Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly; the Mean and the Nasty! But let’s not forget the Weird!

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

As the dust settles from the recent election, I will now take some space to tell some of the stories from the campaign trail, as it were. Actually, I had taken some pictures that I thought worthwhile that otherwise would not be seen, so this is my excuse to post them.

Political seasons are actually short, yet they seem interminably long. For the candidates, they worked for at least a year, some part-time, others full-time and for a few overtime. Yet, to most politicians, each race is the culmination of a lifetime of their efforts.

The Good:

It’s over! Democratic candidate for United States House of Representatives, New Mexico-1st Congressional District, State Attorney General Patricia Madrid pulls her son Giancarlo Messina’s arms around her, after conceding the race to Republican incumbent Rep. Heather Wilson on Nov. 21. Madrid and the Democratic Party chose not to contest the outcome of the race that had Wilson victorious by less than one-half of one percentage point, 861 votes. It took two weeks to determine the outcome of the race because of problems completing the count in Bernalillo County.

The Bad:

The relentless television negative attack commercials and mailed campaign material, including the showing of Saguaro Cacti, indigenous to Arizona and Northwestern Mexico, but not to New Mexico.

The Ugly:

Negative advertising that struck a racial tone.

A political cartoon of Gov. Bill Richardson pulling marionette strings attached to Democratic State treasurer Candidate James B. Lewis, left, on a campaign mailer sent by Republican State treasurer candidate Demesia Padilla, right.

Lewis’ campaign called the piece racist.

"It's a cartoon. I just don't see it as racial," Padilla said.

"Political caricature is a time-honored tradition," New Mexico Republican Party Executive Director Marta Kramer said jumping to Padilla’s defense: “It was not racist.” And, "Accusing a Hispanic woman of being racist is ridiculous," Kramer said, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

Caricaturizing maybe political, but it can also be racial stereotyping and in this case, the idea of a non-African-American man making an African-American dance could have racist connotations.

While Kramer and Padilla may proclaim their innocence, it is the recipients of the insult who determine if they are the victims of racism. Members of an ethnic group that may be subjected to racism may also be capable of racist acts towards others.

The missed relevant details by the press:

The story about the Sandoval County Sheriff’s questioned non-criminal conduct repeated by KOAT-TV reporter Ellen Goldberg, left, and Journal Westside reporter Rozanna Martinez, right, only reported part of the story. Bernalillo Police Officer Mark Aragon, a former Albuquerque police officer, has a history of being involved in efforts to oust high-ranking law enforcement officials. Both KOAT and the Journal have previously reported his involvement, however neither brought out the past reporting.

The Journal reported, Feb. 4, 2005, that former Bernalillo Police Chief Ramon Montijo, who was chief from April to October 2003, filed a lawsuit claiming violation of his constitutional rights, that his name was maligned and that he was wrongfully terminated, in U.S. District Court on Jan. 31, 2005. Montijo named Bernalillo Police Officer Mark Aragon as a defendant.

The most gracious:

Republican gubernatorial candidate John Denhdal.

Surprise? Denhdal, seen here, left, with his Old English sheep dog, Lincoln, went out of his way to ask who I was and then on several occasions, thanked me for covering the event he was attending. He attacked his opponent’s policies and record. As far as he went on the personal, he suggested that Gov. Richardson had gone from being an 800-pound gorilla for sitting on a huge war chest, to being a 300-pound chicken when he refused to agree to a debate.

The most consistent:

Republican Senate nominee Allen W. McCulloch, MD; not a hide nor hair sighting of him.

Journalistically, I performed due diligence in trying to track down various candidates and attended 26 separate events. However, in-spite of all the technology, the Internet, Web sites, and Webblogs, my efforts to track down locations of public events proved difficult. What was stated as campaigning, more often was fund-raising. Fund-raising events are seldom public and when campaigns will allow pictures of their candidate, it is done with the understanding that you may not photograph contributors.

Several campaign offices were staffed with volunteers who were not authorized to identify the locations of events. Coupled with the few public events available, it was problematic to gain access to photo opportunities of some candidates.

The most telling remark:

"Sharpton is a racist, anti-Semitic, rabble rouser. So what I want to know is why doesn't it bother you to stand next to him when he endorses your candidacy for the Congress?" by incumbent Republican Rep. Wilson, on Sun., Sept, 17, 2006, at the Temple Albert Congressional District 1 debate.

The best retort:

"’Why denounce Democrats when you can ask your own Republican leaders— President Bush and Karl Rove— why they stood next to me at the Voters Rights Act signing at the White House this summer?’ Sharpton said, ‘I was invited to the White House and acknowledged by them, now I await sister Wilson to denounce them, too.’” The Rev. Al Sharpton was a 2004 Democratic presidential primary candidate, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

The New Mexico Republican Party Communications Director Jonah Cohen, right, complained that it was suggested that Wilson’s remarks were racist.

Two thoughts: if one does not like to feel the sting from the suggestion that you are being racist, then grow a thicker skin and/or don’t make comments that make people think you might be a racist.

The most accurate press report:

WAITNG! Albuquerque Tribune banner headline, Wed. Nov. 8.

The Dumbest Question:

Rep. Wilson asked, “Can you cite something in your long career in public service that will give people of New Mexico some assurance that you will prevent a tax increase?”

The reason it was dumb is because it presupposes acceptance of a differing political philosophy. Republicans normally argue against tax increases, yet during this “war economy,” with the largest federal deficit in history, one might wonder aloud how any Republican could possibly believe that tax increases aren’t in their future, especially if they ever intend to get back to their “Contract with America” values of a balanced budget.

The dumbest answer to the dumbest question:

Seven seconds of silence from Democratic candidate Madrid to a question posed to her by her opponent, Rep. Wilson, in the KOB TV debate.

Why is it the dumbest answer? Because, Madrid didn’t go to the Democratic home; instead, she bought into the Republican’s philosophical set up. She showed her debating deficiencies for not thinking on her feet. However, she could have easily gone on to say that Democrats are not afraid of taxes, when necessary, and where appropriate, they will apply taxes. It is the job of congress to balance and manage the budget.

The dumbest question became the most effective of the entire campaign, when Madrid stood mute for seven seconds and didn’t get around to answering the question. Go figure!

The best one liner:

“We’re not for cut and run, but there’s something to be said about stop and think,” ex-President Bill Clinton said during his late night campaign stop Nov. 2. He was speaking of the accusation from the current administration, that those who questioned their rigid “stay the course” position, were labeled as being for “cut and run.”

The best self-deprecating line:

“Please stop making fun of my diet and stop making fun of my speeding; I got here on time,” Gov. Richardson said, at a Madrid for congress rally where he arrived about a half-hour late to the scheduled event.

The best jocular response to a line I got off:

From New Mexico State Police Sergeant Alfred Lovato of the Governor’s security detail, when asked if it was true about his right foot? When he asked, “what about my right foot?” “Is it made of lead?”

The best reported bumper sticker:

“I’m not Speeding; I’m with governor’s security” from New Mexico for,, a blogspot hosted by the New Mexico Republican Party.

The greatest number of votes cast statewide in one race:

Attorney General
Democrat Gary K. King, left
318,000 -- 56.8%
Republican Jim Bibb, right
241,715 -- 43.2%
The Weird:

Duck Duck Goose: Kathleen Hennessey, 23, is a member of Rep. Wilson’s Washington staff. She wore a duck costume to the Oct. 31; get out the vote rally for Madrid. The event featured U.S. House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi, City of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Albuquerque Mayor Marty Chávez.

The duck became a regular at Madrid functions and the media picked up on it at a University of New Mexico event between Zimmerman Library and the duck pond, pun intended, on Sept. 28.

I love political street theater and thought the idea of having a duck to re-emphasize the charge by Wilson that Madrid was ducking debates, was a clever move. Not that it was totally accurate; there were five debates initially scheduled. Eventually, the two that took place were the Sept. 17, Congregation Albert event that Madrid agreed to, with the stipulation that it not be televised live, and the live televised KOB-TV 4, Oct. 24, debates. Wilson withdrew from a North Valley area debate.

This day, Hennessey and her little support group of four or five other Republican operatives, attempted to enter the Madrid event, held at the City owned Duranes Community Center. There were several Democrats who refused them entry as the operatives tried to force the issue with city employees at the front door. Television and still photographers crowded in to capture the event at the front door. Access was hampered and people trying to enter had to form a single file.

There was a counter effort afoot, as at least one large Democrat walked up to the Republican supporters and ripped the signs out of their hands and took the signs into the building.

Hennessey was dancing around for the television cameras, flapping her wings under the nose of Roy Sterit, 60, of Rio Rancho. A large man, Sterit was blocking the entrance as one of Hennessey’s fellow protestors blew into a duck call.

Eventually, Sterit, center in cowboy hat, appeared to have had enough, and as recorded by KRQE TV news, deliberately stepped on Hennessey’s foot. She wore no shoe under the costume.

City Security Chief, former APD officer and now mayor’s staffer, Mark Shepherd, ordered City Security guards to respond. The protestors were moved away from the door. No arrests were made and a police report was taken.

Hennessey described having her foot stomped on, to Officer M. Gutierrez. Sterit told the officer he was unsure if he had stepped on her, but may have, due to her duck feet being so large, according to the report.

This incident went over the line: You may wonder what the line is? There actually is a line. It is found in Britain’s Parliament, in the House of Commons.

The majority party led by the prime minister and any coalition parties sit on the left side of the chamber, while the loyal opposition and other minority parties sit on the right side. Down the center is a carpeted area that divides the hall. There are two red stripes that run the length of the carpet. The two stripes are eight feet apart; the distance of two drawn swords.

Though not common today, if men with drawn swords move closer than the eight-foot separation, death or great bodily harm might ensue. Hence, “The Line;” crossing it will bring a stern warning from the speaker and ejection by the sergeant at arms. The sergeant at arms is actually a squad of soldiers, with bigger swords, whose job it is to keep order in the house.

In this country, our Supreme Court has adopted the eight-foot separation distance in a recent free speech, right to peaceably assemble and right to protest from a Colorado abortion protest case. They found eight feet to be the proper definition of personal space between opposing parties.

During the Madrid event, once the duck was rebuffed, she and her group should have stepped back across the line.

The Weirder:

The blogger led charge that a "hidden" March 1993 Albuquerque Police Department information report, written by Officer Phil Tsadiasi and filed about Wilson’s husband, Jay Hone, by a teenager that he represented, was suddenly discovered. The youth said he had been touched by Hone in what he thought was a sexual way. However, the teen did not want to file any charges and continued to deal with Hone.

KOAT-TV Action 7 news’ investigative reporter Larry Barker ran a 1997 story that included what appeared to be an ambush interview done with then Children, Youth and Families Secretary Wilson. Barker alleged that Wilson had the Hone report improperly removed from the CYF’s department file room in Albuquerque, to her office. He later detailed that the report was in the custody of the Department’s legal counsel in Santa Fe. At the time, the report was signed out and it was documented as done in the normal course of business. There were differences of opinion as to the propriety and method of removing the sensitive document.

Democracy For New Mexico and other Democratic bloggers made a great deal of the fact that the report was found online.

Democracy For New Mexico wrote: “UPDATE 10.20.06: In the past couple of days KOAT successfully convinced YouTube to remove the video linked above due to copyright issues.”

Now some facts: Officer Tsadiasi’s report was a matter of public record available for inspection at APD’s records unit. There was no criminal allegation made; the victim did not want to pursue the matter. Wilson apparently wanted to remove the file in her department from public view. Then District Attorney for Bernalillo County, Bob Schwartz, who was critical of Wilson’s actions in KOAT-TV’s report, said that she could have petitioned the state district court to put the file under seal.

The mainstream media were aware of the report early on, when anti-Wilson political operatives peddled the story after she was appointed Secretary. Dennis Domrzalski, a former reporter for the Albuquerque Tribune who had looked into the matter and determined that it did not constitute news.

According to Reuters on Oct. 20, “The popular video-sharing site YouTube deleted nearly 30,000 files after a Japanese entertainment group complained of copyright infringement.” It wasn’t KOAT who complained, but YouTube recognized that its service was being used to illegally distribute copyrighted material.

The Weirdest:

What ever happened to Chautauquas? OK, so what’s a Chautauqua, you ask. They were an annual summer school or educational gathering, often held outdoors and offering lectures, concerts, and theatrical performances, according to the World English Dictionary. They were also referred to as political gatherings with long political speeches.

At the first political event I attended, Aug. 5, a Democratic candidate party held at the Expo New Mexico, each candidate or current elected official was given three minutes to speak. Any amount of time over the three minutes was billed at $5 a minute.

It was a small gathering of Democratic faithful. “If you took away all the campaign workers and the Party volunteers,” Gary King for Attorney General’s Bernalillo County Coordinator Earl Holmes said, “you’d be standing here by yourself.” The event seemed to be a test run for candidates’ stump speeches.

“This is a fundraiser for the Democratic Party of Bernalillo County,” The sign read. They didn’t make much money as all the candidates spoke less than three minutes. If any went over, the timekeeper didn’t register the excess.

This is City Council President Martin Heinrich speaking to the sparse crowd of Democratic candidates, campaign workers and the Party volunteers.

My family has had a favored saying about political races: a race between turtles isn’t much of a race. Now the New Mexico Congressional District 1 race has required an adaptation to this saying: A race between snails isn’t much of a race; in this campaign, they left a trail of slime.

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