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Kavanaugh controversy stirring up Senate race in New Mexico

September 25, 2018

New Mexico Democrats say Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mick Rich has attempted to minimize the crime of sexual assault, provided that the perpetrator was a high school student.

Rich spoke of sex assaults in the context of decades-old allegations against Brett Kavanaugh, who is President Donald Trump’s nominee to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the week since the first news reports that Kavanaugh allegedly sexually assaulted a teenager when they were both in high school, Senate Democrats — including Rich’s opponent, Martin Heinrich — have called for a federal investigation of the accusation.

But Rich told New Mexico Political Report he “would like to see Martin Heinrich go to a high school and tell those students, ‘If you went to a party and behaved inappropriately, you have no future.’ ”

Democrats accused of Rich of being dismissive in the face of a broader movement toward greater accountability of sexual harassment and sexual assault in politics and beyond.

Marg Elliston, chairwoman of the state Democratic Party, said Rich’s comments “perpetuate a culture that treats sexual assault survivors with distrust and animosity.”

Heinrich, who has rarely mentioned underdog Rich in the campaign, fired back, too.

“I am disgusted by these comments that perpetuate the toxic culture that has allowed sexual assault to be so pervasive in our society,” the senator said in a statement.

Rich said Monday he believes a Senate committee should hear both sides of the allegations.

“Both of them need to be able to address their case,” Rich said. “… I don’t think there should be a rush to judgment.”

And the Albuquerque contractor, who is a political novice, said his “compassion goes out to the woman because it’s a traumatic experience she went through,” referring to Christine Blasey Ford, who says Kavanaugh assaulted her.

But Rich also said: “I understand young people growing up behave in an inappropriate fashion.”

Wrongdoing should not be held against someone forever, Rich said.

Heinrich opposed Kavanaugh’s nomination before the allegations of sexual assault were first reported publicly.

Still, the Democrat’s campaign argued Rich’s response to the allegations showed he is out of touch with the experiences of many people.

By Monday afternoon, Heinrich’s deputy campaign manager had sent an email to supporters sharing her own experience of sexual assault at a high school party.

“Mick Rich and Republicans should know — it’s not ‘behav[ing] inappropriately’ to commit sexual assault. It is a crime. There is a victim,” Lindsey Miller wrote.

Kavanaugh has denied the allegations by Blasey Ford. They are scheduled to be the subject of a public Senate committee hearing on Thursday.

Other women have also come forward with accusations of sexual misconduct at the hands of Kavanaugh, a sitting federal judge on an appeals court.

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