"When Politics Turns Ugly in Otero County"


John Block Attack Dirty Politics in Otero County (AlamogordoTownNews.con)

Alamogordo and Otero County election season is in full swing and as it progresses the mud has begun to fly. There have been subtle attacks on several of the candidates but nothing too overt until these final weeks. The has received a multitude of letters and "tips" on corruption, perceived corruption and inuendo about many of the candidates. 

While we appreciate the tips the public needs to be reminded, we are not a platform that published "false news," or unproven news. We produce articles that are based on research and facts that are documented and sourced and would hold to the grounds of traditional journalistic research with facts checked and documented in our notes to defend any article or statement.

Letters that are unsigned and sent to us without name, address and phone number and without facts backing the issue brought before us cannot be published as we will not become a platform of insinuation and propaganda like "Facebook, Twitter or the varied social media platforms.  When we do an opinion piece it is identified as such, if we do a hard news piece you can count on the fact we have researched and attempted to get a statement or response from the applicable party.

As the mud slings we have received several letters related to the race with Amy Barela and GB Oliver. If we were to believe everything, we read, sent to us without signature, then our response would be thar both have lived a charmed and highly eventful life, and they should each write a book. If they did and it was confirmed the many crazy stories sent to us, we would certainly publish as it would be the next HBO best watched mini-series. But until which time either candidate decides to publish their memoirs, we will assume a majority of the "tips" sent to us are false stories and "urban legends."

There is mud being slung in another race which is a bit more public. After last night's debate at the civic center hosted by the moderate wing of the Republican Party people at their cars were greeted with a flyer on their windshield that accused Couy Griffin of "domestic terrorism" and asks people to contact the attorney general's office with their concerns. Interestingly Couy is not on the ballot this election and his term will end this year.

We reached out to Couy Griffin for comment on this flyer and on the issues transpiring with other campaigns and his response was: “I don’t have a personal or public opinion to share at this time on these issues, Chris.” 

We appreciate Couy responding back to us, quickly and with brevity.

The candidates running against on the Republican side, former Republican Party of Otero County Chair, Amy Barela is running against Alamogordo Center of Commerce Executive Director, G.B. Oliver.

On the Democratic side, dog groomer and former Democratic Party of Otero County Chairwoman Stephanie DuBois is running against retired archaeologist and cultural resource manager David Greenwald. The Democrats appear to be civil and thus far relatively quiet in the runoff.

The race with the most visible angst among the candidates is the race between incumbent Rachel Black, who served three years as state Representative for District 51 and opponent John Block, editor and founder of conservative online publication The Piñon Post.

If one follows the social media pages of each candidate one sees there is no love being shown. Mr. Block has gone on a very aggressive form of attack and has tried to paint Mrs. Black into a corner as not conservative enough to represent the values of Otero County. Whereas Mrs. Black has touted her conservative values with an ability to reach compromise for what is best for her constituents. The voters are deciding. 

What is clear is there are some overzealous radicals within the Republican establishment that are focused on "traditional family values" and don't seem to appreciate that candidate Block is involved in a relationship with another male, that being seated city commissioner, Karl Melton. received multiple reports that a letter circulated to the donors of John Block that showed a photo of him and his life partner with a statement on the back that read, "Thank you so much for your contribution! I can't wait to represent YOUR values in Santa Fe. - John."  

We reached out to confirm rather this issue was real or if it was another of the many "tips" we get that are rumor and urban legend. Though Mr. Block at first did not respond to our request when we visited his Facebook Page, we found a post where he responded to the letter in a post.

His response posted on April 23 on Facebook showed the photo in question and the writen statement and the post in response reads, "A certain someone seems threatened by our campaign and is committing MAIL FRAUD by sending a letter under my name with a picture of Karl and I holding hands. This was sent to all my donors in Alamogordo.

I would like to see my opponent denounce this illegal tactic tactic, and pledge to do her part to ensure a fair and transparent election. I never hide who I am, but it is clear that some of my opponents supporters want to weaponize my personal life to take me down. Rachael needs to condemn this and do her part to stop this disgusting, bigoted, and unacceptable act of mail fraud.

I am in the process of reporting this to the New Mexico Secretary of State and other authorities, if necessary. I will not be bullied or intimidated by my opponents. I would hope that we can focus on issues alone and not make it personal."

We reached out to Mr. Block on Tuesday for comment or for any updates to NO response. We followed up again on Thursday and asked if he had a response and the comment via text was "Frankly, I don't have time right now with three weeks before the election..."

In a prior conversation with Mr. Block's partner, Karl, we were going to run a story on the diversity of the Alamogordo City Commission, as with Karl Melton's appointment it made the Alamogordo City  commission one of the most diverse in New Mexico representing the LBGTQ + community, people of color and having a female mayor among other attributes. That in itself is new worthy to Northern New Mexico given the conservative base of Otero County,  however the response we received from Mr. Melton was that he, "does not participate in identity politics." As such, we did not run the story out of respect for his political leanings and that of respecting the diversity of the commission. Instead we have waited and monitored its effectiveness under the new administration of Mayor Susan Payne and her leadership. What had come to bare is a commission that is diverse, but in that diversity seems to be a spirit of collaboration in moving projects forward for the good of the city. That leadership is coming from the Mayors office and is an example other political leaders could learn from in Otero County. 

"Identity Politics" in political science and sociology is taught and studied in the academic world. "Identity Politics" is defined as the study of how political issues and perspectives are affected by personal characteristics - Traditional Identities, Race, Ethnicity, Gender, Class, Sexual Orientation, Political Affiliations, Economics, are all studied as "Modern Identities "and their reactions to issues is of significant study in upper echelons of political theory and tactics by political consultants and researchers for both parties, Republican and Democrat.

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is a case study used in many textbooks in the study of identity politics as one of those pioneering American leaders whose story is for the history books. Born in the segregated south in the 1950s, Rice couldn’t step foot in certain movie theaters and restaurants when she was a little girl. By the time she stepped foot in the White House as a National Security Advisor and then Secretary of State, she was one of the most powerful people in the world—and the highest-ranking black woman in the history of the United States until the election of Vice President Kamala Harris.

With the rapid rise of technology and social media, people are developing “networks” where they interact in like-minded tribes thereby creating a more unstable public sphere than ever before in dialog. Such niche communities drive fake news and extreme views, and identity politics is being encouraged by the tribalism of the internet. 

The reality is we all participate in identity politics and it is practiced every time a person goes onto a social media platform. The reason is the algorithms that drive content are driven by what you like, dislike, comment on and identify with and then the algorithms feed you content based upon you "identifiers." 

So yes, we all participate in identity politics either willingly or non-willingly, but we do. The question then becomes what actions are spun off of that ideology. 

The recent actions of those political zealots represented by the flyer attacking Couy Griffin and the mailer that went out on John Black are the ugly reminders of the tribalism that still exists in this country.

We call for civil dialog, and an end by all parties, on personal attacks. Let's focus on the issues of who can do the better job. The leadership of BOTH parties should denounce personal attacks and actions by their supporters that are negative and have the supporters praise the better qualities of each candidate, verses trying to destroy each other.

Politics can be dirty, and the stakes are high but there was a time politics was viewed as a noble profession.  We challenge the candidates to set the example and ensure that nobility is brought forward via their actions and lead through civility, and embrace differences, yet find common ground for compromise verses division and obstructionism.

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