A Roswell Republican who voted in favor of repealing an antiquated anti-abortion law has left the GOP.

State Rep. Phelps Anderson, who broke ranks with his party in the vote last week on a 1969 bill that criminalizes abortion, has changed his voter registration to a “declined to state,” House Minority Leader Jim Townsend confirmed Friday.

“I received a letter from him, and I have had a conversation with him, and he has left the Republican Party,” Townsend said.

Anderson declined a request for an interview. “Sorry,” he wrote in a text message late Friday. “Not today as I have done enough.”

Anderson, 69, who represents portions of the conservative Chaves, Lea and Roosevelt counties, sided with seven Democrats on the House Health and Human Services Committee in voting to repeal the abortion ban.

His vote drew criticism from his constituents, as well as calls for his resignation.

“He had told me earlier in the week that he thought he had become a distraction to the party — this wasn’t because he was mad at the party — it was because he thought he has become a distraction to the party,” said Townsend, who also said he had received about 100 calls about Anderson on Friday.

The repeal of the abortion bill, which makes it a felony to perform an abortion in New Mexico, has been a divisive issue among lawmakers.

It went to the Senate floor in 2019 but failed when eight moderate and conservative-leaning Democrats joined all 16 Republican senators in voting to keep the law on the books.

With six of those Democrats no longer in office, five of whom lost their primary races in June to more progressive candidates who made the anti-abortion law a major campaign issue, the repeal is expected to head to the desk of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham this year. And the governor, who made the repeal one of her top legislative priorities, is expected to give it her approval.

The current New Mexico statute is unenforceable because of Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that found overly restrictive state government regulations of abortion unconstitutional. But proponents of the bill expressed urgency in repealing the measure amid concerns the U.S. Supreme Court will weaken or overturn the ruling with new Justice Amy Coney Barrett giving conservatives a wide majority on the bench.

Reaction to Anderson switching from Republican to “declined to state” generated mixed reactions.

“Rep. Anderson, straight up, is and has always been a decent man,” Rep. Angelica Rubio, D-Las Cruces, wrote on Twitter. “This doesn’t surprise me one bit, and says so much about who he is.”

In an email, John Block, who founded the conservative news website Piñon Post, wrote that Anderson’s “vote against human life in the womb is why his constituents forced him to relinquish his standing with the Republican Party.”

“He must now resign and allow local leaders to fill his seat with someone who truly represents the 66th District,” he wrote. “The time for wishy-washy, and unreliable ‘Republicans’ in the House is over.”

Anderson’s decision to leave the GOP comes after Republicans gained a seat in the state House of Representatives after the November general election. But they are still outnumbered by Democrats nearly 2-to-1.

“We were 24 members last year and we’re 24 members again right now,” Townsend said.

Despite Anderson’s departure, Townsend said House Republicans remain “very united.”

“Would we have rather that Phelps stayed on board?” he said. “Absolutely.”

Townsend said he’s known Anderson for many years. According to Anderson’s legislative biography, he served as a representative from 1977-80 and has served again in the House since 2019.

“When the dust settles over this, he’ll still be a friend of mine, whether he continues or resigns or whatever he does,” Townsend said. “Phelps was a friend of mine before this all started, and Phelps will be a friend of mine when this is all over with.”

When the Republican caucus spoke about Anderson changing his party affiliation, Townsend said “every one of them spoke highly” of Anderson.

Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter @danieljchacon.

(41) comments

Alexandra Lynch

It's interesting that all of the people who posted comments on this issue are male.

Khal Spencer

That's not our fault. Why did no women post (other than yours).

Chris Mechels

This is not what it seems. As the piece states, the NM law is "unenforceable", so the change has no actual effect. It is just the Trifecta rallying the troops for a meaningless round of bashing the conservatives, while their time could be better spent on "real issues".

Egolf and the Democrats should be ashamed of this pandering and "waving the bloody shirt" but they have no shame... Only greed and ambition.

New Mexico continues to rank last amongst the states, and this stupid bill should nail down that position. Egolf is a real horror...

Richard Irell

It is unenforceable right now. If SCOTUS overturns Roe v. Wade it would then be the law of the land. I have to say that I am surprised that you were unaware of that.

Khal Spencer

[thumbup] What Richard said.

Richard Irell

The Democratic Party has its share of kooks, but they are on the fringe. But the kooks in the GOP are in the mainstream of the party. Marjorie Taylor Greene is a vile anti-Semite and has threatened violence against those with whom she disagrees. Yet 199 out of 210 GOP Representatives supported her in the vote to remove her from House committees.

Yes, there are some Republicans who are decent people and they are vilified as RINOs and most of them will probably not survive primary challenges. Hopefully, there are enough of them to start a viable third party.

Khal Spencer

I think the majority of the GOP are not at all kooks. They are cowards, not willing to stand up to the mob but instead silently acquiescent to the lunatic fringe. In the old days, I guess that was called being a "Good German".

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_German

Richard Irell

Kooks or cowards, pick your poison. But as far as I am concerned they are the party of Jewish space lasers.

Deb Silva

We don't need a third party, we need to stand together like dems do. We as Americans and New Mexicans who love our country, our state our borders, our babies and the good Lord. We were just learning how happy and proud it made us all to work to make our own way in this world, we don't want to be a welfare state, I truly wish with all my heart that our governor and the rest of representatives in Santa Fe would think of the small people, the small business, yes I'm a republican, but that doesn't mean I don't think we are all Americans, its just the people that run our country, they have forgotten about the people. I once told the principle and school board at my kids school that when they open the doors in the morning for school they are only there because we let them be there, so the people in white house, the round house you are there because of us THE PEOPLE

Jerry Appel

Like State Rep. Anderson, I am old enough to remember a time when both parties contained a spectrum of views and voices, but that all changed after LBJ's second term when the Voting Rights and Civil Rights Acts were passed. LBJ had to abandon the Dixiecrats and the Dixiecrats took their segregationist agenda to the Republican Party which welcomed them with open arms after their landslide loss in 1964. The next step in the polarization was the Republican embrace of the Christian Conservatives after Roe v. Wade. With the Republican Party dominated by segregationists like Strom Thurmond and the rabid anti-abortion Evangelicals, any other viewpoint became unacceptable and demonized. Mr. Anderson, by voting to remove this anachronistic law, must feel like he chose the Red Pill while the rest of the Party is still living in the Matrix. I even remember a time when the Republican Party supported a woman's right to choose and it was the Democratic Party which had a lot of Catholic constituents that was anti-choice.

Russell Scanlon

Nothing like listening to a couple of old white guys complain that they are not represented in government.

Khal Spencer

Hey, Russ. Old White Guys vote, too. We are the Get Off My Lawn Party, right?

Russell Scanlon

Yes—but can you really claim to be unrepresented in the political system? BTW I’m an old white guy too. But I’ve had my eyes opened. The methods of Progressives may be clumsy, but the anger and feeling of alienation is real. AOC probably represents more human beings than the entire state of Iowa.

Mike Johnson

Yes, Mr. Scanlon, I am totally unrepresented today in my local and state political system. Look at my County Commish, my State Rep. (#ResistRomero, a common thief), my Guv., my US Rep, and both Senators. None of them represent my values, my views, my priorities, nor my political agenda. I am not represented at all. My feelings of anger, fear, and alienation are also real given who represents me in all government.

Mike Johnson

Yes, with his kind of wealth and the advantage of his age, he can be independent. Politics is obviously not his life, good for him.

Jerry Appel

You are quite correct about not having your view represented by your representatives, and yes, Rep. Anderson is so wealthy he doesn't need to be loyal to party dogma. So, what should you do? Simply put, advocate your point of view. Ask yourself this question, why is it that my view of government is losing at the state and district level? When you can answer that question, then it is time to engage with your representatives, not demonize them. Join the debate, not on social media, but by writing to them, attending local meetings, and talking to your neighbors with different views and, hopefully, actually listening to each other.

Mike Johnson

Thank you Mr. Appel, I have engaged frequently with my neighbor, Ben Ray, but over time his views have become so left wing and anti-business he will not listen to me anymore. The same has happened with the people who represent me today, I have written letters, emails, and engaged at public fora, but again, they seem to listen, shake their heads in acknowledgement, and then do what the special interests pay them to do. I have given up trying to talk to them by now. Time to elect better people, but even that is a struggle given the power of incumbency, outside interests funding huge sums, and my party lurching further and further left every year to the point I do not recognize what my dear, deceased neighbor, Ben Lujan, used to see and promote in my party anymore.

Michael Smith

Years ago, a comedian quipped about Abortion rights in America: "If you have a male sex organ, your vote doesn't count." Well, in this case it does.

Women count as a statistical majority in the USA and reproductive choice is the law of the land.

Instead, let's just perform vasectomies on all males at age twelve and once each male proves he is competent to be a responsible father the state can schedule a reversal surgery. Too invasive? Oh, well.

Rope Wolf

👍🏽

Arthur Meincke

There is no Republican Party today The Republican Conservative platform has vanished and has been replaced with the real enemies of democracy not dealing with reality. They are QAnon and other insane madness groups of the former G.O.P.

Khal Spencer

And as Jonah Goldberg says, there is the Remnant.

Khal Spencer

It is sad that both major parties have become intolerant of diversity. Several conservative Democrats were "primaried" by the left wing of the D party while honorable folks like Mr. Anderson is run out of the GOP. For example, John Arthur Smith and Carl Trujillo were "primaried". In John Arthur's case, the GOP won the race and in Carl Trujillo's case, Ms. Andrea "Whistle Pig Whiskey" Romero was backed by the liberal machine in spite of her ineptitude in managing government funds.

I think it is about time to form a third party for those of us who are sick and tired of being jerked around by the far right and far left, both of which are more interested in ideology than competence, political nuance, or thoughtfulness.

Arthur Meincke

Third-party approaches have been total failures in the U.S.A. Waste of time & $$$$.

Khal Spencer

the GOP started as a third party, capitalizing on the collapse of the Whigs, right?

Jim Clark

We all vote for the person we think best represents what we would do, or we should. Your views represent intolerance as well. I like the idea of giving three tests to anyone holding office, Basic Knowledge, Personality test, and a Lie Detector. I would set no minimum score, but make the results public.

Khal Spencer

You've obviously been well schooled in Newspeak, Jim, in turning language on its head. My suggestion is to give people more choices, rather than "chicken or fish". That's far from intolerance. The GOP cannot tolerate a person voting to repeal an archaic law banning abortion. The Democrats cannot tolerate a person who votes for fiscal restraint and who is anti-abortion. Neither point of view speaks for me, and it is the right of any American to disagree with their party's position. Unfortunately, now its the position of both parties to say you don;t belong.

Robin Williamson

Absolutely! That duopoly is running the country into the ground, with artificial polarity. I consider myself an american not a demublican or republicrat. Both parties are publicly divided, each claiming to champion only half our rights and trying to remove the other half. Meanwhile behind closed doors they collaborate to rob us of our money, our rights, and our freedom. Enough is correct. There is no need for a third party, We The People are still here. These parties divide us but as

a supporter of neither I see that americans agree on alot more than we are taught to believe we do. We all want clean air and water. We all want to preserve our land and wildlife. We all want safe food and to reign in ruthless corporations. We all want peace, security and prosperity. We all think our tax burden is too much for too little in return. We all think Washington is corrupt. We the people can fix this. Join your local assembly and learn how. Contact info on theamericanstatesassembly.net

Mike Johnson

Well said Khal. The radicals on the left and right have destroyed our state and nation, time for a change to put the people in charge of government, not the parties and their rich, elite radicals and special interests.

Russell Scanlon

Or it’s possible that younger people who lean progressive and minorities and women are gaining more power and influence. In fact, a lot of what has happened in the last four of five years can be explained by white backlash to the inexorable trend towards a multicultural, multiracial, and gender balanced nation. And there’s absolutely nothing any of us can do about it except complain—or storm the capitol like imbeciles. Of course, I’m not denying the presence of good old fashioned corruption either.

Khal Spencer

You can have a multicultural, multiracial, "gender balanced" (whatever that means) society that is fiscally restrained.

Sure, young folks may lean progressive and if the nation goes that way, its the way it will be, subject to Constitutional restraint. Or, like many in the sixties, as the young folks age they may moderate. I don't know but I think the last fifty years of vulture capitalism in the U.S. has left a lot of people dissatisfied with a system that worked for we geezers (we had moderate parties, widespread unionization, affordable middle class life, states that heavily subsidized higher education, pensions...). But today, our system leaves many behind.

But the tendency, for example, to attack anyone who is against abortion on ethical or religious grounds is intolerant as well. Sure, the Dems in John Arthur Smith's district could primary him, but what resulted is that their preferred candidate got demolished in the general election because it is a conservative district. I heard some Dems dancing on Smith's political grave because instead of a powerful, tight fisted D we now have a rookie GOP member. I suppose that is a win for some.

So it goes, as Vonnegut would say. I wish the future luck, however it works out.

Khal Spencer

Some graphs.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Income_inequality_in_the_United_States

Russell Scanlon

Khal—the very things you mention: unions, decent minimum wages, subsidized education-are now considered “Radical Socialism”. So there is part of the problem. I agree that abortion is a strong issue for conservatives. I can’t imagine a more personal, painful, private decision. So why is the government involved at all?

Russell Scanlon

BTW “gender balanced” means that woman are more equally represented in government.

Khal Spencer

Russell, I think unions, decent wages, subsidized education are among the things that saved us from a revolution or worse in the 60's and are a far cry from "socialism". Any democracy has to have social elements to it to survive. Our mission, should we decide to accept it, was given to us by Dwight Eisenhower: keep the ship of state in the middle of the road and out of both the right and left gutters.

Any institution is only as good as the people in it. Right now, government goes to those who can buy it, unions are toothless due to globalization, and education increasingly shorted at the state level. I say state because although the land grant origins of state universities was a Federal program, it was ultimately up to the states to run with the ball.

Public education is a must-do precedent to anything else. The origins of the land grant system was to fund education relevant to the times, e.g., agricultural and technical. One can make the argument that the modern analog would be education relevant to the latest paradigm shifts in the economy. I think we need to get back into the affordable education business again but to me, that means the public has a right to decide how diverse it is going to be. Do we need more technical education and fewer Depts. of Ethnic and Gender Studies? Kinda depends on what the public wants if the public is paying for it but I think asking the public to pay for multiple Departments of Irrelevant Studies is a hard sell. I obviously have my own biases. That said, I didn't consider Nelson Rockefeller a socialist when he funded my own graduate alma mater, Stony Brook. He wanted it to be a science and technology flagship of the east but a broad based public university of highest caliber as well or as we used to say, "The Berkeley of the East".

Anyway, I digress, as usual. I have supported liberal causes all my life (twice a union shop steward, once on a union BoD, in the streets for marriage equality, knocked on my hind end by a truck while a picket line captain, longtime ACLU member, etc.). But I am a grouch as well.

Khal Spencer

"...revolution or worse in the 60's ..." I meant to say '30's during the Great Depression.

Mike Johnson

It is possible, and likely, that the younger people are emphasizing the very things that divide and separate us as Americans. Race, culture, ethnicity, gender, all things that are used to judge and discriminate one American from another at a glance, add to that politics used to judge with comments and discussions and you have the divided, polarized mess America has become. We need much, much less of that, not more. Concentrating on the things that divide us will make us more divided, concentrating on the things that unite us as Americans will unite us. Which do you decide to do?

Khal Spencer

That is my criticism of today's emphasis on identity politics as well. You are pre-ordained to certain roles rather than responsible for your own choices. Everything starts out with "as a PoC", "as a non binary", "as an ethnic minority", "as a fill in the blank" all of which reduces us to cardboard cutouts of some group or other.

There are real issues of greed, "me first", intolerance and prejudice to fight, but I think we are fighting a fire with a gasoline hose.

Russell Scanlon

Mike I agree with you. But that’s what young people do. And their grievances are real. I for one would have been miserable if I had to live with my parents into my thirties—but I had the luxury of being young in a time when the minimum wage was sustainable and I could “pursue my dreams”. I had a LOT of political differences with my dad, who was a WW II veteran but I always respected him and the men of his generation. These are very different times.

Mike Johnson

Interesting Mr. Scanlon, my parents were really not political when I was growing up. They would carp from time to time about FDR and the draconian things he did to make their life more difficult during the Depression, and how he treated their Japanese friends. They never talked about politics around the dinner or breakfast tables, nor did they get involved in politics at all. That is the kind of parent I have tried to be to my kids growing up as well, to ignore politics and politicians and just talk about the important things in life.

John Cook

Horse manure. Your real complaint is that white, male is no longer the dominant identity. You were fine with identity politics so long as it was your identity.

Richard Irell

The Republican Party of today has no room for common decency or dissent.

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