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          Front Page




Campaign Mailer Called 'Racist'

By Jeff Proctor
Journal Staff Writer
    Black community leaders on Sunday called a campaign mailer by Republican state treasurer candidate Demesia Padilla "racist," demanded apologies from Padilla and the New Mexico GOP and vowed that "the black community's voice will be heard at the polls on Nov. 7."
    The mailer— a caricature sketch— portrays Padilla's Democratic opponent James B. Lewis, who is black, as a grinning puppet and Gov. Bill Richardson as the puppeteer.
    "When you portray a black man as senseless, weak and helpless like that, it reminds us of the Jim Crow era in this country," said the Rev. N.D. Smith, president of the Ministers Fellowship of Albuquerque, during a news conference at Macedonia Baptist Church, 1509 Edith SE.
    "We believe (the mailer) was tasteless and racist," Smith said. "Miss Padilla owes Mr. Lewis and every African- American in the state of New Mexico a written apology, a sincere apology."
    In a statement released Sunday, Padilla said:
    "Mr. Lewis and his supporters are attempting to distract voters from the fact that he accepted $10,000 from Governor Richardson and that he was quoted in the media saying the (state treasurer) 'should be under the governor.' The purpose of the postcard was to illustrate that my opponent will not be independent of the governor and will not institute the necessary checks and balances should he be elected."
    The mailer was aimed at one of the key issues in the race for state treasurer: whether the position should continue to be decided by an election, or be appointed by the governor. The issue arose after then-state Treasurer Robert Vigil and his predecessor, Michael Montoya were arrested last year on extortion charges.
    Lewis was quoted in an Albuquerque Tribune column last year as saying the post "should probably be under the governor." The mailer makes a prominent reference to the quote.
    In her statement, Padilla continued: "After the outrageous and embarrassing scandals that have plagued the state Treasurer's Office, the voters of New Mexico deserve a strong, independent state Treasurer and not the hand-picked choice of the governor."
    Speaking at the news conference, State Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton, D-Albuquerque, said Padilla and the state Republican Party "showed blatant racism" by sending out the mailer.
    "A candidate for the Republican Party actually played the race card," Stapleton said. "And the Republican Party said it was just a cartoon."
    Padilla last week told the Journal that the mailer "is a cartoon. I just don't see it as racial."
    Smith, Stapleton and Josef Powdrell, president of the Albuquerque NAACP chapter, said the mailer will get black voters to the polls— and they won't be voting for Padilla on Nov. 7.
    "We want this community and this state to know that we are serious about ... such racism, and we want them to know that we can make a difference," Smith said. "We've been in touch with pastors across the state, and we're encouraging people to vote against Miss Padilla."