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Tea Party: Poll Watchers Not Disrupters

By Sean Olson
Journal Staff Writer
           The state Democrat Party is taking swings at local tea party organizations, accusing the groups of trying to disenfranchise Democratic voters.
        But tea party members say the Democrats are using inaccurate information to drum up controversy over a common election practice.
        Democratic Party of New Mexico Executive Director Scott Forrester told supporters in an e-mail that the Albuquerque Tea Party's intention to put "watchers" at polling precincts was a thinly veiled attempt to intimidate Democrats into not voting.
        "As you read this e-mail, tea partiers are being trained by (the Republican Party of New Mexico) in their offices to disrupt the election," Forrester wrote. "You and I both know what's going on here — the tea party is trying to sabotage this election and are hoping Democrats don't get out and vote. They know if we do, they lose the election."
        Albuquerque Tea Party acting secretary Debbie Weisman said the organization trained separately from the state GOP and simply wanted to do its part for the state.
        "We're certainly not being trained to disrupt the election," Weisman said. "We just want what most New Mexicans want, which is a fair election."
        Watchers observe polling precincts to ensure that election laws are followed. They do not challenge ballots, as some representatives, usually from the state parties, are allowed to do. The Democratic Party also uses watchers.
        Forrester calls for Democrats to volunteer for their own poll training to counteract tea party influence.
        "We need every Democrat to show ... we won't be intimidated into not voting," Forrester writes.
        Weisman said Forrester's e-mail is more of an indicator of the state Democratic Party's character than the tea party's.
        "That shows who they are," Weisman said. "They don't know anything about the tea party and never have. We don't intimidate people; we never have."
        Forecast — More Mud: It appears as though the bitter tone of the 2010 election might continue up until Election Day.
        Although some races have traditionally spent the last week focusing on positive messages for candidates, New Mexico's gubernatorial nominees — at least at the beginning of the final week — are still battering each other with new ads.
        Republican Susana Martinez released two new ads on Monday, both attacking Denish.
        One compiles a list of criticisms Martinez has leveled at Denish over the months. The other attempts to link Denish to a Texas corporation that requested New Mexico water in 2005.
        Denish's latest ad compares her endorsement by former President Bill Clinton to Martinez's primary election endorsement by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
        Last week, Denish released another ad postulating on what state services Martinez would cut if elected.
        The gubernatorial contest will be decided Nov. 2.
        In theory, the negative ads will stop then.

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