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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Guest Blog by John Wertheim: Tim Jennings' Double Standard on Negative Campaigns

This is an Opinion Editorial by John V. Wertheim, former Chairman of the Democratic Party of New Mexico:

The 2008 elections brought many surprises to New Mexico: voters delivering handily for Barack Obama, all federal positions now in Democratic hands for the first time in decades, and even additional seats for Democrats in the State Legislature. As a former Democratic chairman, I felt a mixture of pride -- at the ascendancy of important progressive policy ideas -- and awesome responsibility at the shear size of the work ahead of us. Both feelings were welcome, albeit sobering.

Seeing a top Democratic leader campaigning on behalf of a particularly partisan Republican was, however, decidedly unwelcome.

Democratic Senator and President Pro Tem, Tim Jennings, who raised eyebrows by ardently defending the Republican Senate Minority Whip, Leonard Rawson (SD-37, Las Cruces) in the final days of a tight election contest against criticism of Rawson's lrecord, demonstrated an indefensible double standard.

After all, quite a few of Jennings' fellow Democratic candidates this year were falsely accused and roughed up by Republicans during the give-and-take of the election season. But Senator Jennings said not a word in defense of them. What gives here?

I've known Senator Jennings for years and have often admired his principled stances, even when he opposed the Party mainstream. I consider him a friend, and friends should be able to tell each other when they've done something wrong. And make no mistake: it's wrong to apply double standards, especially for purely political motivations.

Fearful of losing his President Pro Tem job to the cadre of new progressive senators coming into the Legislature, Jennings recorded a robo-call and radio spot on behalf of Republican Senator Leonard Rawson, who lost narrowly to progressive Democrat Steve Fischmann.

Jennings, of course, has cut many an amiable deal in the Senate with Republican Rawson over the years. Much of Jennings' power comes from such horse trading. Nothing wrong with that. Politics is just that way a lot of times. But to try to preserve the status quo at all costs, even when the voters don't seem to like the status quo all that much? Well . . . nothing right about that.

The Roswell Democrat says he recorded the robo-call and radio spot only after getting a campaign call at home [interesting: Jennings does not live in the district] that supposedly called Rawson a "crook". The unkind words about "a good man", Rawson, drove Jennings to campaign for his re-election. After being upbraided by the state's Democrat leaders for the unusual action, Jennings expressed pious motives for campaigning for Rawson to the media. Ask whether they're not a little too pious, coming from a seasoned, hard-ball politician like Jennings:

"I have no desire to go against my party or anything else, but I for one believe you should stand up when somebody says something that isn't true... his mother should not have to listen to that crap." [11.03.08, Heath Haussmann blog]

"I look at that as a true attack on democracy. When someone goes out and falsely accuses someone of something, you should stand up." [11.03.08, Green Chile Chatter blog]

"If someone is spreading lies about someone, I'm not going to sit and say, 'Go ahead.'" [11.6.08, the Santa Fe New Mexican]

The mothers of a few New Mexico Democrats cannot be too pleased with the harsh and untrue character attacks made by Republicans on their children, but Senator Jennings - stalwart defender of 'What is True' and of Democracy -- was silent in their cases.

Tim Eichenberg, successful Democratic Senate candidate from Albuquerque, was attacked by Republicans with direct mail that said he was "bankrolled by anti-military extremists", "viciously oppose[d] our men and women in uniform" and that "Tim Eichenberg dishonors our men and women in uniform" - all because he utilized ActBlue, a Democratic online credit card processing platform to raise campaign funds. The mailer featured a grisly-looking photo of a wad of money splashed with fake blood.

Victor Raigoza, Democratic candidate for Senate in Albuquerque this year, was harshly attacked with mail and phones by New Mexico Republicans saying he was a "radical" who wants to "tear down" our state's "wholesome way of life and it's traditional values", and strongly implied he was gay. The piece was widely condemned by civil rights leaders and moderate Republicans.

Rep. Andrew Barreras, Democrat from Tome, N.M., was attacked in this election by Republicans with mail that featured his photo festooned with marijuana leaves, suggesting he was in favor of illegal drugs. With mail and phones, the New Mexico GOP said Barreras promised "policy for a price", "favors for friends", was corrupt and sold his votes in the Legislature to the highest bidder.

Where was Tim Jennings when these good Democrats were "falsely accused", personally maligned and attacked by New Mexico Republicans? He never said a word in defense of any of them.

Oh, and if Jennings tries to say lack of familiarity explains his deafening silence, I know everyone mentioned above very well, including Sen. Rawson, and let me vouch for Messrs. Eichenberg, Raigoza and Barrerras. They're good men, too, and just as deserving of a spirited defense.

Unless it's a anti-progressive Republican named Leonard Rawson - a sure vote for Jennings to remain as President Pro Tem in the 2009 Session – Tim Jennings can't be bothered to stand up for victims of campaign smears.

Another anti-progressive Democrat, State Senator Mary Kay Papen was busy forwarding Jennings' robo call via e-mail to voters in the 37th district.

Obviously, lofty ideals do not lay behind this behind-the-scenes machination.

So here are two questions Democrats, Independents and moderate Republicans should ask:

Why are Jennings and Papen so afraid of the progressive agenda that voters embraced in this recent historic election?

Can we count on Tim Jennings to give up his double standards as President Pro Tem of the Senate?

The stakes are high. In just two years, the state legislature will have responsibility for creating a new redistricting plan for all of New Mexico's legislative and congressional electoral boundaries - boundaries that will go far in determining the future of progressive politics in New Mexico for years to come.

This is a guest blog by John V. Wertheim, the former Chairman of the Democratic Party of New Mexico.

If you'd like to submit a post for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link on the upper left-hand corner of the page.

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November 15, 2008 at 10:20 AM in 2008 NM State Legislature Races, Democratic Party, Guest Blogger, Local Politics | Permalink


Can't agree with you more.

Posted by: Old Dem | Nov 15, 2008 10:40:21 AM

So, now we have to worry about covert Republican ringers hiding amongst our Democrats in office. Perhaps they are just ringers for the "rich peoples" interests against the common good.
We have to be vigilant for possible ideological traitors who are loyal to themselves in the true Republican tradition of short-sighted avarice at the expense of regular working people. I hope that their records will be exposed at election time so we can get some more progressives in there.
Then, when the progressive get complacent and corrupt we can kick them out too.

Posted by: qofdisks | Nov 15, 2008 2:25:32 PM

We need help to oust jennings in 4 years. We need a cantidate who will work hard. I know he can be beat in a primary. I am tired this so called democrat/ We need help down here, there is no one to run agaist him. Someone please move to Roswell and run agaist him.

Posted by: Rick | Nov 15, 2008 5:41:46 PM

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