What is Congressional candidate Gabe Vasquez's stance on police?
KUNM received a question via our America Amplified widget on the homepage asking about the Democratic candidate in the 2nd Congressional District, Gabe Vasquez.
The question said that supporters of the Republican incumbent Yvette Herrell said that Mr Vasquez "deconstructed law enforcement". Is that true, the listener wanted to know, or does Vasquez really support law enforcement?
As background, Vasquez is running in a competitive race in the southern part of New Mexico, generally considered more conservative than the rest of the state. He has been a city councilor in Las Cruces, he has worked in conservation and has worked for Democratic Senator Martin Heinrich. He is running against a Republican incumbent, Herrell, who has made support for the police a cornerstone of her campaign.
Herrell has publicized reports about footage of Vasquez attending a Black Lives Matter demonstration in 2020, while he was a councilor. He told a TV reporter, "we need serious police reform in this country. It's not just about defunding the police, it's about defunding a system that privileges white people over everyone else."
He did not give his name but was later identified in a report by the Washington Free Beacon.
Additionally, CNN reports that Vasquez has deleted tweets and other material from recent years that take a strong stance on questions related to racial justice as well as issues like border security and fossil fuels. One deleted tweet reads, "the tip of the spear of a white supremacist system ends in state sanctioned, cold-blooded murder of black individuals."
When KUNM contacted Vasquez's campaign asking for comment on his stance on police, he said via email, "I oppose defunding the police". He said that during his time on the City Council at Las Cruces he voted to pass three budgets, each of which included an increase in police funding.
And in some of his words as a city councilor, he does appear to be supportive of local policing. A video produced by a Republican-supporting super-PAC claimed that Vasquez "diminished the police while on Las Cruces city council" and cited Las Cruces city council minutes from August 2019.
In that meeting, Vasquez did vote along with other council members to reject about $50,000 in police funding from a Department of Homeland Security program designed to support cooperation between border forces and local police. There had been high-level concerns about accounting in the program.
But the minutes of the meeting show that Vasquez then addressed the police chief and said that he was fully committed to finding the same amount of money in the city budget.
"I do believe in the safety and security of my community and I want to make sure you have the resources and your team have the resources to be able to patrol and to do the investigative works to keep drugs off the streets, to keep people safe," he said.