Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Roundhouse Roundup: Rape Jokes and Christian Nations. Another Day in NM Politics

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican 
October 14, 2010

When Texas oilman, rancher and Republican gubernatorial candidate Clayton “Claytie” Williams made an crude joke about rape in front of reporters 20 years ago, it immediately had an effect on the governor’s race in Texas. And now it’s created a stir in the 2010 New Mexico gubernatorial race.

Back in 1990, Williams quipped that rape was like bad weather. “As long as it’s inevitable, you might as well lie back and enjoy it.”

On Wednesday, following several hours of indignant e-mails, press releases, Tweets and blog posts from state Democrats, Republican gubernatorial candidate Susana Martinez decided not to hang on to $20,000 in campaign contributions. Her campaign manager, Ryan Cangiolosi, told my colleague Kate Nash that Martinez would donate the contributions to a rape crisis center in Las Cruces.

Just two years ago, GOP presidential candidate John McCain canceled a fundraiser scheduled at Williams’ home in Midland, Texas, after reporters started asking him about the rape joke. McCain said at the time he was unaware. Democrats in that instance also demanded McCain return campaign contributions — Williams had raised $300,000 or so. McCain declined to do that, saying the contributions were from people other than Williams.

The Old Wildcatter: Williams in Texas has a reputation as a colorful, irascible character. The rape joke is Williams’ most notorious utterance. But it wasn’t his only one. During the 1990 Texas gubernatorial campaign, he compared his Democratic opponent, Ann Richards, to the cattle on his ranch, bragging that he’d “head her and hoof her and drag her through the dirt.” Richards won.

Williams was quoted in a 2001 story in The Dallas Observer admitting that he’d frequented bordertown brothels as a youth.

“It’s part of growing up in West Texas ... it was a lot different then. The houses were the only place you got serviced. It was kind of what the boys did at (Texas) A&M.”

The Associated Press in 2007 ran a story about Williams’ biography Claytie: The Roller-Coaster Life of a Texas Wildcatter, written by former AP correspondent Mike Cochran. Cochran called Williams  a “remarkably unsophisticated and charmingly flawed West Texan.” The author argues it would be a shame if Williams was remembered only by his campaign gaffes.

The wire service story said Williams “climbs mountains and hunts big game. He’s known for his big grin, his love of a good drink, occasional barroom brawls and a fondness for belting out songs in Spanish.

“He learned Spanish as a teenager working alongside Mexican farm laborers,” the AP said, “and he openly uses the disparaging label ‘wets’ in one of his journal entries quoted in the book.”

Some believe Williams lost to Richards not because of his rape joke or other earthy gaffes. Instead, some say, he lost because he refused to shake Richards’ hand at a public event.

Onward Christian soldiers: If you’re a Voodoo priest who wants to officiate at a gay wedding on state trust lands, apparently you can forget about it if Republican Matt Rush gets elected as land commissioner.

A video that Rush apparently made for some church group has been popping up on several blogs lately. (Including this one now, scroll down) In it, Rush encourages Christians to get involved in politics.

“If we want to be a Christian nation again, Christian people have to start standing up, running for office again ... if we ever want to become a Christian nation again,” he says. “That’s the reason I got involved in politics.”

Rush goes on to say, “For those of us who are Christians and we are proud to say we are Christians, we need to start standing up being proud of it again and we need to take the fight to the enemy. ... We’ve got to start standing up because we are one nation under god and we need to make sure we take that back to our legislative process.”

In a prepared statement, Rush wrote, “Last summer I was more than happy to participate in a student-produced video with the idea of encouraging younger members of the church to get involved in a wide variety of activities including politics and community service. This video was shown to a youth group at the church with the hope of motivating them to move beyond their traditional circles and at the same time to take pride in their faith.”

But he didn’t answer my questions about whether he planned to use the Land Office to espouse his religion and just who “the enemy” is or where “the fight” should be taken.