Khalid Emshadi is running to represent District 24 in New Mexico. (Photo courtesy of Emshadi)
Running to represent part of northeast Albuquerque in New Mexico’s House, Muslim engineer Khalid Emshadi halted in-person aspects of his campaign for a few days out of fear for his life amid a string of killings. Now that police have taken a suspect into custody, the Republican candidate plans to gradually start returning to public work, though he still doesn’t feel completely safe.
Four Muslim men were shot and killed in Albuquerque, three in the last couple of weeks and one in November. Police tracked down their primary suspect on Tuesday. Muhammad Syed is now facing homicide charges for two of the deaths, while the other two are still being investigated and police work out charges with the DA’s Office in Bernalillo County.
Emshadi expressed gratitude to law enforcement for finding and detaining Syed. He said the arrest is a step in the right direction, and police just need to catch the other killer or killers if Syed isn’t responsible for all four deaths.
Emashadi said he is going to slowly start campaigning in public again — with company around him. In the past, he would knock on doors by himself, but he said he won’t do that anymore. Even with other people present, he still doesn’t feel entirely comfortable going door-to-door anymore.
“Somehow I will return, but it’s not 100%,” Emshadi said.
The safest way to reach out to constituents is still remotely, he said, like through phone calls or mail, which he will continue doing.
Emshadi postponed a few public events he had planned and is still trying to figure out others that were supposed to come up soon. He’s likely missed out on some donations because of this, he added.
His opponent in the race for the Northeast Albuquerque district is Democratic incumbent Rep. Liz Thomson. She said she doesn’t plan to change her campaign plans in light of Emshadi’s reduced public appearances. But she added that she’s also not knocking on doors right now.
In some ways, Thomson said, there’s always a target on politicians’ backs. She referenced the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 and how scared she was afterward. Thomson said she’s constantly alert but will “just keep on doing what I’ve been doing.”
“I just try to be careful wherever I am and pay attention to what’s going on around me,” Thomson said. “But, I mean, anything can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere.”
Emshadi said he will continue to slow his in-person campaigning until more is known about the Muslim attacks. But this is a fight, he said, and he refuses to lose any political momentum. “I will not back up or maybe reduce my campaign momentum,” he said.
Thomson said she wishes Emshadi didn’t have to dial back his public appearances and that the Muslim deaths are sad and infuriating.
“It’s horrible that it’s happening,” Thomson said. “And I would support him in any way that I could to do what he feels like he needs to do to stay safe.”
Crime and the election
Emshadi said New Mexico’s high crime rates led to the attacks of Muslims in the state. “I think we’re going from bad to worse,” he said.
But Thomson pointed out that, statistically, crime is down. According to APD data, crime has been on a general downward trajectory over the past years in Albuquerque although overall crime information for 2022 has not yet been released. From 2018 to 2021, there were about 9,500 fewer crimes.
But the number of homicides rose dramatically in 2021, and 2022 is on a path to increase even further with 73 reported through July.
Still, Emshadi said politicians in power aren’t doing enough to fight crime.
“Crime is hurting everybody,” Emshadi said. “It’s not only Muslims.”
Albuquerque isn’t a safe place, he said, and the attacks on Muslims gave him a lesson to be more cautious.
Thomson said New Mexico needs to focus on helping its children to lower crime rates. She said people commit crimes largely because of what they experienced growing up, like having incarcerated parents, experiencing sexual abuse or excessively using drugs.
Long-term solutions, she said, are in policies, like increasing the child tax credit, raising the minimum wage and fixing the behavioral health system. She said she hopes the city can move forward from the heartbreaking attacks.
“I hope Albuquerque can get over this and start working on other issues that lead to crime and we can get our old Albuquerque back,” Thomson said. “But I still love our city.”
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