Only one Democrat in the New Mexico House of Representatives voted against a bill last year that would have allowed people to seek expungement of certain criminal records.
State Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard of Los Alamos joined 25 Republicans in opposing the bill. Even so, Garcia Richard is the target of an attack ad that falsely says she supported the proposal.
A Republican-leaning political committee that is targeting Democrats in closely contested districts paid for the ad against Garcia Richard.
The committee, Advance New Mexico Now, says in its direct-mail ad that Garcia “voted to hide arrest records from employers like daycare centers and schools.”
“It’s a blatant lie,” Garcia Richard said in an interview.
Matt Chandler, a former district attorney in the Clovis area and the unsuccessful Republican candidate for state attorney general four years ago, is listed on the mailer as treasurer of Advance New Mexico Now.
As evidence to support his group’s charge against Garcia Richard, Chandler cited her vote on Senate Bill 294, the proposal to expunge certain criminal records.
But Chandler’s group got it wrong.
State legislative records show that Garcia Richard voted against the expungement bill.
The proposal cleared the House of Representatives on a 40-26 vote. Four Republicans and 36 Democrats voted for the bill.
Republicans who supported the measure included Rep. Don Tripp of Socorro. He often is mentioned as a likely contender for speaker of the House if the GOP takes control after the November election.
The bill to expunge records would not have applied to crimes committed against minors. Those convicted of sex offenses or drunken driving also could not have qualified for expungements.
Support for the expungement bill was even stronger in the state Senate than the House. Senators approved it 41-0.
Sixteen Republican senators and 25 Democratic senators voted for the bill. One other member, Republican Sen. Bill Sharer of Farmington, was excused from the vote.
Though the bill had broad support in the Legislature, Republican Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed it.
A former district attorney, Martinez said the bill was ill-conceived. In her veto message, she said it would have allowed for expungement of misdemeanor and felony criminal arrest records, other public records and records “evidencing certain convictions, including domestic violence.”
Garcia Richard said she remembered her vote against the bill as one in keeping with her district’s sentiments. “I am very deliberate in my votes,” she said.
Chandler and his group have targeted Garcia Richard and about a dozen other Democratic candidates in races that will be pivotal in determining which party controls the House of Representatives.
She is running against Republican Geoff Rodgers in House District 43. Rodgers is chairman of the Los Alamos County Council.
Democrats now have a 37-33 advantage in the House of Representatives, but Republicans say a takeover is possible in the November election. Republicans have not been the majority party in New Mexico’s House of Representatives since 1954.