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It’s a split screen that could foreshadow much of the 2022 midterm elections, when control of Congress will be firmly on the line. Both parties are using next week’s race in this central New Mexico district to test their messaging.

For Democrats, that’s selling a vision of post-pandemic economic recovery attractive enough to defy historical odds against keeping their narrow majorities. Republicans, meanwhile, are laying off Biden and instead doubling down on their 2020 strategy, accusing Democrats of supporting policies that would make residents less safe amid an uptick in violent crime.

This Albuquerque-based seat, vacated by Deb Haaland after she was confirmed as interior secretary, is deep-blue territory; Biden won it by 23 points in 2020. Democrats are confident they will hold the seat, as internal polling that shows Stansbury, a state representative, with a comfortable lead. Neither campaign committee nor any major outside group is spending money in the race — a sign that there’s little upset potential here.

But the margin still could be telling. And if this race is any indication, Democrats are still grappling with how to address the GOP’s attempt to paint them as radical on issues of policing.

“It is a convenient political narrative that he is repeating over and over again in order to reframe the conversation,” Stansbury said of Moores’ message in an interview following a campaign rally this past weekend. “And the conversation that New Mexicans are having is about our economy, pandemic relief, education, and community well-being.”

Moores has centered his campaign entirely on Albuquerque’s rising crime rate, zeroing in on Stansbury’s initial expression of support for the BREATHE Act, a sweeping policing reform proposal authored by activists affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement. Addressing a crowd of mostly women at the El Pinto restaurant here, Moores described Stansbury’s endorsement of the proposal as nothing short of a gift to his campaign. “I pulled it up,” he said of the activists’ website, “and my mouth hit the floor.”

On the stump, he implores voters to go to breatheact.org — and, in case they don’t, he’s happy to rattle off some of the bill’s contents. It calls for the elimination of Border Patrol and ICE, the dismantling of local police and the emptying of federal prisons. At a recent debate, he brought the husband of a murdered woman, Jacqueline Vigil, as his guest.

And at campaign events he passes out a flier that on one side notes he is “standing tall for law enforcement” — the 6-foot-6 Moores is a former lineman for the University of New Mexico. On the reverse, Stansbury’s picture is surrounded by crime-scene tape.

Democrats insist his attacks fall flat.

“The Republican standard operating procedure is to generate fear and discord,” said Jessica Velasquez, the chair of the state Democratic Party. “Melanie has a beautiful approach to criminal justice,” she added, citing her attempts to secure funding for police “while still addressing the underlying root causes of crime to begin.”

Stansbury, a former Hill staffer and budget analyst who ousted a Republican incumbent to win her state House seat in 2018, has led her campaign with an upbeat tone. In four speeches on Saturday, each to roughly a few dozen voters, she ticked off issues she wanted to address, from affordable housing to supporting small businesses and creating more jobs.

Her ads tout her work to modernize the electric grid and highlight her support for Biden’s American Rescue Act. “It’s hugely popular here in the district because it’s about investments in people,” she said.

She has also dinged Moores for opposing some pandemic relief measures in the legislature while taking a government loan for his own small business.

To push back against her opponent’s attack on public safety, Stansbury cut a TV ad featuring a retired sergeant in the sheriff’s office to vouch for her work to secure money for law enforcement in the entire metro area. “I’ve helped to deliver probably hundreds of millions, definitely tens of millions, of dollars in public safety funding to the city,” she said.

But she has largely avoided discussing the BREATHE Act since she voiced support for it in a tweet and at an April forum hosted by the New Mexico Black Voters Collaborative.

In an interview with POLITICO, she said Moores had misrepresented her record. She didn’t go into specifics but noted that he skipped that the forum hosted by the black community and said, “That in and of itself speaks volumes.”

“We need to be talking about systemic racism and how that interfaces with policing in our criminal justice system,” Stansbury said. “I support reform measures to make sure that people are safe.”

Her campaign later clarified that — because it is not a bill before Congress — that there were parts of the proposal she would not support if included in the final version, including the emptying of federal prisons. She does, however, support ending private and for-profit prisons.

Yet Moores said he rejects any attempts she makes to distance herself from any part of the BREATHE Act.

“She was a D.C. staffer,” he said. “She knows processes. It’s not like she didn’t know what was in it, as someone who self-describes herself as a policy wonk.”

Privately, some Democratic strategists think Stansbury’s favorable comments on the BREATHE Act handed the GOP an opening. But in a district where registered Democrats greatly outnumber Republicans — and in a special election where base turnout is crucial, and persuadable voters are scarce — supporting sweeping criminal-justice reform while remaining murky on the specifics might be a sound strategy.

Yet back in D.C. and in swing districts across the country, Democrats are still embroiled in a heated debate over how to best respond to the “defund the police” attacks, like those waged by Moores. The caucus holds widely divergent views on just how potent of a hit it was in 2020, and there’s still concern from more moderate members who oppose defunding the police and dislike being tied to their party’s vocal left flank.

“If they’re continuing to yell, ‘Defund the police,’ it means they’ve done some polling. And they know that turns voters off, the slogan,” said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) of GOP messaging.

That was a topic of discussion at a meeting of House Democrats last week, where the party’s campaign arm revealed the findings of a post-mortem on the 2020 elections. The attacks smearing Democrats as socialists who want to disband law enforcement worked to some extent, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), the campaign committee chair, told his colleagues. And Democrats have to respond to them.

“When you have a bunch of very popular reforms, you talk about the specifics because they’re caricaturing the general idea,” Maloney told POLITICO, describing the results of his analysis. Reforms such as increased police training and widespread use of body cameras can appeal to voters when explained, he said. And he believes the magnitude of the attacks were exaggerated last cycle, and that they will be less effective in 2022.

“Get your side out, and get it out aggressively. Don’t pretend this isn’t a serious attack,” he said.

After a disappointing shutout in a Texas special election earlier this month, Democrats focused on retaining this seat. Stansbury outraised Moores $1.4 million to $600,00 by mid-May and has outspent him on the air by some $500,000.

Early voting has been taking place for most of May and concludes this Saturday. Stansbury said she’s noticed no drop-off in enthusiasm on the Democratic side like the one seen in Texas.

Moores, meanwhile, has tried to navigate carefully around Trump, who just lost the district resoundingly but still holds a command over the base. He acknowledged Biden as president in an interview with POLITICO but declined to say whether Trump’s election-rigging claims had merit. Asked if Trump was to blame for the riots on Jan. 6, he said only that everyone bore responsibility for increased violence nationwide, and that he believed a bipartisan commission should also explore civil unrest across the country last summer.

His focus on crime also fits in well with the Trump-led GOP strategy of the last election.

“No one lives in Albuquerque without having a personal experience with crime,” Moores said.

“I’ve been shot at. I’ve had my truck stolen. I’ve had my house broken in, and I had my identity stolen,” he added. “You have to find issues that matter in your community.”



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Guinea declares end to latest Ebola outbreak

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“I commend the affected communities, the government and people of Guinea, health workers, partners and everyone else whose dedicated efforts made it possible to contain this Ebola outbreak,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

“Based on the lessons learned from the 2014–16 outbreak and through rapid, coordinated response efforts, community engagement, effective public health measures and the equitable use of vaccines, Guinea managed to control the outbreak and prevent its spread beyond its borders.” The U.N. said it will continue to provide post-illness care.

The CDC welcomed the news in a statement.

“I commend the government and first responders in Guinea for ending the country’s Ebola outbreak,” said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky. “Our heartfelt sympathies are with the people who lost loved ones to this disease. CDC remains committed to supporting survivor programs and helping strengthen global preparedness and response capacities that can prevent or extinguish future Ebola outbreaks.”

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Hard-line judiciary head wins Iran presidency amid low turnout

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In initial results, former Revolutionary Guard commander Mohsen Rezaei won 3.3 million votes and moderate Abdolnasser Hemmati got 2.4 million, said Jamal Orf, the head of Iran’s Interior Ministry election headquarters. The race’s fourth candidate, Amirhossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi, had around 1 million votes, Orf said.

Hemmati offered his congratulations on Instagram to Raisi early Saturday.

“I hope your administration provides causes for pride for the Islamic Republic of Iran, improves the economy and life with comfort and welfare for the great nation of Iran,” he wrote.

On Twitter, Rezaei praised Khamenei and the Iranian people for taking part in the vote.

“God willing, the decisive election of my esteemed brother, Ayatollah Dr. Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi, promises the establishment of a strong and popular government to solve the country’s problems,” Rezaei wrote.

The quick concessions, while not unusual in Iran’s previous elections, signaled what semiofficial news agencies inside Iran had been hinting at for hours: That the carefully controlled vote had been a blowout win for Raisi amid the boycott calls.

As night fell Friday, turnout appeared far lower than in Iran’s last presidential election in 2017. At one polling place inside a mosque in central Tehran, a Shiite cleric played soccer with a young boy as most of its workers napped in a courtyard. At another, officials watched videos on their mobile phones as state television blared beside them, offering only tight shots of locations around the country — as opposed to the long, snaking lines of past elections.

Balloting came to a close at 2.a.m. Saturday, after the government extended voting to accommodate what it called “crowding” at several polling places nationwide. Paper ballots, stuffed into large plastic boxes, were to be counted by hand through the night, and authorities said they expected to have initial results and turnout figures Saturday morning at the earliest.

“My vote will not change anything in this election, the number of people who are voting for Raisi is huge and Hemmati does not have the necessary skills for this,” said Hediyeh, a 25-year-old woman who gave only her first name while hurrying to a taxi in Haft-e Tir Square after avoiding the polls. “I have no candidate here.”

Iranian state television sought to downplay the turnout, pointing to the Gulf Arab sheikhdoms surrounding it ruled by hereditary leaders, and the lower participation in Western democracies. After a day of amplifying officials’ attempts to get out the vote, state TV broadcast scenes of jam-packed voting booths in several provinces overnight, seeking to portray a last-minute rush to the polls.

But since the 1979 revolution overthrew the shah, Iran’s theocracy has cited voter turnout as a sign of its legitimacy, beginning with its first referendum that won 98.2% support that simply asked whether or not people wanted an Islamic Republic.

The disqualifications affected reformists and those backing Rouhani, whose administration both reached the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and saw it disintegrate three years later with then-President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal of America from the accord.

Voter apathy also has been fed by the devastated state of the economy and subdued campaigning amid months of surging coronavirus cases. Poll workers wore gloves and masks, and some wiped down ballot boxes with disinfectants.

If elected, Raisi would be the first serving Iranian president sanctioned by the U.S. government even before entering office over his involvement in the mass execution of political prisoners in 1988, as well as his time as the head of Iran’s internationally criticized judiciary — one of the world’s top executioners.

It also would put hard-liners firmly in control across the government as negotiations in Vienna continue to try to save a tattered deal meant to limit Iran’s nuclear program at a time when Tehran is enriching uranium at its highest levels ever, though it still remains short of weapons-grade levels. Tensions remain high with both the U.S. and Israel, which is believed to have carried out a series of attacks targeting Iranian nuclear sites as well as assassinating the scientist who created its military atomic program decades earlier.

Whoever wins will likely serve two four-year terms and thus could be at the helm at what could be one of the most crucial moments for the country in decades — the death of the 82-year-old Khamenei. Speculation already has begun that Raisi might be a contender for the position, along with Khamenei’s son, Mojtaba.

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Apathy greets Iran presidential vote dominated by hard-liner

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“My vote will not change anything in this election, the number of people who are voting for Raisi is huge and Hemmati does not have the necessary skills for this,” said Hediyeh, a 25-year-old woman who gave only her first name while hurrying to a taxi in Haft-e Tir Square after avoiding the polls. “I have no candidate here.”

Iranian state television sought to downplay the turnout, pointing to the Gulf Arab sheikhdoms surrounding it ruled by hereditary leaders and the lower participation in Western democracies. But since the 1979 revolution overthrew the shah, Iran’s theocracy has cited voter turnout as a sign of its legitimacy, beginning with its first referendum that won 98.2% support that simply asked whether or not people wanted an Islamic Republic.

The disqualifications affected reformists and those backing Rouhani, whose administration both reached the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and saw it disintegrate three years later with then-President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal of America from the accord. Former hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, also blocked from running, said on social media he’d boycott the vote.

Voter apathy also has been fed by the devastated state of the economy and subdued campaigning amid months of surging coronavirus cases. Poll workers wore gloves and masks, and some wiped down ballot boxes with disinfectants.

If elected, Raisi would be the first serving Iranian president sanctioned by the U.S. government even before entering office over his involvement in the mass execution of political prisoners in 1988, as well as his time as the head of Iran’s internationally criticized judiciary — one of the world’s top executioners.

It also would put hard-liners firmly in control across the government as negotiations in Vienna continue to try to save a tattered deal meant to limit Iran’s nuclear program at a time when Tehran is enriching uranium at its highest levels ever, though it still remains short of weapons-grade levels. Tensions remain high with both the U.S. and Israel, which is believed to have carried out a series of attacks targeting Iranian nuclear sites as well as assassinating the scientist who created its military atomic program decades earlier.

Whoever wins will likely serve two four-year terms and thus could be at the helm at what could be one of the most crucial moments for the country in decades — the death of the 82-year-old Khamenei. Speculation already has begun that Raisi might be a contender for the position, along with Khamenei’s son, Mojtaba.

Khamenei cast the first vote from Tehran, urging the public to “go ahead, choose and vote.”

Raisi, wearing a black turban that identifies him in Shiite tradition as a direct descendant of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, voted from a mosque in southern Tehran. The cleric acknowledged in comments afterward that some may be “so upset that they don’t want to vote.”

“I beg everyone, the lovely youths, and all Iranian men and women speaking in any accent or language from any region and with any political views, to go and vote and cast their ballots,” Raisi said.

But few appeared to heed the call. There are more than 59 million eligible voters in Iran, a nation of over 80 million people. However, the state-linked Iranian Student Polling Agency has estimated a turnout will be just 44%, which would be the lowest since the revolution. Officials gave no turnout figures Friday, though results could come Saturday.

Fears about a low turnout have some warning Iran may be turning away from being an Islamic Republic — a government with elected civilian leadership overseen by a supreme leader from its Shiite clergy — to a country more tightly governed by its supreme leader, who already has final say on all matters of state and oversees its defense and atomic program.

“This is not acceptable,” said former President Mohammad Khatami, a reformist who sought to change the theocracy from the inside during eight years in office. “How would this conform to being a republic or Islamic?”

For his part, Khamenei warned of “foreign plots” seeking to depress turnout in a speech Wednesday. A flyer handed out on the streets of Tehran by hard-liners echoed that and bore the image of Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2020. A polling station was set up by Soleimani’s grave on Friday.

Some voters appeared to echo that call.

“We cannot leave our destiny in the hands of foreigners and let them decide for us and create conditions that will be absolutely harmful for us,” said Tehran voter Shahla Pazouki.

Also hurting a moderate like Hemmati is the public anger aimed at Rouhani over the collapse of the deal, despite ongoing talks in Vienna to revive it. Iran’s already-ailing economy has suffered since, with double-digit inflation and mass unemployment.

“It is useless,” said Ali Hosseini, a 36-year-old unemployed resident in southern Tehran, about voting. “Anyone who wins the election after some time says he cannot solve problem of the economy because of intervention by influential people. He then forgets his promises and we poor people again remain disappointed.”

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