Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Some candidates refuse to clarify 2020 stance

The Roundhouse in Santa Fe. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Standing before throngs of supporters two weeks ago, former President Donald Trump repeated a series of false hoods about the 2020 election.

He called the election rigged and stolen and claimed to have won both times he ran.

He also suggested he’ll launch another presidential campaign.

“We may have to do it again,” Trump said Sept. 23 at the North Carolina rally.

But even as Trump continues to make unsubstantiated election claims, many Republican candidates in New Mexico won’t say whether they agree with him.

Just eight of the 20 Republicans who responded to a Journal questionnaire for legislative candidates provided a direct yes-or-no answer – as requested – when asked whether they believe Trump’s claim that he was the legitimate winner of the 2020 presidential election.

Only one of three Republican candidates for Congress gave a yes-or-no response.

Candidates in other parties offered straight answers at a much higher rate. Thirty-four of the 35 Democratic, Libertarian and independent candidates who filled out the questionnaire responded with a yes-or-no. All but one of the 34 said they didn’t agree with Trump’s election claim.

And the three Democratic candidates for Congress responded with a simple “no.”

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Republican Robert Moss, who’s running for an open legislative seat on the West Side of Albuquerque, was among those who didn’t provide a direct answer.

“Questions such as this shouldn’t be legitimized because they perpetuate the tribalism tearing (the) US apart,” Moss wrote.

Harlan Vincent, a Ruidoso Downs Republican running for an open seat, delivered a similar rebuke.

“Demanding ‘Yes or No’ is one example of what’s wrong with the nationwide arguments,” he wrote in his Journal questionnaire.

Whether it’s a worthy question, of course, is for voters to decide.

But proposed election laws are often among the most intensely debated proposals at the Legislature. The outcome of the presidential race, in particular, has been a focus of recent partisan clashes.

Republican state Rep. Cathrynn Brown of Carlsbad, for example, announced last year that she would introduce legislation to decertify New Mexico’s electoral votes for Joe Biden. The bill never did surface. Brown is unopposed for reelection this year.

In 2020, meanwhile, five designated Republican electors submitted a certificate that aimed to award New Mexico’s five electoral votes to Trump, though with the caveat that they were doing it in case a legal effort to overturn the election results was successful.

Biden, for the record, won the race in New Mexico by 11 percentage points, or 99,720 votes – a result confirmed by the post-election canvases conducted by Democratic and Republican election officials. A certified public accountant also oversaw a hand tally of ballots in random precincts to verify the accuracy of voting machines.

The Trump campaign dismissed his own lawsuit challenging the New Mexico results. Legal challenges in other parts of the country also failed. But prosecutors in New Mexico and other states have said they are looking into the issue of fake electors.

Direct question

As part of an online voter guide this year, the Albuquerque Journal sent issue questionnaires to candidates in every contested legislative race, along with statewide and congressional races. The questions covered crime, education, taxes and other topics, in addition to elections.

One question asked: “Do you believe former President Donald Trump’s claim that he was the legitimate winner of the 2020 presidential election? (Yes or No answer only, please)”

It wasn’t meant as a “gotcha” question, Journal editor Karen Moses said.

“Our readers deserved to have the candidates on the record on whether they agreed with Trump’s claim or not,” she said. “Allowing anything but a yes-or-no answer would allow candidates to waffle or talk around a direct answer.”

The Journal published only the candidates’ responses that complied with the request for a direct answer. Failing to enforce the yes-or-no instruction, Moses said, would have been unfair to candidates who did follow it.

Out of 38 Republican candidates in contested legislative races, 18 didn’t respond to the questionnaire at all. Twenty-nine of 34 Democrats responded, by contrast, as did all five independents and the lone Libertarian.

Two of the 20 Republicans who responded had no problem affirming their support for Trump’s election claims.

John Block, who’s running in an Alamogordo-based district, and Patrick Sais, campaigning on the West Side of Albuquerque, said “yes” when asked about believing Trump’s election claims.

Six Republicans said “no” or that they “do not” in response to the questionnaire: Alan Martinez of Bernalillo; Robert Godshall, Kurstin Johnson and Bill Rehm of Albuquerque; Jane Powdrell-Culbert of Corrales; and John Foreman of Las Cruces.

In some cases, they went on to elaborate after giving a firm answer.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Ronchetti also said “no,” as did Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Democratic Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver.

The GOP candidate for secretary of state, Audrey Trujillo, didn’t respond to the Journal questionnaire, but she has previously cast doubt on Biden’s victory in New Mexico.

Nine of 20 Republican legislative candidates who responded didn’t limit their answer to yes-or-no and offered instead a less-direct answer.

Republican Robert Salazar, who’s running in southeastern Albuquerque, said there isn’t enough information to know the truth of Trump’s claims. State Rep. Stefani Lord, R-Sandia Park, responded by asking and answering her own questions – on other topics – in the space provided.

Republican candidate Ellis McMath, who’s running for an open West Side seat, came close to offering a yes-or-no answer.

“A number of Federal judges have determined that there was not enough evidence of fraud to change the outcome of the election,” he wrote. “Unless additional information should come forth, we need to honor their decision.”

Three other Republicans filled out the Journal questionnaire but left the Trump question blank.

Of the candidates who aren’t Republicans, only one – independent David Lansford of Clovis – left the question blank.

One independent candidate for the legislature, Elaine Allen of Lincoln, said “yes,” backing up Trump’s claim that he was the legitimate winner. The other independent, Libertarian and Democratic candidates who answered all said “no.”

In the congressional races, Republican Alexis Martinez Johnson was the lone GOP candidate to say “no,” she doesn’t believe Trump’s election claim. The other two Republicans – incumbent Yvette Herrell and Michelle Garcia Holmes – provided less-direct answers.

The questionnaires’ results are published in the Journal’s online voter guide. For candidates who wouldn’t give a direct answer, the questionnaire notes: “Respondent did not limit answer to yes or no as requested.”

Online Voter Guide

Visit ABQJournal.com and scroll down for the link to the Journal voter guide. Issue questionnaires were sent candidates in contested legislative and other races.

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