- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 13, 2021

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - Republican congressional nominee and New Mexico state Sen. Mark Moores is staking out a campaign platform based on support for the oil and natural gas industry, robust police funding and taxation issues, ahead of a rapid-fire special election.

The state Republican Party sees the election as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to recapture an Albuquerque-based congressional seat long held by Democrats, including Deb Haaland before her confirmation as secretary of the Interior Department.

Early voting begins May 4 ahead of the June 1 election. Republicans last won a 1st Congressional District election in 2006.

Moores is confronting Democratic nominee and state Rep. Melanie Stansbury, who says she is firmly focused on responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and rebuilding the state economy, including modernizing the energy sector.

Former Republican Aubrey Dunn Jr. also is mounting an independent candidacy, building on a family dynasty in politics and a recent four-year term as state land commissioner, overseeing petroleum leases on state trust land. It’s unclear when candidates might converge for a public debate.

In a recent podcast appearance, Moores fired opening salvos against Stansbury, linking her to a “radical” legislation that he claims would drive away oil jobs and defund police agencies.

“We’re going to talk about our conservative values, morals - to talk about real issues that are impacting New Mexicans from crime to the double taxation of Social Security that the Democrats refused to repeal here in New Mexico,” Moores said in a conversation with state GOP Chairman and former congressman Steve Pearce.

Stansbury’s campaign points out that she co-sponsored a 2020 bill to roll back state taxes on Social Security benefits. The bill was sidelined without a House or Senate floor vote in the Democrat-led Legislature.

Stansbury’s campaign also says that she has worked with Albuquerque and county pubic safety officials to coordinate infrastructure spending on police and fire-fighting programs, highlighting a broad approach to pubic safety that extends to mental health and addiction services.

President Donald Trump fell flat with Albuquerque-area voters in 2020 after sending federal agents to bolster local law enforcement efforts. Trump won 36% of votes in overlapping Bernalillo County, the core population center of the 1st Congressional District.

New Mexico’s economy relies heavily on oil production, injecting energy politics into the congressional race as the U.S. Interior Department conducts a broad review of the U.S. government’s oil and gas program.

Moores says oil jobs are in jeopardy, while Stansbury emphasizes the need for innovation in consultation with industry.

The congressional race also is unfolding amid partisan discord over state voting reforms and federal oversight.

Pearce is among Republicans defending a new Georgia law that introduced stiffer voter identification requirements for absentee balloting, limited drop boxes and gave the State Election Board new powers to intervene in county election offices and to remove and replace local election officials.

Stansbury counts herself among opponents of the Georgia law, which could be undone by the pending “For the People Act” that’s before Congress.

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