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GOP gets involved in ad squabble

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Complaints prompt chairman to ask Susana Martinez and Allen Weh to substantiate their charges against the other

By Sue M. Holmes

ALBUQUERQUE — The New Mexico Republican Party chairman said on Monday he interjected himself into a squabble over attack ads by two GOP gubernatorial front-runners because of calls from rank-and-file Republicans disgusted by the tone of the campaign.

The complaints prompted a three-member committee, including GOP chairman Harvey Yates Jr., to ask both Dona Ana County district attorney Susana Martinez and former state GOP chairman Allen Weh to substantiate their charges against the other.

“We have to distinguish between negativity and dishonesty,” Yates said.

Typically, state parties and their top officials avoid taking sides in a primary election, and Yates acknowledged “it’s unusual for a chairman to do this.” But, he said, “either we stand for honesty or not. I think we ought to, and that’s why I’ve done this.”

The committee found the documents furnished by Martinez’s campaign “reasonably supported” her ad against Weh, but that documents outlined by Weh’s campaign on a Web site didn’t reasonably support either his radio or his TV ad, Yates said.

Weh’s campaign manager, Whitney Cheshire, said Sunday the campaign stands by the accuracy of its ad. Cheshire said Yates’ “biased interference in a primary contest is harmful to the Republican Party and wrong for our state.”

Martinez’s campaign manager, Adam Deguire, said the party’s analysis speaks for itself.

Yates said Weh’s campaign contended Martinez went negative first, and it had a right to run its ad as a result.

“I’m not talking about negativity, I’m talking about dishonesty. ... We’re standing up and drawing a line — we’re not going to have dishonest ads coming out of the Republican Party,” he said.

Weh and Martinez are leading the five-person GOP primary race, with the backing of 31 percent and 30 percent of those surveyed, respectively, in a poll published May 16 by the Albuquerque Journal.

Albuquerque attorney Pete Domenici Jr. had the support of 10 percent, public relations firm owner Doug Turner had 6 percent and 3 percent favored state Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones. A fifth of the voters were undecided or wouldn’t say which candidate they backed.