By Jeff Jones
Journal Staff Writer
Some would-be spectators hoping to attend Vice President Dick Cheney's rally in Rio Rancho this weekend walked out of a Republican campaign office miffed and ticketless Thursday after getting this news:
Unless you sign an endorsement for President George W. Bush, you're not getting any passes.
The Albuquerque Bush-Cheney Victory office in charge of doling out the tickets to Saturday's event was requiring the endorsement forms from people it could not verify as supporters.
State Rep. Dan Foley, R-Roswell, speaking on behalf of the Republican Party, said Thursday that a "known Democrat operative group" was intending to try to crash Saturday's campaign rally at Rio Rancho Mid-High School. He added that some people were providing false names and addresses and added that tickets for the limited-seating event should go to loyal Bush backers.
However, some who left the office off Osuna NE without tickets on Thursday said they're not affiliated with an operative group and should have a right to see their vice president without pledging their allegiance to Bush.
"I'm outraged at this. I'm being closed off by my own government. It's crazy," said East Mountains resident Pamela Random, who added that she is an unaffiliated voter.
John Wade of Albuquerque said he initially signed the endorsement but was having second thoughts before he even left the office. Wade, a Democrat, said he returned his tickets and demanded to get his endorsement form back.
"It's not right for me to have to sign an endorsement to hear (Cheney) speak," Wade said. "I'm still pissed. This just ain't right."
Yier Shi, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, which is putting on Saturday's event, confirmed that those interested in seeing Cheney were asked to sign an endorsement form if they couldn't be verified as Bush-Cheney supporters.
He said campaign workers got such verification by checking to see whether, among other things, someone has contributed money or volunteered for the campaign. When asked whether workers were also checking the party affiliation of those asking for tickets, he said that was a possibility.
John Sanchez, chairman of the Bush-Cheney '04 re-election effort in the Southwest, said he wasn't aware of the endorsement matter, adding, "I would be surprised" if it was happening. However, he said he works directly for the Bush-Cheney campaign and the rally is a Republican National Committee event.
An endorsement form provided to the Journal by Random says: "I, (full name) ... do herby (sic) endorse George W. Bush for reelection of the United States." It later adds that, "In signing the above endorsement you are consenting to use and release of your name by Bush-Cheney as an endorser of President Bush."
A Journal reporter, who is a registered Democrat, called to inquire about a ticket Thursday afternoon. He was asked for his name, address and driver's license number but was not told over the telephone that he would need to sign any endorsement form. He got the news after arriving at the Bush-Cheney office.
Random and Wade said they were also not informed of the requirement until they showed up at the office.
Another Journal employee, who is a registered Republican, visited the office Thursday morning and got a ticket without being asked to sign the form.
The John Kerry/John Edwards campaign on Thursday issued a news release that asked, "Shouldn't all New Mexicans have the right to see their VP?"
Ruben Pulido Jr., a spokesman for that campaign, said the Democratic Party has no screening requirements for those interested in seeing Kerry or Edwards.
When Kerry visited Albuquerque earlier this month, a contingent of Bush supporters were in the crowd. The Associated Press has reported that the group chanted "Viva Bush!" during the event. The AP added that Kerry urged the crowd to tolerate the Bush supporters.
Moses Mercado, head of the Kerry-Edwards campaign in New Mexico, was in Boston on Thursday for the Democratic National Convention. He challenged Republicans to open their event "to all New Mexicans."
"I love when they come to New Mexico, but I wish they'd talk to New Mexicans and let New Mexicans hear their plan," Mercado said. "Because I think they (New Mexicans) really are hungry. They want answers."
Foley countered that Republicans weren't invited to Kerry's nomination-acceptance speech Thursday evening at that convention.
"This is a political event— just like (Thursday night)," Foley said of Cheney's upcoming visit.
Shi said the Rio Rancho event is intended to "energize" Bush-Cheney supporters, and organizers don't want it disrupted.
"We've received dozens and dozens of calls from Kerry-Edwards (supporters) who have used deceitful tactics to try and get in and disrupt this event," he said. "Our supporters have worked too hard to have an event like this get disrupted."
Security for Cheney's visit is exceptionally tight. There will be no parking at the school where he is to speak: Rally participants will instead be shuttled to the event.
Those without tickets, including protesters, are to be in a designated area across from the school.
Jim Tillery, a Rio Rancho teacher, signed the endorsement form when he came to the office Thursday afternoon. But he said he sees no problem with having Bush detractors in the crowd.
Tillery said there was a "mixed crowd" when Cheney made a visit to Rio Rancho in October 2000, and Cheney deftly handled questions from those detractors.
This time around, "my guess is they probably just wanted a rally of support rather than having the diggers or bashers mixed in with them," he said.
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