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Monday, October 27, 2008
First District Candidates Clash Over Negative Ads and Campaign Funding
By Colleen Heild
Journal Staff Writer
Democrat Martin Heinrich said he's planning to focus on positive campaigning in the final days of the contentious 1st District Congressional race.
Republican rival Darren White said negative advertising in politics needs to be "cleaned up," but he also said ads help voters make informed decisions.
The exchange came during a forum sponsored by Congregation Albert and the Albuquerque Journal, one of a pair of debates Sunday between the two candidates vying for the central New Mexico U.S. House seat.
In response to an audience question at Congregation Albert about how to reduce negative ads and whether criminal penalties should apply for misleading political ads, Heinrich said, "You should be able to show proof that your claims are factual. I don't believe that's the case today.
"I think the television stations will run absolutely anything under the guise of free speech no matter how far divorced it is from the truth," said Heinrich, whose campaign was recently unsuccessful in convincing TV stations to pull a White ad that Heinrich claimed was false.
White said, "We'd all like to see it (negative advertising) cleaned up, but ... at the end of the day, you have to make an informed decision, because, if you want to see a bunch of lies, just allow politicians to talk about themselves."
Heinrich, a former Albuquerque city councilor, told the audience that his campaign intended to close out the next week or so "with a positive message from me in the next 10 days saying what I actually want to do for this country, the changes I want to make for this country."
He told White that he had yet to see one television ad about what "you (are) going to do for us, how are you going to change this country, not a single ad."
White, the Bernalillo County sheriff, countered that Heinrich was being misleading.
"Martin, you're trying to portray yourself as running a positive campaign because you're going to spend a couple of hundred bucks this last week to run some positive ads when you've run $3 million worth of negative ads against me. Let me remind you, if you walk in and rob a bank and an hour later you take the money back, you're still a bank robber."
(The Congregation Albert debate is scheduled to be rebroadcast by 89.1 KANW-FM radio at 9 a.m. today.)
Later Sunday, the two men clashed over campaign contributions during a televised debate sponsored by the Journal and KOAT-TV.
Heinrich contended that White received "illegal contributions" from officials of TruTouch Technologies, which received a sole-source contract earlier this year for the sheriff's department to test high-tech, noninvasive DWI enforcement technology. Heinrich said the contributions violated a state ethics law.
The sole-source arrangement was granted because TruTouch has a patent on the one-of-a-kind device that purportedly tells whether someone is intoxicated by shining light on their arm and measuring the light that returns to the surface.
"I've never taken an illegal contribution from anybody," White retorted. "That was a Democratic-controlled Bernalillo County Commission that approved that sole-source contract, not me. It's been clearly documented that I followed the law."
TruTouch President James McNally couldn't be reach for comment Sunday.
White said Heinrich took contributions from Albuquerque developer Jason Daskalos after helping Daskalos obtain zoning waivers to develop condominiums on Central Avenue and from a developer who received industrial revenue bonds from the city to redo La Posada hotel.