Thursday, November 01, 2007


A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
November 1, 2007

Will New Mexico be the scene of the next “Macaca moment”?

You never know. But Albuquerque Mayor Marty Chavez’s Senate campaign has hired a Berkeley-based online media consultant most famous for helping make “Macaca” a household word.

Surely you remember Macaca. Republican U.S. Sen. George Allen of Virginia was considered a shoo-in for re-election in 2006 as well as a strong Republican presidential hopeful. That’s before he was captured on video mocking a staffer for his Democratic opponent Jim Webb. His target was a law student of East Indian descent. “Let’s give a welcome to Macaca here! Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia!” Although the term was perceived to be a racist slur, Allen denied it.

Webb’s Internet strategist Brent Blackaby of Blackrock Associates made sure the video of the incident was posted on YouTube and soon it was burned into the consciousness of anyone in the world halfway interested in politics. Allen ended up losing his Senate seat and discarding his presidential plans. (You can see that magic moment at the bottom of this post.)

“That’s the beauty of the Internet,” Blackaby said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “It makes campaigns more authentic.”

Blackrock also has worked for the campaigns of 2004 presidential candidate Wesley Clark, U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer, Patrick Leahy, Carl Levin, Mary Landrieu, Amy Klobuchar and Blanche Lincoln.

In the case the Webb campaign, Blackaby said, the Macaca incident played into a story line that already was developing about Allen — suspicions of racism due to old friends alleging the senator had used the “N” word, his reported obsession with the Confederacy and the fact he kept a noose in his office.

Blackaby said Chavez didn’t hire him to follow opponents around with Camcorders. “In time, that could happen,” he said. “But right now we’re focused on how best to tell Marty’s story.”

He’s also responsible for Chavez’s Web site, currently under construction.

Reach out and blog someone: One of Blackaby’s first activities with the Chavez campaign was organizing a conference call with progressive bloggers in New Mexico. Blackaby said about a dozen bloggers participated Tuesday. “This was the first in a series,” he said. “Marty just wanted to introduce himself, take a few questions and start building relationships.”
Relationship building couldn’t hurt. Chavez isn’t exactly a hero with some of the progressive blogs in this state. Just last week Democracy for New Mexico posted, “Marty doesn’t seem to get that there’s a big difference between being supportive of local business interests and giving away the store to sprawl developers and other big donors while claiming to be ‘progressive’ and ‘green.’ ”

Blogger Heath Haussamen, who participated in Tuesday’s conference call, reported some of the bloggers brought up Chavez’s recent statement that U.S. Rep. Tom Udall — who many progressive Democrats would like to see run for the Senate seat, despite Udall’s declaration he’s not running — is too far to the left to be elected. (Chavez reportedly assured the bloggers that he and Udall are great friends and he’d probably vote the same way as the congressman most of the time.)

“There was clearly some awkwardness about the conversation, but the bloggers also sounded genuinely happy to have such access to Chavez,” Haussamen wrote.

Score one for Blackaby.

Richardson in Philly: I didn’t actually see this while viewing Tuesday’s televised debate from Philadelphia on MSNBC, but the Associated Press reported that after not being called on for the first 20 minutes of the debate “... Gov. Bill Richardson threw up his hands in protest that he hadn’t been called on either and exchanged a frustrated glance with (Dennis) Kucinich.”

Indeed, that’s increasingly becoming a problem for Richardson in recent debates as his poll numbers stagnate and, in some cases, sink.

But there was one question that I’m betting Richardson was happy to be ignored on. The question of granting driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. Front-runner Hillary Clinton was blasted by several of her opponents Tuesday and all across punditdom on Wednesday for giving two answers to that question: She thinks such a law is “a good idea” in New York, but she’s not supporting the law.

Richardson did not barge into the fray to point out that he backed and signed such a law several years ago in New Mexico.

Reasons not to run: State Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones of Albuquerque still is considering a Republican primary-election race for Congress. But when I saw her at the Roundhouse on Wednesday she said the list of reasons not to run is starting to get a lot longer than the list of reasons to run. She said she’s waiting on the results of a poll she commissioned before making a final decision.

So far, Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White is the only Republican in that race.

UPDATE: I changed a bonehead error in the original post. ALLEN, not Webb lost his Senate seat. I knew that ...

Below is the infamous Macaca video.

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