Posted: Wednesday, October 26, 2016 8:06 pm
The New Mexican
New Mexicans knew why crime bills came before the special legislative session earlier this month — a session, we might point out, that needed to be focused tightly on New Mexico’s budget crisis but was instead derailed with so-called crime-fighting legislation.
The nonessential legislation — including bills to bring back the death penalty and expansion of the state’s three-strikes law to punish felons — was designed to be introduced, die and then live again in attack ads for the general election. Attack ads, we might add, aimed at Democrats and designed to help the Republicans take over the Senate and keep control of the House. It was politics over policy in a not-so-subtle move.
That was proved beyond a doubt with the recent attack on Sen. Michael Sanchez, the Senate majority leader who is No. 1 on GOP Gov. Susana Martinez’s hit list. She wants him gone and has since she became governor. His opponent is Republican Gregory Baca, a lawyer like Sanchez.
Baca is the beneficiary of political action committee spending — more than $125,000 — designed to paint Sanchez as a soft-on-crime liberal, attacks focused through a powerful, emotional advertisement featuring two mothers of child crime victims. The version of the death penalty peddled during the recent session would have allowed prosecutors to seek death for those convicted of killing children, police officers and prison guards.
The minutelong TV ad (there’s also a radio version) released Monday was paid for by Advance New Mexico Now. That’s the PAC run by Martinez’s chief political guru, Jay McCleskey. The mothers’ grief is heartbreaking — we disagree about the efficacy of the death penalty but extend our sympathy to all who suffer from violent crime. Nicole Chavez lost a 17-year-old son in a drive-by shooting. Veronica Garcia lost a 4-year-old daughter in road rage incident. Both crimes took place in Albuquerque, a city that seems cursed recently by horrific crimes against children.
Sadly, there is no quick solution to these crimes of violence. Not the execution of criminals for crimes yet to be committed. Not tougher three-strikes laws, which are being abandoned across the country because they don’t work. Not the targeting of a senator for his supposed lack of empathy and his “cradling” of criminals.
What works against horrific crime? Swift and sure punishment, of course. Singling out the dangerous and evil criminals and making sure they remain in prison. All of that takes money — to prosecute, to pay public defenders, to hire the police to arrest the criminals, to pay probation officers to keep track of miscreants, to run the prisons and, of course, to provide adequate funding to improve computer systems so that the bad guys aren’t lost. There is little sense in passing laws that put more people in jail without providing the dollars to maintain the prisons or fund the criminal justice system. These get-tough-on-crime bills were a stunt, not a solution.