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Six Democratic presidential contenders face off in Nevada; and ballot security issues in play.

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Tonight's the Las Vegas debate, ahead of this weekend's Nevada caucuses. Some candidates are trying to regain the spotlight and others are trying to keep momentum.

Race and Politics Not Just a Washington Issue?

September 28, 2009

SANTA FE, N.M. - The debate over the role of race in American politics continues to simmer in the wake of the resignation of the nation's African-American green jobs czar and comments by former President Jimmy Carter accusing some Obama critics of racism. In New Mexico, community organizers say issues of race in public policy are just as present in Santa Fe as they are in Washington, D.C.

Robby Rodriguez with the Southwest Organizing Project says the upcoming budget battle is a perfect example, with state lawmakers looking at cuts to social services like Medicaid and public education.

"That would be very bad because already we have an extremely high drop-out rate in New Mexico, which is disproportionately affecting native and Latino students."

Although President Obama has tried to downplay the role of race in the debate over health care, the economy and other issues, Rodriguez says he thinks it's an important part of the conversation.

"If we're not diligent about viewing the potential racial impacts of our decisions, we are definitely going to increase the amount of racial disparity that exists within our state."

Cuts to Medicaid would have a major impact on communities of color, Rodriguez contends, adding that the notion of state cuts to Medicaid should be examined for possible racial implications.

"We really need to look at whether or not those cuts are going to further broaden the racial gap between those who are healthy in this state and those who are unhealthy in this state."

He suggests that lawmakers raise revenue and reduce racial disparities by rolling back tax cuts for wealthy New Mexicans. Gov. Richardson has said he opposes that idea, however, claiming the cuts have been an engine of economic development.



Eric Mack, Public News Service - NM