Republican dark horse winning over some NM voters

Adam Kokesh doesn't believe 9.11 was an inside job, doesn't question President Barack Obama's citizenship and argues that insurance companies have already instituted death panels. He's for pulling all combat troops from Afghanistan and opposes government control of whom a citizen—gay or straight—can marry.

In other words, some of Kokesh's positions are downright liberal. Nonetheless, the Republican candidate for New Mexico's 3rd Congressional District seat—currently held by Democratic US Rep. Ben Ray Luján—is picking up support from Truthers, Birthers, Deathers and Tea Partiers, whose affiliations run the gamut from disenchanted Democrats to white supremacists.

In October, Kokesh announced he had raised $100,000 since announcing his candidacy in May.

"That was really shocking," Kokesh tells SFR. "I thought we were going to be able to raise just enough money to execute our plan, but now I'm really hopeful."

According to the Federal Elections Commission, Luján has $160,000 on hand, but $127,000 in campaign debt.

More than 1,500 supporters contributed an average of $68 to Kokesh; 70 percent donated online.

 "When I started this, I had a national political presence, both through the anti-war movement…and for becoming symbolic of the military support for [2008 presidential candidate Republican US Rep.] Ron Paul," Kokesh, a veteran who fought in Fallujah, says. "But the campaign is doing more on-the-ground fundraising, getting out more locally and having more volunteer events here."

This month, Kokesh will attend fundraisers in Clovis and Farmington, and will conduct an open-forum "Twownhall" on Oct. 19 using Twitter.

Some of Kokesh's online supporters, however, are alarming. For example, the white nationalist website stormfront.org is exploding with enthusiasm for his campaign.

"I'm really hoping he's one of us gentiles," one Stormfront user writes on the site. "Whatever the case may be, this Adam Kokesh demonstrates some real passion and impressive speaking skills."

Kokesh, who is Jewish, distances himself from, but doesn't denounce, such support.

"I'm a little disturbed by that," Kokesh says. "But there are lots of people that I have strong disagreements with on individual issues that still get the core of this message."

In some cases, Kokesh has been able to change hearts and minds—including those of James Walker, a Farmington Republican hosting an Oct. 15 "Tea with Adam" fundraiser.

"At one point, I was a Kool-Aid drinker and I believed…that we should be over there [in the Middle East] kicking everybody's ass," Walker, who met Kokesh six months ago, says. "I thought he aligns more with my personal view than probably some of the rhetoric that four or five years ago I probably said, 'Oh yeah, that's right.'"

Kokesh also is recruiting Democrats. One former Obama field organizer in San Juan County, David Chavez, recently signed on to Kokesh's campaign. He cites Saturday Night Live's recent spoof of Obama's lack of accomplishments as something that "really resonated."

"It's really not about party affiliation," Chavez says. "[Kokesh is] not really your McCain-type Republican. He is in the Libertarian branch, which I've come to find a lot of value in. In fact, they're very Democratic values."

Conventional wisdom says Kokesh doesn't have a chance against Luján, a well-connected progressive, Hispanic Democrat who won the 2008 election with 57 percent of the vote in a three-way race. The only time a Republican won the 3rd District was in 1997, when Bill Redmond defeated Eric Serna, a Democrat embroiled in political scandal, in a three-way race with Green Party candidate Carol Miller.

"Kokesh has been an impressive fundraiser," Brian Sanderoff, political analyst and president of the polling firm Research & Polling Inc., says. "But the bottom line is Ben Luján, so far as I can tell, has been working hard and maintaining his popularity and has not been a controversial figure. Add on top of everything the power of the incumbency, and the Republican has an uphill political battle."

Kokesh deliberated for months about whether to run as an Independent or a Republican.

"You cannot win this district with McCain or Giuliani or any middle-of-the-road, mainstream Conservative," Kokesh says. "So, [Republicans] are definitely open to someone who's offering something new and different…Right now, if the Republican Party is going to be the party of big tents and smaller government, then it's a coalition I'm happy to be a part of."

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