Friday, June 30, 2006

CAMPAIGN WATCH: FIRST ATTACK AD OF THE GOVERNOR'S RACE

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
June 30, 2006


Democrats have called Republican gubernatorial candidate John Dendahl a “bomb thrower” and “attack dog.” However, Gov. Bill Richardson’s re-election campaign threw the first advertising bomb at Dendahl in a radio commercial this week.

Richardson campaign chairman Dave Contarino said Thursday that the incumbent Democrat’s radio spot is a factual representation of Dendahl’s record and the events that put the Santa Fe Republican on his party’s ticket in place of primary-election winner J.R. Damron.

A “fact sheet” posted on Richardson’s campaign Web site quotes newspaper articles to back up the advertisement, Contarino said.

Dendahl said Thursday that he was amused that just a few days before the ad started running, Richardson had told the Albuquerque Tribune, “I don’t talk about Dendahl. I don’t worry about Dendahl.”

“They say my name seven times in a 30-second commercial,” Dendahl said. “I think he’s worried about John Dendahl.”
DENDAHL MEETS THE PRESS
While this is the first gubernatorial attack ad of this political season, Dendahl, a past GOP state chairman and newspaper columnist, has been a vocal critic of Richardson through the years. The state Republican Party has run radio ads mocking Richardson at least three times since last June.

Here’s a look at the recent Richardson radio ad, which can be heard HERE :

Title: “Order”
Duration: 30 seconds
Sound: Over foreboding guitar and percussion, a narrator talks in somber tones about Dendahl.
Text: (spoken by a narrator) A secret meeting … the order is delivered … and the political candidate quietly goes away. Is it the Third World? The Middle East? Eastern Europe? No — it’s the New Mexico Republican Party Central Committee and John Dendahl.

First, John Dendahl sets up a meeting with Republican nominee for governor, J.R. Damron, and his wife. Dendahl tells Damron to pull out of the race. Within days, Damron is gone, and John Dendahl is the Republican candidate for governor.

Forget about elections. Forget about the voter. That’s the way John Dendahl wants it, and that’s the way it is.

And it’s not the first time. In the past, John Dendahl made six-figure cash offers to the Green Party to, in his own words, manipulate elections. He made TV commercials using doctored videotape. John Dendahl’s made false attacks in the past against Democrats and Republicans alike. This time, don’t let him get away with it.

Accuracy: While the basic chronology of the Damron/Dendahl meetings is correct, Damron, a Santa Fe radiologist, insists he wasn’t pressured to leave the race. The central committee meeting where Dendahl was nominated had been announced, though reporters were barred.

The “six-figure cash offers to the Green Party” refers to a 2002 incident in which Dendahl, then party chairman, offered Green leaders a large sum to field candidates in two Congressional districts. The Federal Election Commission investigated the matter and found no wrongdoing.
Richardson’s “fact sheet” quotes an Albuquerque Journal article in which Dendahl was quoted saying, “I am in the business of manipulating elections.” Dendahl said Thursday that he doesn’t remember the remark but said, “I was certainly in the business of trying to influence elections.”

The “doctored videotapes,” according to the Web site, refers to a 2002 commercial that never aired but was released to reporters by Dendahl at the outset of the gubernatorial campaign.

The ad showed Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., at a 2000 hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, lambasting Richardson, then U.S. Energy Department secretary, for skipping a hearing the week before.

Byrd accused Richardson of “supreme arrogance” and “contempt of Congress” and said the Senate would never again support him for any appointed office.

In a written statement in 2002, Byrd said he was “outraged that Republicans would take my remarks out of context and use them for a political attack ad against Bill Richardson.” However, nobody at the time claimed the tapes were “doctored.”

The “false attacks” against Democrats and Republicans, according to the Web site, refers to several races involving campaign material from the state GOP during Dendahl’s tenure as party chairman. In the 1999 Albuquerque city elections, Democratic Mayor Martin Chavez and Republican City Councilor Tim Cummins said attack ads against them were false. In 2001 Albuquerque City Councilor Tim Kline said a GOP mailer about his record was misleading. The “fact sheet” also cites a 1996 legislative race in which defeated Democrat incumbent Sen. Janice Paster said a GOP flier portrayed her as “soft on rape and other crimes.”

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