A Super PAC mailer targeting incumbent state Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard blasts her for voting in favor of expunging criminal records. The problem? She actually voted against it.
The glossy mailer, sent to residents in Garcia Richard's hotly contested House District 43, which includes Los Alamos and part of Santa Fe County, comes from Advance New Mexico Now. It features a dark photo of a classroom with the ominous words "A violent criminal working in a day care center ... And no one knew?"
On the back is a photo of Garcia Richard, a Democrat who won election to the more conservative district two years ago. Next to the photo are words accusing her of voting "to HIDE arrest records from employers like daycare centers and schools."
The mailer repeats this claim three more times, then accuses her of "putting children's lives in danger" and "protecting predators."
"Stephanie Garcia Richard's politics are so extreme, she even voted against requiring sex offenders who move to New Mexico from out of the country to register with the state so we can track their residence," it reads.
The mailer backs up all of these troubling claims with one footnote: "Source: Senate Bill 294, 2013; Vetoed by Governor."
of the final vote count shows that Garcia Richard actually voted against the bill, known as the
. The bill, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Bernalillo, would have allowed people to contest and remove certain criminal records in certain situations. A person convicted of a misdemeanor, for example, would have been allowed to petition a judge to drop the crime off their record five years after the charge as long as no other crimes were committed.
The bill was designed to ease certain restrictions on people's records and passed both chambers in 2013 by wide margins, including a unanimous "yes" vote in the state Senate. But Garcia Richard voted against it because she says that criminal records "need to remain on the record for public safety."
"If you have done wrong, I believe that record should stand," she tells SFR.
As for the claim that Garcia Richard voted against tracking sex offenders, the expungement bill wouldn't have allowed them to petition their records to judges. But again, she voted against the bill.
"I'm flabbergasted, completely flabbergasted," Garcia Richard says of the PAC mailer. "This information finds itself in constituents' homes as though it's accurate. Since when did we get away with supporting our claims without evidence?"
She says she hopes that voters read all PAC mailers, including ones that attack her opponent, "with a critical eye."
Garcia Richard is in the thick of a heated election campaign against Republican Los Alamos County Councilor Geoff Rodgers. Republicans are aiming to regain control of her legislative seat, which is key for the party to potentially take control of the New Mexico House of Representatives for the first time in more than half a century.
Matthew Chandler, a former district attorney who heads Advance New Mexico Now, doesn't deny that the PAC got the facts wrong. But he says Garcia Richard's voting record on public safety "swings back and forth depending on who's in the room."
"Perhaps the more appropriate citation," he writes in an email, "is her statement to the Albuquerque Journal that she supports legislation to hide violent criminals' arrest records—removing their arrest records from public view."
He's referring to a recent candidate survey that asks whether she would support a narrower type of expungement that would only affect people charged but not convicted of a crime.
"Would you support or oppose a law providing that court and police records for people arrested but not convicted of a crime could be removed from public view? (This would not include crimes against children, sex offenses and drunken driving)."
Garcia Richard responded with, "I would support such a law, based on the right that an individual is innocent until proven guilty."
Look for more mailers to attack Garcia Richard on this before the Nov. 4 general election.
"The next mailer will appropriately reflect her position, quoting her October 1st statement to the Albuquerque Journal," Chandler says.