ALBUQUERQUE – State Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero, one of the most liberal lawmakers in New Mexico and who has been dogged by allegations that she doesn’t live in the state, is facing criticism for promoting a Texas cafe during coronavirus restrictions.
On her personal Facebook page, the Albuquerque Democrat has plugged in recent days the El Paso-based Desert Moon Cafe and its menu – something she has done in the past. She also has publicized the cafe’s move to curbside delivery in the Texas city as officials there work to stop the spread of COVID-19. The cafe, Roybal Caballero told The Associated Press, is owned by her godson, whose small business is struggling with virus-imposed restrictions.
But her Democratic primary challenger and her potential GOP opponent said the social media posts on an El Paso business only pose more questions about how committed Roybal Caballero is to her Albuquerque district and if she lives in New Mexico full time.
“I think it’s concerning,” said Edwina Cisneros, who is running against Roybal Caballero in the state’s Democratic primary. “If you live in the district full time, you’d know that businesses here are suffering, too. Why not promote an Albuquerque business? That’s what I’m doing.”
Kayla Renee Marshall, a Republican who is seeking to run against the Democrat for the seat, said it was “unfathomable” an elected official in Albuquerque was promoting an El Paso business when Albuquerque ones could use some help.
“If she’s in El Paso now, it would be harmful to the people she represents,” Marshall said. “If there’s a special session, she might have to quarantine first for 14 days when she returns to New Mexico.”
Roybal Caballero dismissed the criticism and said she’s living in Albuquerque and social distancing from the rest of the population, as recommended by state officials.
“I am surprised and disappointed that right now, my (opponents are) focused on landing unfounded political hits. We need to be doing what we can to focus on and support our community,” Roybal Caballero said a statement. She pointed to an Instagram post from her campaign account that promoted an Albuquerque Hispanic grocery store.
Public records show Roybal Caballero listing an Albuquerque mobile home off Route 66 as her New Mexico residence and also having a home in El Paso.
It’s not the first time critics have pointed to Roybal Caballero’s activities related to El Paso as questionable. For example, Roybal Caballero held her re-election fundraising kick off there in October, hosted by the Mescalero Apache tribe.
Elected in 2012, Roybal Caballero, 69, has earned a reputation as an outspoken advocate for immigrant rights and labor.
She has sponsored bills seeking to limit federal authorities from enforcing immigration laws and for a $15 statewide minimum wage. Those bills have failed.
In 2015, she was forced to apologize after comparing a pair of GOP-backed bills aimed at revamping driver’s license laws to the Holocaust.