- Associated Press - Friday, December 8, 2017

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - A female political lobbyist on Friday accused a former New Mexico state lawmaker of requesting sex in exchange for support of a bill during a legislative session in 2009.

Lobbyist Vanessa Alarid of Albuquerque recounted meeting with former Rep. Thomas Garcia at a hotel workspace to discuss proposed legislation, and that he offered his support if she would have sex with him.

Contacted Friday, Garcia vigorously denied the allegation, saying he never made a proposition to exchange a vote for anything to anyone.

Alarid’s accusations follow a series of complaints by women about sexual misconduct going unchecked at the New Mexico Statehouse - and is the first recent account to call out a lawmaker publicly by name.

Alarid, who was 32 at the time of the incident, said that Garcia also had kissed and groped her before leaving at her insistence. Garcia later voted against the bill in question, which died in a tie vote.

Alarid said that Garcia, after voting, “looked up at me at my spot in the gallery, blew me a kiss, opened his arms and shrugged his shoulders.”

She said she decided against filing a complaint Garcia at the time for fear it would jeopardize a career as a lobbyist that hinged on access to other lawmakers.

Garcia, a Democrat and former public school superintendent who left the Legislature in 2012, has been exploring a new run for the state House of Representatives from his home in Las Vegas, New Mexico.

Garcia described Alarid’s accusations as a “pre-emptive strike” designed to damage his reputation and end his political ambitions, and that he is worried that “true victims statements are going to be lost by these false statements that people are making.”

“I’m going to be visiting with supporters and family in the coming days to determine if we will pursue this (campaign),” Garcia said.

Democratic House Speaker Brian Egolf said Garcia should not run be running for public office.

“Based on this accusation, which is very credible, I personally believe that he should not be a candidate for public office.”

Alarid’s decision to denounce Garcia was cheered on by her husband, Democratic state Rep. Antonio Maestas of Albuquerque, in a twitter post.

“So proud of my wife, Vanessa Alarid, for standing up as a leader in the movement to end sexual harassment,” he wrote.

Revisions to New Mexico’s anti-harassment policy are being drafted, as Statehouses nationwide grapple with allegations of sexual misconduct.

Legal representatives for the Legislature say two formal complaints of sexual harassment have been made since 2013 that involve Statehouse maintenance staff and not lawmakers or lobbyists.

State Sen. Michael Padilla ended his campaign for lieutenant governor this week in response to renewed concerns about decade-old allegations of sexual harassment at a prior job.

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