The chairman of the state Republican Party accused Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham of “driving a stake” through the heart of New Mexico with coronavirus-related restrictions that allow big-box stores to remain open while many mom and pop shops had to close their doors.
“I can’t explain the logic,” Steve Pearce said Wednesday during a 41/2-minute interview on Fox & Friends.
“It’s totally unfair. It’s discriminatory,” he added.
Meanwhile, Pearce planned to send a letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr asking him to review whether the governor’s public health order violates civil rights. His request and stinging criticism of the governor comes a week after the state began to lift restrictions imposed in March to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“We want to express our fears and frustrations regarding New Mexico Gov. Lujan Grisham’s public health order, a policy many in our state believe to be a blatant violation of peoples’ civil rights, liberties and their right to conduct free commerce,” Pearce wrote in the three-page letter. “The situation in New Mexico is one that is unjust and inequitable.”
Pearce delivered a similar message on Fox & Friends.
“New Mexico is big and rural, and we have a couple of population centers, but everything else is sparsely populated,” Pearce told host Steve Doocy.
“Mom and pops drive the state and so the initial order weeks ago, the governor said the big-box stores can open — no restrictions on them — the small mom and pops have to shut down,” he said. “Many of them are just going to be forced into bankruptcy, will not be open.”
A spokeswoman for the governor declined to comment about Pearce’s interview or his letter to Barr.
On TV, Pearce argued the governor’s restrictions put rural residents in danger.
“Counties which do not have even one case, the residents of those places, no big-box stores are there, they’re having to drive into Albuquerque or Santa Fe or Las Cruces in order to hit a big-box store,” he said. “That puts them closer to people who might have the virus, and so it has just never made any sense. But mostly it’s just the patented unfairness that drives our money into the big-box stores.”
Pearce said Republicans have been calling for a “level playing field.”
“There has to be competition from both sides. There have to be choices,” he said. “Local businesses should get the same rights as the … out-of-state corporations.”
Doocy asked Pearce about a $60,000 fine against the owners of a Grants pawn and gun shop that remained open in defiance of the state’s public health order, comparing the incident to a salon owner in Texas who was sentenced to a week in jail and fined $7,000 for reopening her shop despite an order that all nonessential businesses remain closed.
“They’re just going to be forced into bankruptcy,” Pearce said, referring to the Papas Pawn & Gun store in Grants.
“The veteran is disabled. His wife runs the business, and the governor is coming in, making an example of them,” he said. “Five or six uniformed state police officers circled around the building, slapped a notice on the building. The fine is just devastating to that small community because it’s made up of totally of small businesses.”
Pearce also told Doocy that law enforcement officers who used to shop at the store “are having to drive into Albuquerque to get ammunition that [owner Diane Rowe] sold there.”
“She was an essential business that got fined $60,000,” he said.
At the end of the interview, Doocy said he was “sure” Lujan Grisham would see Fox News Channel’s Fox & Friends segment sometime Wednesday and asked Pearce what message he would like to deliver to the governor.
“Well, my message is that the small-business owners throughout New Mexico, they’re the fabric,” he said. “They’re the heart and soul of our state, and I would just say to the governor, ‘You’re driving a stake into the heart and the spirit and the soul of our state.’ ”