What’s more appealing: a former spy for the U.S. government who can drive a fast car in reverse or a guy who rides horseback down a dirt road and hops off near a pickup?
That’s the contrast New Mexico 3rd Congressional District candidate Marco Serna is trying to make with former U.S. intelligence operative Valerie Plame in a new campaign video. The two Democrats are vying in a crowded field to succeed U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., who is running for the U.S. Senate seat of retiring Sen. Tom Udall.
Serna’s video begins with a clip from a Plame campaign video that shows the former CIA agent speeding backward across the desert in a black sports car. In a Western-themed contrast to Plame’s narrative, Serna mounts a steed and bounces down a chamisa-lined dirt road as a Serna voice-over jabs Plame.
“Some people drive fancy cars and want us to believe they’re a female version of James Bond,” says Serna, the district attorney in Santa Fe. “They think they can impress us with make-believe lies and fairy tales about events that happened over a decade ago.”
The video cites national reporting that fact-checked claims made in Plame’s video, which said former Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, Scooter Libby, disclosed Plame’s identity as a CIA operative in 2003. Washington Post fact-checker Meg Kelly said it was actually former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and former White House senior aide Karl Rove who disclosed Plame’s identity to a syndicated columnist, not Libby.
In a statement to The New Mexican, Plame, who later became a consultant with the Santa Fe Institute, called Serna’s video “a cheap political smear.”
“My late husband Ambassador Joe Wilson and I endured these types of attacks from members of the Bush/Cheney Administration,” she wrote. “However, we never expected such attacks would come from fellow Democrats. While our country and its institutions are under attack from the President, we’ll continue to push our positive message about a progressive, bold direction forward for all New Mexicans.”
Released on the Jewish high holy day of Yom Kippur, the video also portrays Serna as a staunch defender of the Jewish people.
“The truth is, the people of the third district want to elect someone to Congress who knows our issues, understands our values and fights hate crimes and anti-Semitism,” Serna says, another apparent criticism of Plame, a descendent of Ukrainian Jewish immigrants who landed herself in controversy after retweeting an anti-Semitic article with the headline, “America’s Jews are driving America’s wars.”
Plame has apologized for retweeting the article.
But Serna’s video misspelled and misattributed a quote from Harvard legal scholar Alan Dershowitz, who told Fox News that Plame’s “apologies ring hollow.”
Serna’s campaign video instead flashes a banner saying that former Santa Fe Mayor Sam Pick — who has endorsed Serna — said, “Her apologies ring hallow,” apparently in reference to an op-ed piece that Pick wrote for The New Mexican titled, “Her apologies are not enough,” in which Pick quoted Dershowitz’s Fox News segment.
Serna’s video ends with a final Plame swipe: “I’ve never had the desire to drive backwards.”
But Serna’s brother and campaign chairman, JonCarlo Serna, said it’s not an attack ad.
“What we really want to show is sort of a contrast between a candidate who is born and raised in the district, and who’s focused on issues facing the district, which we’ve highlighted in all of our press releases and our position papers and this video,” he said.