A Democratic candidate for governor of New Mexico is fuming over a prerecorded message campaign by a state family-values group that he said was deceptive and unfairly targeted him.
The message, issued by the New Mexico Family Council, alerted New Mexico residents to a gay rights rally held June 23 in Albuquerque, NM. The messages went June 21-22 to 20,000 people living within one-hour driving distance of the rally, said Kevin Jackson, president of the New Mexico Family Council.
The message, which features the voice of Jackson's wife, Kathy, mentioned that a representative of the candidate, former Clinton cabinet member Bill Richardson, would be at the rally. It left the impression that the call was from rally organizers and implied that Richardson supported issues that he does not, said Billy Sparks, Richardson's spokesman.
According to Jackson, the New Mexico Family Council is an issue-based, nonpartisan organization that does not endorse candidates. He said the group had fought against New Mexico's GOP Gov. Gary Johnson when he called for a debate on the legalization of drugs.
“We work closely with both sides of the aisle,” Jackson said.
According to Richardson's campaign, that's hard to believe, given the content of the message.
“Richardson is the only name mentioned in the script,” Sparks said. “It's difficult not to assume we were being targeted.”
Jackson said the messages encouraged residents to attend the rally and learn about gay rights and issues. It also said the group “wants you to hear an opposing viewpoint from people who may support same-sex marriage, gay and lesbian adoptions, health benefits for homosexual partners and school homosexuality training.”
The council originally thought Richardson would be present, but decided not to say so in the message because the group couldn't confirm that with the rally organizers, Jackson said.
“We erred on the side of safety,” Jackson said. “We feel we researched it out well.”
As it turned out, Richardson was not present, having been scheduled to spend the day with his mother for her birthday, Sparks said. Furthermore, Richardson does not support same-sex marriage, though he opposes discrimination of all kinds.
Sparks disputed Jackson's claim of calling only residents in the Albuquerque area, saying that his office had reports of residents receiving calls as far as three hours away at the Texas border. He also denied that the group identified itself in the recording.
“If they made 20,000 calls with their name in it, one person should be able to tell us who made the calls,” Sparks said. “Nobody did.”