DENVER — American Indians have among the worst voter turnout rates of all ethic groups in the United States. The Barack Obama campaign is basing much of its hopes around new voters, voters who in the past have tended not to participate in the political system and minority voters.
Thus it’s natural that Obama would be making a serious effort to tap into the vote of Indian Country.
Two New Mexico Indian leaders spoke Thursday morning to the state delegation at their daily breakfast.
Both Joe Garcia, a former governor of Okay Owinge Pueblo and currently president of the president of the National Congress of American Indians and Alvin Warren, secretary of the state Department of Indian Affairs, told delegates the importance of native Americans working with the political process.
Garcia referred to a recent meeting between Obama and New Mexican Indian leaders. This took place last week during Obama’s campaign stop in Albuquerque.
Warren, a former lieutenant governor of Santa Clara Pueblo, is a member of Obama’s First Americans Council. He talked about leading a voter registration drive at Santa Clara in 2006, in which 100 new voters were registered. “A high percentage of which showed up to vote,” Warren said.
Asked after his talk what the Obama campaign would have to do to get new Indian voters on board, he said the campaign “ will have to find people familiar with all 22 tribes, all 52 Navajo Nation chapters.
“They’ll have to find people who can work with the tribes and bring voter registration to them,” he said. “They’ll have to describe the opportunity to participate in the political system, They’ll have to describe how crucial it is to participate and explain the connection between the political process and needed services such as healthcare, education and infrastructure.”
Said Warren, “Native Americans as a demographic provide the best opportunity to grow the voter base.”
A spokesman for the state Obama campaign said in a phone interview Thursday said Indians are an important part of the campaign strategy and has already begun a serious effort to get out the Indian vote. They’ve hired a Native American Vote director, Amber Carillo, and four field organizers for Indian Country in New Mexico. The campaign is planning a “Camp Obama” training session for volunteers at a yet to be determined pueblo in early September.
One of New Mexico’s superdelegates at the convention is Laurie Weahkee, lead organizer of Native American Voters Alliance. Weahkee said Thursday that while she’s a Democrat, her group is non-partisan. The group had a voter education convention in Santa Fe on August 1 and plans a get-out-the-vote effort for the general election.
Mayors for Truth: Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez, a superdelegate at the convention, told convention-going New Mexicans at breakfast Thursday that he and other Democratic mayors have agreed to serve as a “truth squad” keeping an eye on Republican John McCain and his surrogates.
“My intent is not to be anybody’s attack dog,” Chavez said. “But if John McCain comes to town and makes misstatements about Barack Obama, I’m going to be there to answer it,” Chavez told a reporter after his talk to the state delegation at the Crowne Plaza hotel.
Other Democratic mayors will do the same thing in their respective cities, Chavez said.
The “truth squad” could be put to the test soon. Chavez said both McCain and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney — who frequently is mentioned as a possible McCain running mate — are scheduled to speak in Albuquerque early next month,
Previewing Richardson’s speech: The sudden rescheduling of Gov. Bill Richardson’s convention speech Wednesday night took most New Mexico delegates — not to mention reporters — by surprise Wednesday night. Richardson had been scheduled to speak on the night in which many speeches focused on national security and foreign policy. Instead, however, he was asked instead to speak the big night of Obama’s acceptance speech .
As is the custom, advance copies of speeches were available to reporters. This included Richardson’s. At least one Web site, The Politico, published Richardson’s speech, which went out over the Associated Press wire. You can find the transcript HERE
It starts out with some self-effacing humor: “Fellow citizens, I am not known as a quiet man.” But then he turns serious, asking for a moment of silence for the “young men and women are dying for our country overseas.”
Richardson praises Obama for his “prescient and brave” speech in 2002 in which he called the coming invasion of Iraq as "a war based not on reason, but on passion; not on principle, but on politics." Richardson doesn’t mention that he supported the war himself at that time.
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