The anti-choice activists behind a direct mail campaign targeting a candidate for city council in Albuquerque, New Mexico, are being investigated by the city’s ethics board for allegedly violating local election law.
A mailer with graphic images of a fetus and a woman was sent to Albuquerque residents last week, attacking Democratic city council candidate Pat Davis for his position on reproductive rights, reported KRQE.
Davis is running for the city council District 6 seat against Republican Hess “Hessito” Yntema. Albuquerque City Council President Rey Garduño, a Democrat who represented District 6 for eight years, is retiring and has endorsed Davis.
The mailer was paid for by Protest ABQ, an organization operated by anti-choice activists Bud and Tara Shaver, former interns with the radical anti-choice organization Operation Rescue. The Shavers moved to Albuquerque in 2010 to target the Southwestern Women’s Options clinic, one of a handful of clinics around the country that provides later abortion care.
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“The mailer was just intended to be educational,” Tara Shaver told New Mexico Political Report. “We really believe that the people in District 6 deserve to know where the candidates stand on different issues.”
Davis has responded to the mailers in a statement on his Facebook page calling them “anonymous” mailers were “graphic and unnecessary.” He said that abortion is not an issue that should be considered by the city government.
Protest ABQ is not registered with the city as a Measure Finance Committee (MFC), which it is required to be in order to send material opposing a political candidate. The city’s campaign laws require that mailers list the address of the Measure Finance Committee or the printer of the mailer.
There was no address listed on the Protest ABQ mailers.
Alex Curtas, the managing director of ProgressNow, filed a complaint to the city’s ethics board requesting “an immediate investigation” into the mailer and alleging that Protest ABQ’s failure to register as an MFC violates city law, reported NM Political Report.
ABQ disputes the complaint on the grounds that they’re not specifically telling residents not to vote for Davis. “It’s not like we’re telling people to vote for someone else,” Tara Shaver told New Mexico Political Report. “This is what you’ll get if you vote for him.”
Albuquerque’s Board of Ethics voted unanimously Wednesday to investigate the complaint brought against Protest ABQ, and set a preliminary hearing between both parties to take place within 20 days of when Protest ABQ received notice from the board, reported NM Political Report.
Protest ABQ has also targeted Davis’ private residence and the surrounding neighborhood with a truck displaying large graphic images.
Tom Martin, an activist with Protest ABQ and the driver of the truck, told KOB that the truck is not targeting Davis’ neighborhood—just District 6. “What we’re doing is trying to educate the adults who are voters who can make decisions about our society, and let them know that this is what abortion looks like,” Martin said.
Kathy Wright, a resident of the neighborhood, told KOB that Protest ABQ’s tactics are not an appropriate way to reach out to voters. “Whether you’re for or against, we should sit down and talk face to face, not pull tactics like this. It’s just beyond ugly, beyond ugly,” Wright said.
Davis and residents of the neighborhood have also raised concerns about the effect the graphic images will have on neighborhood children. Martin dismissed that concern and said that it was not his problem.
“We don’t target children. Children may involuntarily see the images. We don’t mean to upset them. If they get upset, that’s something that their parents are just going to have to deal with,” Martin said.
Davis said in a statement that Protest ABQ is “desperate” to elect another conservative city council member in order to push for the same city ordinance that failed in 2013.
Protest ABQ campaigned in 2013 for a citywide ban on abortion after 20 weeks’ gestation. After the activists secured enough petition signatures to force the city council to place the issue on the ballot, residents voted down the measure by an overwhelming 55-45 margin.
“If they can’t accept the will of voters who overwhelmingly opposed their proposition, they can at least engage in adult dialogue about the issue through the campaign instead of scaring my neighbors’ children in the middle of the day,” Davis said.
Davis has alleged that the Protest ABQ truck has violated the law by targeting his residence and parking in front of his home.
It’s illegal for a person, group, or any other association to “engage in picketing focused on and taking place in front of or next to a particular residence, without the express prior consent of the occupant,” according to the city’s criminal code (12-2-26).