Anything a candidate says on the campaign trail can be used as ammunition in the rough-and-tumble world of politics.

Even one word.

After Republican state Sen. Mark Moores said at a forum Tuesday that water access has been an issue “since we first civilized the Southwest,” the Democratic Party of New Mexico accused the 1st Congressional District candidate of spewing racist language.

The word “civilized” has different connotations for different people, at least in the political sphere.

“Moores’ statement that the Southwest was ‘uncivilized’ before colonizers arrived echoes racist rhetoric used against Native Americans for decades,” Democratic Party spokeswoman Miranda van Dijk wrote in an email. “He has been criticized by Indigenous leaders for his racist language that devalues the contributions that Native American civilizations have made to New Mexico, the Southwest, and our nation as a whole.”

Moores said the Democratic Party was twisting his words.

“What an exhausting, woke joke,” he said. “You have got to be kidding.”

Moores, who has been highlighting his family roots in Northern New Mexico as he campaigns for the vacant congressional seat in a special election June 1, said he is the only person in the race “with both Hispanic and Indigenous blood that dates back to New Mexico well past hundreds of years.”

“Their notion that the Chacoan culture and Pueblo culture and Mesa Verde and all the other wonderful cultures in the Southwest didn’t exist before the Spanish shows their ignorance to our history in the Southwest and the beneficial use of water that predates any European colonization,” he said. “I’m offended of their ignorance of New Mexico history.”

It’s not the first time a candidate in the 1st Congressional District has been ensnared by comments deemed racist by some.

In March, Republican Whip Rep. Rod Montoya of Farmington accused Rep. Melanie Stansbury, an Albuquerque Democrat who is running against Moores, of making “racially insensitive comments” during the 60-day legislative session.

During discussion and debate on a bill that would, among other things, establish deadlines for the state to achieve specific reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, Montoya asked Stansbury, who sponsored the legislation, what people employed by the oil and gas industry would do for work.

“What do they do to provide for their families when their jobs go away?” he asked.

“If you’re in a rural Diné community, that could be selling your art or your wool using the internet,” she responded at one point.

“Why were these comments not plastered all over social media or in local news?” Montoya wrote in a letter to leaders of both parties. “I can only surmise that her comments were ignored because she is a ‘well-meaning,’ white, progressive Democrat who is running for Congress.”

Rep. Derrick Lente, a Sandia Pueblo Democrat who is Native American, said there’s no comparison between what Stansbury said at a legislative committee meeting in February and what Moores said at Tuesday’s forum. He said Stansbury’s comments are rooted in reality.

“It’s a fact that many of our community members, our Indigenous community members, that’s how they sustain themselves,” he said, referring to Stansbury’s remarks. “That’s their livelihood, is their art and their craft. … I wasn’t offended in regards to those comments at all.”

On the other hand, Lente said he found Moores’ comments beyond offensive.

“I am appalled at the type of rhetoric that is spewed in this day and age with as much as we’ve gone through with Black Lives Matter, George Floyd and within our own state,” he said, adding he found Moores’ remarks upsetting.

“When he talks about ‘since we first civilized the Southwest,’ you know, it makes us take 10 steps back,” Lente said.

If Moores’ comments were taken out of context as Moores claims, Lente said, “then perhaps he should learn how to articulate his positions a little bit better,” not only as a sitting state senator but as a candidate for a congressional district that covers a diverse part of New Mexico.

Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter @danieljchacon.

(41) comments

Shawn E. Bravo

The fact that so many people can become upset over one word is quite strange to me. If you don’t agree with this mans views then by all means do not vote for him. But really? This grand a response over a word. I must have missed something somewhere.

Jim Klukkert

Yes, Shawn E. Bravo, you missed something somewhere, maybe a whole boat load of something somewhere.

To catch up with civilized 21st century folks of the compassionate variety, you might look into:

1. sensitivity to folks of other ethnic, sexual orientation, gender identifying groups.

2. the history of the suffering of various goups, for example indigenous peoples, at the hands of dominating newcomers, also called colonizers. You are Anglo ¿que no?

3. the history how various single words have been used in the oppression of various groups. There are so many to choose from- w*p, sp*c, n*gg*r, k*k*, w*t b*ck. Okay, that's two, but you get my point.

4. the way that related words are used to describe the actions of men and women. A man is detail oriented, a woman is picky. A man is a leader, a woman is aggressive. And so on...

The choice of words conveys the message we chose to disseminate. It is extremely important for those of us who fight structural racism, white skin privilege, and sexism.

But as I said, I think you are white and male, so maybe the issues implicit in word choice is part of your privilege.

Shawn E. Bravo

Thank you Klukkert for making these numerous connections for me. Let me go out on a limb here and say you’ve been a long time reader/supporter/commentator of the Santa Fe New Mexican. Based on several comments of yours that I have read it seems that you are a well spoken man capable of expressing ideas and opinions clearly.

Might I make one suggestion however? In my short time reading amongst this community, I’ve asked several times to try and be better informed as to how (what I assume are all Democratic individuals) are able to come to certain conclusion that I myself have not been able to reach.

Even my last post was posed as a question. So if your intention truly is to “fight structural racism, white skin privilege, and sexism” then sir I would greatly encourage you to change your tactics. Some people come here to spew their opinions with no greater thought or purpose. (I too become annoyed with these types Rep or Dem) But others of us are simply discouraged by what we’ve seen happening in this great state in which we live, (Assuming you’re a NM native) and are looking for ways to repair some of the damage. We each have a voice, and we ought be very careful how we use it.

I will say once more that for me, the word “Civilized” does not relate in any way to your points 1, 3, and 4. I fully expected the argument you made in point 2, and that is a discussion I’d be more than willing to have. That is of course, if you’re here to discuss, rather than argue.

Matt Matadoro

Moore illuminates his cultural ignorance. The very term, "woke" is a phrase incessantly parroted by Rupert Murdoch's Faux News bots. The only question really before us is, by how much is this Trump drone going to get whupped by? Make sure you vote. Good riddance, Moore, you lost us at "Hello."

Lee Vigil

Moores seems unwilling and unlikely to learn. Most people's philosophy is that when you offend someone, intentionally or not, that you acknowledge, apologize, and learn/evolve. That doesn't seem to be a possibility for this guy. I could see the remark being a sloppy off-the tongue remark. If so, then it reveals his bias, in that in his mind, the place's history began/mattered only at the arrival of European settlers. In truth, the place has always been dry and water's always been scarce (except when it was covered in water about 350 million years ago), which is a leading candidate for why the ancient Chacoans migrated and abandoned Northern New Mexico altogether. So why not acknowledge your mistake and learn from it? It's what mature people do. I would assume that this is the kind of characteristic we want for someone in a leadership role.

Khal Spencer

Exactly, Lee. You hit the nail on the head.

Bruce Taylor

People like Mark Moores eventually -- usually sooner than later -- self-reveal their systemic racism. It is the perpetual pandemic of today's GOP -- perhaps not exclusively, but darned close! The truth often lies in exactly what someone says. The first time they say it, believe them.

mark Coble

Perpetual victim class ALWAYS plays race card...or lack of diversity....or lack of equality...or anything but reason. You must be blue haired, obese, gender confused person of color are racist!

Francisco Carbajal

One commentary: If Mark Moore really cared about the beautiful contributions of "New Mexico History" since the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and so forth, then, as a New Mexico State Senator, where was his voting track record which exhibited and reflected an preservation effort to protect the NM Land Grants, NM Acequia's, NM Spanish/Indian Language, including the Native-American History within the parameters of the NM Higher Education System? Nada!

William Mee

"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross." - Sinclair Lewis / Abraham Lincoln / Einstein

Michael Kiley

GOP. Illiterate. Ignorant. Illusionary. Insane. Impudent. Ill-mannered. Irreverent. Irreligious. Insipid. Intemperate. Illogical. Indecent. Impertinent. Inveigling. Ill. Icky. Vote GOP? That's your menu, but you have to eat it ALL.

Khal Spencer

Now that you went through your litany of insults starting with the letter "i", do you have something useful to add?

Grace Trujillo

I'm pretty sure Mr. Moore is not from New Mexico and does not represent New Mexican ways.

Diane Denish

Mark Moores was born and raised in Maryland....and came here for football, not for his family heritage or culture. When he says "we" have been here since the 1600's.....he's referring to someone else who were native New Mexicans but he is not.

Khal Spencer

He may have gotten here for a football scholarship, but stayed around to get his degrees, including an MBA, and run a business. He gives more back to the community than many.

ba hop

dont be fooled by words -- 'watch what they do' these days the choice is stark & clear --between GOP Autocracy or the survival & evolution of Democracy... pass the 'For the People Act' will go a long way from stopping the fascist cult from turning out the lights on this country as we've known it.

Cleve Spence

Voters need to realize if Moores is sent to D.C. he will have to goose-step with McCarthy, Green, Boebert and the rest of the congressional nut cases promoting The Big Lie!

Lee DiFiore

And voters need to realize if Stansbury is sent to D.C she will be goose-stepping to AOC, the squad, nancy and chuck. So what's your point? There's not a politician on either side of the isle that cares about any of us.

Jim Klukkert

Lee DiFiore- in an opinion piece decrying racist rhetoric, you are going to imply that Ms. Stansbury and/or Congresswoman is a 'goose-stepping' fascist?

Shame on you, Mr. Difiore, for your excesses in rhetoric and for your ignorant display of the very same while all the while we rational sorts try to tamp down the flames of hatred.

mark Coble

But many folks think one party is better. I don't.

Russell Scanlon

. . . And it doesn’t help that the beard makes him look like Ted Cruz.

Stefanie Beninato

"...since New Mexico has been inhabited..." would have been a more accurate way of stating it.

Khal Spencer

It WAS inhabited, otherwise we would not have had the Pueblo Revolt. Its just that the Catholic/Hispanic colonizers didn't consider the Pueblo folks as "civilized". Of course neither did the conquering Anglos. How many TV shows did I watch as a kid referring to those "savage indians"?

Still, another case of gotcha politics.

Khal Spencer

I love the pearl-clutching.

Prince Michael Jauregui

Here, here Khal. You're probably aware, I maintain an eternal opposition to both utterly corrupted, special-interested Political parties. Plainly, rather than confronting the myriad of serious issues facing the state, the politicians focus upon a single WORD. Like good cons, shamelessly working it.

Khal Spencer

That was actually my concern as well. Another case of "gotcha" politics.

Russell Scanlon

I guess the choice is between “clutching pearls” or marching with Fascists.

Bring on the pearls.

Khal Spencer

False dichotomy, Russell. Shame on you.

Russell Scanlon

Well there are only two viable political parties right now and only one party that is being run by responsible adults. I agree that these kerfuffles over language choices are overwrought and detract from the work of actual governance. On the other hand, “gaffes” often reveal what the person is really thinking. These dust ups over gotcha politics do not change the fact that the MAGA Republicans really need to go. Now.

No apologies. These are the choices we are faced with.

Khal Spencer

Point made, Mr. Scanlon. That said, I vote for people, not parties. Unfortunately, as you imply, the GOP has kind of purged itself of a lot of thoughtful people.

I worked with at least a half dozen Republicans in Los Alamos county government; they were good, thoughtful people. A lot of them fled the GOP or have gone into radio silence about party.

In this case it is irrelevant since its not my district/not my clown car. Mr. Moores has not impressed me with his campaigning but that's based on more than one comment that reveals his cultural bias. I can live with a certain amount of cultural bias as long as it is recognized by the holder as a fault and compensation is made. We all have feet of clay. Even fully woke Democrats. Its the virtue signalling and gotcha politics that I find tiring.

Lupe Molina

Genocide was committed against the indigenous people of this country. All the hot-button politics aside, that's a historical fact. The idea that this fella, running for national office, let slip that he doesn't think indigenous people are civilized is actually kind of a big deal, especially when you consider the people that he just disrespected make up a tenth of the state's population. And his retort, seeking to trivialize the whole thing, only makes it worse. Why can't folks in the GOP (but probably politics generally) just take responsibility for themselves?

Russell Scanlon

I’m more offended that he travelled to Texas and that he has apparently fully embraced the Trump wing of the GOP. ANY GOP candidate who doesn’t renounce Donald Trump is a loser—just like Trump himself.

David Ford

This should not shock anyone actually. It is right in line with the GQP's racist, white supremacy, christian nationalist, fascist platform of misinformation and is now the mainstay of their beliefs and of (most of) their base....

mark Coble

Yes, you played ALL the cards. You must be part of the perpetual victim class?

Charles W Rodriguez

However innocent and well meaning Mark Moores' comment can be interpreted, it shows an unconsciousness so typical of republican perceptions. Itcbehooves anyone of conscience to be aware of and sensitive to racial perceptions in today's world. The abuses historically perpetrated on brown skinned people have created a sensitivity to comments that smack of colonizer privilege. It's just a sign of the times that everyone must be sensitive to that fact. Denial of a courteous sensitivity is a hallmark of that privilege.

Jerry Appel

I was basically going to say the same thing. Thanks! What is missing from your analysis is the fact that our entire culture is unconsciously reinforcing the Republican message from the way we celebrate Thanksgiving to every Western movie cranked out by Hollywood. Blazing Saddles was so hard for some to swallow that I watched white people walking out on it.

Khal Spencer

Mel Brooks probably couldn't make Blazing Saddles today, even though its an indictment of prejudice, racism, corruption, and stupidity. But it has bad words!

Lupe Molina

Sasha Baron Cohen's more contemporary movies invoke way more offensive ideas, but its satire. Both of these people are good at satire. Mr. Moores, Trump, Hannity, are all not that smart or tactful. He didn't make the comment in jest or as satire, he just thinks indigenous people or civilized. It just makes him a jerk.

Lupe Molina

Aren't* not or

mark Coble

I don't recall using white privilege to buy coffee or anything. It is racist to say just because of skin color there are advantages. See Michael Jordon and tell him his success is due to his privilege. I'm sick and tired (oh, my gosh, could it be WU-flu??) of perpetual victim class always playing race card. Guess Obama who because of his white side? See? Ridiculous.

Ann Maes

More like his ‘true colors’ shining clear as day!

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