Steve Pearce’s Texas two-step backfired, bringing about a predictable response.

Pearce, chairman of the New Mexico Republican Party, is blaming voters instead of himself for another lopsided defeat.

Here’s the chronology of Pearce’s latest failure: A springtime special election was scheduled to fill the vacancy in the Albuquerque-based 1st Congressional District. Rather than concentrating on the campaign, Pearce came up with the zany idea of moving the three-day New Mexico Republican Convention to Amarillo, Texas.

He called his maneuver Operation Freedom. It was supposed to be a dig at Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who ordered various shutdowns during the coronavirus pandemic.

Pearce’s strategy turned into a gift for the opposition.

Melanie Stansbury, the Democratic candidate for Congress, campaigned in Albuquerque while Pearce and Republicans from Ohio and South Dakota exhorted New Mexico conventioneers in Texas.

Mark Moores, the affable Republican congressional nominee, was among those wasting words in Amarillo while Stansbury kept working in New Mexico.

Most people, including Pearce, knew a landslide was building. Stansbury trounced Moores: 60 percent to 36 percent.

Pearce didn’t lend his name to the Republicans’ official reaction, choosing to let an anonymous voice make excuses for him in a media handout.

“There were a number of reasons why Moores lost,” the Republican Party’s unknown author wrote. “Low voter turnout was a big factor. Republican voters were angry from 2020 — many questioned election integrity — and stayed home. Democrats also didn’t show up.”

That’s a lot of spin, even for Pearce.

Stansbury received 79,000 votes to 47,000 for Moores in an election right after Memorial Day.

In trying to shift the blame, Pearce indicts himself.

Why wasn’t he steadfast in New Mexico, working to get out the vote for Moores? Pearce answered the question with his feet. He preferred the applause of an echo chamber in Texas to the arduous work it would take to win a special election in New Mexico.

Pearce’s camp also made the weird claim Democrats “didn’t show up” to vote. If that were true, Republicans missed a remarkable opportunity to gain a seat in Congress.

The Republican Party’s fairy tale of a news release had one purpose only: to absolve Pearce of any blame for another high-profile defeat.

No Republican leader except former President Donald Trump makes more excuses for losing than Pearce.

Still, Pearce’s camp tried to close its statement with an upbeat sentence. “The party will be working hard to win key races in 2022, namely the governorship and this important Congressional seat.”

Lujan Grisham is running for reelection. No Republican has yet entered the governor’s race. The GOP’s bench is so shallow, Pearce might again receive the gubernatorial nomination by default.

He lost to Lujan Grisham in 2018 by 100,000 votes or 14 percentage points. The governor’s seat was open then, making Lujan Grisham’s victory all the more impressive.

Her record after one term is tarnished enough to create an opening for a Republican capable of connecting with moderates.

Lujan Grisham’s handling of the pandemic has angered many people, and that’s only one of her worries.

She has downplayed a claim against her of sexual harassment but paid more than nuisance rates to settle the complaint. Her tone-deaf distribution of hefty raises to favored state employees is another ready-made campaign issue.

The trouble for Republicans is they aren’t positioned to take advantage of Lujan Grisham’s weaknesses. Pearce hasn’t developed a roster of Republican candidates who can win statewide races.

Pearce himself is probably the New Mexico GOP’s best-known politician, but he’s lost both statewide races he’s run. A decade before being routed by Lujan Grisham, Pearce lost by 22 percentage points to Democrat Tom Udall in a U.S. Senate election.

Making matters worse for Republicans, Pearce showed no hesitation in antagonizing most New Mexico voters, who rejected Trump by a wide margin in 2020.

A week after Trump’s backers rioted at the U.S. Capitol, Pearce wrote this illogical tweet: “God bless president Donald J. Trump. He will be our president forever and no one can take that away from us.”

Pearce deleted the tweet. It won’t matter, as there’s no way to erase his mangling of history from memory banks.

Lujan Grisham can only hope for a rematch with Pearce. He’s more at home in the Texas Panhandle than in the heart of New Mexico.

Ringside Seat is an opinion column about people, politics and news. Contact Milan Simonich at or 505-986-3080.

(9) comments

Khal Spencer

I had a feeling this would be a rout. The GOP seems tone deaf to urban voters, increasingly circling the wagons into a right wing cult of personality, and excommunicated moderates. Moores' tactless recent comments did not help. While the D party has wandered too far left for me and has sabotaged people like Carl Trujillo and "primaried" conservative D's like John Arthur Smith, it has not engaged in a wholesale purge of centrist Democrats. Well, I have not checked my mailbox yet this morning.

I do think we need a right of center party in New Mexico but Steve Pearce and his folks seem to not be the solution.

Mike Johnson

"....increasingly circling the wagons into a right wing cult of personality, and excommunicated moderates." Well, it seems to be working for the left wing Ds to do these very same things, so maybe they are seeking to copy that approach Khal?

John Cook

I think we need two parties with different policy priorities. At this point we have the Democratic party with policy ideas like reforming the tax code to limit inequality; building out clean energy to provide jobs and cool the environment; providing national voter protection/access; redressing systemic racism and a number of other ideas to rebuild the middle class and promote education. The Republican party on policy? Tax cuts for rich people and deregulation of business. Within the memory of some of us the Republican party stood for more than that. Not now. What we need is a center right party that has policy ideas which promote more than tax cuts and culture wars.

Khal Spencer

The Left is almost as guilty of pouring gasoline onto the flames of culture wars as the right. Yesterday, Ezra Klein in the NY Times wrote a piece accusing Manchin and Sinema of being the true "radicals" in the Dem party. Why? Because they are centrists. I had to put down my beer I was laughing so hard but it goes to Mike Johnson's point.

I agree on needing a center right party. Folks like David French and Jonah Goldberg are ideas folks but they have been run out of the tent. They are not alone in the wilderness. The questions of the right size of government, the role of Federalism, the national debt, size of the military, individual vs. corporate vs. government responsibilities, how to handle the climate question, etc. all go to policy discussions.

For example. In yesterday's Albuquerque Journal, several groups have asked the PRC to accept climate change as a "scientific fact".

First of all, most scientists I know would not use a phrase like "scientific fact" to describe anything more superficial than the "fact" that climate changes and humans have an impact. But as far as how the PRC should handle public utilities? If we are to set a social cost of carbon (SCC), one has to have a full fledged discussion of what that number should be and how to work it into policy. That is complicated and requires more than one point of view.

Why? First, we still don't know the CO2 equilibrium sensitivity factor more than to about a factor of three (I think its somewhere between 1.5 to 4.5 deg C per doubling). One has to first agree on a number, an uncertainty, and the probabilities of high side "tails" that while not likely, could be catastrophic. Then on translating that into an economic cost of change due to an uncertain projected future trend as well as the statistical chances of extreme events. We don't know that stuff incredibly well and the question of how as a nation we hedge our bets is open for discussion. How much risk are we willing to tolerate? How much will it cost the economy to assume various actions and who will pay? How much will it cost if we are wrong? None of this is without huge consequence so when I hear simple minded "just do something" I have to shake my head. Most of those who want simple answers have not studied the question.

So sure, we need a robust and diverse political system if for no other reason than to keep the nation from going in lockstep down the wrong road due to the intellectual tendency to follow each other over a cliff rather than notice the cliff is there.

Neither party is thinking deeply about this and it worries me.

Khal Spencer

Oh, the link.

Khal Spencer

Chapter 2.

So we somehow agree on a SCC. How do we implement it?

Do we tax carbon and let the market come up with solutions?

Do we invest in carbon sequestration to minimize the impact on existing lifestyles while building a cradle-to-grave cost structure for carbon? Or do folks like Michelle Lujan Grisham mandate a fixed solution such as that 50 mph fleet idea?

Do we impose new zoning/development codes and energy codes on housing to minimize transportation emissions and heating/cooling emissions?

Do we revitalize nuclear energy, i.e., Gen III/IV and future reactor technology to replace carbon sources as stationary sources where they are needed (and they will be needed)?

How do we negotiation with the rest of the world on total planetary emissions? What if some states do not comply? Do we cut off trade to China or other states that continue to burn coal to produce consumer goods for export?

How flexible will policy be as we actually see how the world climate evolves over time? Will economic and technological flexibility be built into any government plan?

Anyone for Chapter III?

Mike Johnson

Very good points Khal, and since you are also in the science loop on global warming science, you and I both know the facts, speculation, guesses, and out right hypotheses with no proof. Then there are the economic facts, speculation, guesses, and out right hypotheses with no proof that are being thrown around. This issue alone needs the input of a diverse and fully informed group of people that politicians are an unacceptable substitute for, considering the vital importance of it all. Chapter 3 is OK with me.....

Khal Spencer

I'll keep Ch. 3 short as this is getting old.

These issues are not hypothetical. Here in Santa Fe, infill, which is one way to create a compact city not requiring a lot of vehicle travel, is controversial with folks not wanting more density in their neighborhoods. In Albuquerque, its Santolina. Sprawl means more transportation emissions and means mass transit doesn't work, period. If you want traditional individual transport, that means more mining for future batteries (such as lithium mining) and more electrical capacity on the grid.

Rare-earths (REEs) are used in wind turbines and many strategic items. But we import virtually all of our supply because of the economics and environmental regulation. Its simply cheaper to let China wreck its hillsides and kill its workers. In a world where REE are fought over, do we bite the bullet and relax our standards or come up with new cleaner technologies? Likewise, lithium mining has winners (industries) and losers (the folks who are displaced by the mines).

If we tax carbon, do we offset this with tax rebates for the poor? If so, does that defeat the purpose?

Some folks have talked about banning gas stoves, presuming the electric replacements will be "green". Aside from them not doing the math, are we willing to go that far in intruding on people's lives?

Who gets to decide the policy questions revolving around acceptance of risk? That is not a science question. Its a political question. Just as I might change out my tires before the wear bars hit the road**, you might wear the tires down to the legal limit. Both are acceptable from the point of view of the law. But the latter may not be acceptable in a rainstorm. Likewise, when talking about global climate change, one will have to make some decisions in advance and in the face of considerable uncertainty.

Indeed, we need intelligent, thoughtful political parties. Where can we find them?

** in fact, I'm very conservative about changing tires. That results from a bad crash in a rainstorm on bad tires.

Devin Bent

The New Mexico GOP is getting good at comedy relief. Pearce should consider a second career as a stand-up comic.

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