By Junko Featherston
Two very different candidates are competing to represent the newly redrawn 1st Congressional District: One is a liberal, Cornell-educated former Obama administration bureaucrat, the other a former Albuquerque Police detective with 30 years on the force.
Republican Michelle Garcia Holmes is challenging Democratic incumbent Melanie Stansbury in a district that formerly encompassed Albuquerque and some of the East Mountains but now includes portions of central New Mexico from Rio Rancho and Placitas south to Ruidoso and east to Fort Sumner.
Garcia Holmes spent 30 years as a police officer and detective, with particular experience in crimes against children, domestic violence and sexual assault; she is the former chair of the Intimate Partner Death Review Team and was a member of the Joint Terrorism Task Force. After her career in law enforcement she served as chief of staff for former Attorney General Gary King.
Garcia Holmes’ main priorities are tackling crime in Albuquerque, including human trafficking and fentanyl distribution, she said in an interview with KUNM. Holmes also told the station she wants to provide more funding for the police, implement a stricter immigration policy and ban abortion in New Mexico.
Although the Albuquerque Journal endorsed Garcia Holmes in the Republican primary, the state’s paper of record endorsed her opponent, Melanie Stansbury in the general election, praising her success in bringing federal dollars to the Albuquerque’s Trauma Recovery Center and the Moriarity Fire Station.
Stansbury has been in office only since June 2021, when she won a special election to replace Deb Haaland who had been named Secretary of the Interior. Before that she served one term as the first woman elected to state House District 28.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in human ecology and natural science from Saint Mary’s College of California and a master’s in development sociology from Cornell University she worked for the Museum of Natural History presenting in schools across the state.
She then moved into policy, working in the Office of Management and Budget and the U.S. Senate in the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
Stansbury’s main priorities for New Mexico are access to more affordable healthcare, opening more behavioral health facilities and solving climate issues within the state, she told the ABQjournal.
Stansbury has touted her work on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which is expected to bring $3.7 billion to the state for broadband access, water and road repair.
She has been endorsed by conservation groups, gun-control organizations and the UNM College Democrats.
In contrast, Michelle Garcia Holmes has described herself as pro-life. She is supported by anti-abortion activists who held a fundraiser for her, reminding invitees that Garcia Holmes had signed a pledge in 2021 promising to work to ban abortion, the Albuquerque Journal reported.
“New Mexico allows late-term-abortion up to a baby’s date of birth,” Garcia Holmes wrote in response to an Albuquerque Journal questionnaire. “That is a viable infant, we should be more compassionate, protect third trimester babies, help women make better, healthy, and educated decisions,” she wrote. “Women have better options and outcomes when they collaborate with organizations like Care-Net and pregnancy care centers.”
The two also disagree on guns. Garcia Holmes said she believes that gun ownership is a fundamental right and advocates for every New Mexican law-abiding citizen to have the right to own semi-automatic rifles.
“Having worked in law enforcement for 30 years, criminals and felons in possession must face stronger and harsher penalties,” she told the Journal. “I believe in aggressive prosecution of violators of gun laws and offenses perpetrated with a firearm.”
Melanie Stansbury promised to vote for stronger gun control and voted for significant bipartisan gun legislation to ban assault weapons.
“Gun safety legislation saves lives,” she told the Journal. “We have a responsibility to address the epidemic of gun violence in our communities.”