Thursday, September 21, 2023

Attorney General Primary Candidates In Their Own Words


Answered by Raúl Torrez (D) & Brian S. Colón (D)

Do you think the AG should be on the new Law Enforcement Academy Board?

Torrez: Yes, the Attorney General should be a member of the Law Enforcement Training Academy Board and should push to incorporate new training for certified law enforcement officers, including:

  • implicit bias training;
  • addressing psychological and mental health issues;
  • identifying red flags in informant statements, eye-witnesses identifications, and potentially coercive, false confessions; 
  • Providing best-practices for body cams, dash cams, and recording custodial interviews, interrogations and witness line-up identifications

Colón: YES. With the Board now split in two parts (one to oversee training and the other to oversee officer licensing and misconduct), the Attorney General is an important voice and accountability advocate for the citizens of New Mexico regarding police misconduct. 

Why does New Mexico have the highest U.S. rate of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women?

Torrez: There are many factors that have contributed to the emergence of our state as having one of the highest rates of missing and murdered indigenous women (MMIW). First, there is the legacy of racism and intergenerational trauma that has had a devastating impact on many tribal communities. That legacy is compounded by the lack of investment in basic community support systems like education, healthcare, basic infrastructure and fully staffed public safety systems. Additionally, the jurisdictional complexity of federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement has contributed to fundamental breakdown in communication between front line public safety officials who are both slow to respond to reports of MMIW cases and slow to disseminate information across jurisdictional boundaries. 

The next Attorney General must make MMIWR cases a priority. As District Attorney, [my office] was the first law enforcement agency in the state to start a dedicated MMWIR unit to begin collecting data from state and federal agencies and help solve cold cases. [I] will bring that same experience to the Attorney General’s office, to continue knocking down the barriers that keep MMIWR data siloed off, provide innovative and modern approaches to analyzing that data, and work with state and federal agencies to bring experts in MMIWR to New Mexico to begin solving these cases. 

Colón: This travesty dates back to the time Indigenous people’s lands were taken. 

Indigenous women, as a group, have been socially, economically and politically marginalized in our state. This is evident in the statistics that show Indigenous women are 3 times more likely to be victims of violent crime and often the violence is more severe. Issues such as lack of access to resources, medical and health professionals, poverty and homelessness contribute to their victimization. As Attorney General, one of my priorities will be to ensure that we work on programs that lower these horrifying statistics and the individuals and families who have been ignored for far too long. 

What is the most significant civil rights issue in New Mexico?

Torrez: Clearly, this week shows that women’s reproductive rights will be gone if the Supreme Court’s leaked opinion is published. It will then be on the states to decide how, if at all, these rights are protected under their constitutions. This fight will undoubtedly play out in the courtrooms of America, including right here in New Mexico. And that’s just the beginning — once this right is unraveled, it will be easy to begin going after LGBTQ+ rights, privacy rights, voting rights, and on the environment. 

That's why we need an Attorney General with proven courtroom experience who can build and lead a team of attorneys ready to defend and fight for a woman's right to choose and have access to a safe, legal abortion. 

Colón: Education is one of the most significant civil rights issue facing our state. The legacy of our educational system in New Mexico has benefited the ‘haves’ and not the ‘have nots.’ This system has disproportionately affected the children of color in a state that is majority-minority. I will never forget my struggles as a young man growing up in New Mexico with dreams of being the first in my family to go to college. With help from the community, I was able to graduate from high school and go on to college and break that cycle of poverty that plagued my family. Unfortunately, many of New Mexico’s children have not been as fortunate. That is why I am such a proponent of the Yazzie/Martinez v. State of New Mexico lawsuit as it will challenge the state to provide students—especially low-income, Native American, English language learner (ELL), and students with disabilities—the programs and services necessary for them to learn and thrive. Equal access to education and educational opportunities is a significant area where we must do better. 

Does enforcing immigrant rights include advocacy to release the immigrants at our border from U.S. custody?

Torrez: The Attorney General must always advocate for the humane and legal treatment of all individuals that may be detained within the state of New Mexico, including those detained at the US border. Therefore, [I] will advocate for immigrants' rights to be free from cruel and unusual treatment in violation of the US and New Mexico Constitutions.  

Colón: Our current immigration system is broken. As NM’s Attorney General I will enforce the law. However, I will work with our federal delegation and refugee/immigrant advocates to ensure that the system allows for the most humane treatment of immigrants as their individual case is processed according to the law. 

Section 11(b) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) outlaws any acts that are objectively likely to intimidate voters. Does a false “auditor” volunteer coming to their doors and asking them how they voted qualify as intimidating?

Torrez: Any individual that utilizes or attempts to utilize the color of law to undermine the results of an election should be prosecuted as a violation of our election code, NMSA 1978 Section 1-20-1, et al. Undoubtedly, our democracy is under attack, by false auditors and by armed, extremist militias that violently threaten our citizens. We need an experienced Attorney General, who has already stood up to extremist militias and big corporations, to protect our democracy and our families. 

Colón: YES. For far too long, those in power have used intimidation as a way to suppress voters that have been traditionally underrepresented. The use of ‘false auditor volunteers’ is just another example of the long history of intimidation in our country. As Attorney General, I will work hand in hand with the Office of the U.S. Attorney General to ensure that the Voting Rights Act is enforced and ALL New Mexicans are allowed to exercise their right to vote. I did it as State Auditor, and I will do it again should the opportunity present. 

Is using taxpayer money to fund fake auditing legal? Should it be?

Torrez: No, it is fraud and an abuse of power and should not be legal. Any government entity that abuses its position and under the color of law to fraudulently use taxpayer money to fund a fake audit must be held accountable under the Government Conduct Act and for criminal violations. Uncovering a fake audit is the first step. We must have an Attorney General with the prosecutorial experience to actually hold corrupt individuals accountable and bring them to justice. 

Colón: I am pleased to report that as a result of my work and announcing my review, not only did the US Congress call for a congressional hearing on the Otero County “election audit,” but I can further report that the contract was halted and the majority of the funds were saved for the people of Otero County. As State Auditor I held the actors in Otero County accountable as it was my duty to ensure that the fiduciary duty of the Commission was being upheld and taxpayers dollars were not being wasted. The law is clear on the conduct of audits using taxpayer funds and as State Auditor, it is my duty to ensure the laws of NM are being upheld. 

What is your personal-favorite outdoor activity? 

Torrez: Camping with Nasha and the kids. I was raised to appreciate the natural beauty that New Mexico has to offer and I enjoy passing that same appreciation onto my children.

Colón: Every morning, before I start my day, I try to get out and go for a walk. I am reminded just how special our people and environment are as I enjoy the incredible skies of our Land of Enchantment as the sun rises.

These candidates did not respond to The Paper.'s requests for answers to the questionnaire for Attorney General: Jeremy Michael Gay (R)


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