidence kits, or rape kits, throughout the state. State Auditor Tim Keller announced Thursday his office will conduct a statewide survey of law enforcement agencies and an audit of eight police agencies to get an idea of how rape kits are tested. “We are working with law enforcement agencies and stakeholders to shine a light on what changes are needed to eliminate the backlog and keep it from happening again,” Keller said in a statement. Last year Keller’s office found that there were over 5,000 untested evidence kits around the state. A majority of these were within the Albuquerque Police Department.
With a sometimes-tumultuous working relationship between the retiring Second Judicial District Attorney and the Albuquerque Police Department in recent years, focus will soon turn to how a new DA will work with police. All three candidates for DA are focused on how to build a relationship with APD, a troubled police department subject to reforms under a Department of Justice consent decree. Ed Perea, one of the two Democratic candidates seeking the position, is a former APD commanding officer and recently received an endorsement from the Albuquerque Police Officer’s Association. Perea’s campaign is focused on his experience in practicing law and supervising and working with officers. He said a DA must, first and foremost, be able to work with officers to make the community safer.
The deadline for New Mexico candidates to file has passed which means campaign season is in full swing. It’s not just legislators competing though. Across the state candidates are also running for the position for district attorney in their respective areas. These races may have extra attention this year after a relentless drumbeat of tough-on-crime bills during the legislative session. First Judicial District
The First Judicial District—which covers Santa Fe, Rio Arriba and Los Alamos Counties—will see at least a couple of former coworkers going up against each other.
In a crowded conference room in the mayor’s office last November, reporters and police officers gathered to see Republican lawmakers and Mayor Richard Berry discuss their plans for combating repeat criminal behavior.A visibly emotional Rep. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque, told the room of his intention to toughen New Mexico’s three strikes law. “This piece of legislation is very personal to me,” Pacheco said. Pacheco, a former law enforcement officer, told reporters that he was personally affected by a number of violent, high profile crimes committed earlier in the year. In May 2015, Rio Rancho Police officer Gregg Benner was shot and killed while on duty. In October, Albuquerque Police Officer Daniel Webster was shot and later died from his injuries.
Raúl Torrez is a former federal prosecutor running as a Democrat of District Attorney in the Second Judicial District (Bernalillo County). Innovation is the Key to Combating Violent Crime in Our Community
Our community is at a crossroads. The senseless killing of four-year-old Lilly Garcia and the tragic loss of Officer Daniel Webster – one of APD’s very best – are stark reminders of the crisis in our criminal justice system. And once again, we find ourselves united in grief, struggling to comprehend why our community has become so dangerous and asking what, if anything, can be done? As we search for answers, we must be careful not to allow our anger and disappointment in the system to overwhelm our larger objective or obscure the fact that together, we can solve this problem.