No group in New Mexico has done more to weaken trust in elections than the terrible trio bloviating about the primary results in Otero County.
This tortured troika wobbles on whether the June 7 election was crooked as a sidewinder or straight as a string.
Consider the antics of Otero County Commissioner Gerald Matherly. A Republican, he initially voted against certifying an election that included the race he won with 66 percent of the vote. Matherly claimed he was too concerned about fraud and the accuracy of Dominion voting machines to certify the election.
His doubts and fears disappeared four days later, though no part of the election results had changed.
“As of right now, we have no proven black-and-white facts that anything was wrong,” Matherly said in a stunning display of flip-flopping.
Fellow Republican Commissioner Vickie Marquardt also reversed herself, though without any humility.
Marquardt blamed the New Mexico Supreme Court and the Democratic attorney general and secretary of state for causing her wild lunge from one position to another.
“They are railroading this commission into rubber-stamping approval under the threat of criminal charges and jail,” Marquardt whined. “I will be of no use to the residents of Otero County from jail or if I am removed from office.”
In another movement worthy of a contortionist, Marquardt said Matherly’s overwhelming victory in a suddenly accurate primary proved residents want him to remain in office.
Then there was Republican Commissioner Couy Griffin. He voted for a second time not to certify the election. But his decision wasn’t that of a gutsy maverick.
Griffin knew the other two commissioners would fold. He could oppose certification to look defiant, all the while certain the election results would stand.
Griffin’s insolence had nothing to do with truth. Even he said so.
“My vote to remain a ‘no’ isn’t based on any evidence,” Griffin said. “It is not based on any facts. It’s only based on my gut, my gut feeling and my own intuition. And that’s all I need to base my vote on the elections, right there.”
Not so. Griffin swore he would abide by the law as a commissioner. But he admitted his opposition to certifying the election was not based on law or reason.
Unfounded conspiracy theories drive Griffin. He is a founder of Cowboys for Trump. It’s one of those loud groups that’s all hat, no cattle.
The Cowboys claim former President Donald Trump didn’t lose the 2020 election. As for evidence, they have none that would persuade a judge or a reasonable voter.
Not all politicians who slide around truth are malevolent.
Novelist Bill O’Neill, who doubles as a state senator, mixed fact and fiction in a tribute to one of New Mexico’s more famous residents, the late Don Perkins.
Perkins, raised in Waterloo, Iowa, moved to Albuquerque in the late 1950s to play halfback for the University of New Mexico football team. He went on to a stellar professional career with the Dallas Cowboys.
Perkins made his home in Albuquerque after retiring from football. He was a community counselor with the Albuquerque Police Department. Perkins and O’Neill would cross paths in jail.
“It was on the sixth floor of the Bernalillo County Detention Center,” O’Neill said. “Don would come in regularly and speak to the men. I was an intern with the Center for Action and Contemplation.”
O’Neill went on to become director of Albuquerque’s Dismas House, named for a thief crucified alongside Jesus. Dismas House’s mission was to help parolees live honest lives. Perkins became president of the board of Dismas House.
Friendship blossomed between Perkins and O’Neill as they operated a program to lessen the number of repeat convicts.
Perkins had star power O’Neill intended to harness for Dismas House. “My enduring image of Perkins is at his modest but nice house near UNM, answering the door: ‘O’Neill, what now?’ ”
Trips to the state Capitol energized O’Neill, who began seeing a future in politics. Perkins didn’t like tagging along, but Dismas House came before any personal comforts.
“We’d go to the Roundhouse and Don would say: ‘It makes me want to take a shower after a day up there,’ ” O’Neill said.
A Democrat, O’Neill decided to run for the Legislature. Perkins, uneasy about politicking, nonetheless recorded a campaign call on O’Neill’s behalf.
After two defeats, O’Neill won a seat in the House of Representatives in 2008. He was elected to the Senate in 2012, where he continues to serve.
O’Neill’s second novel, Short Session, published by Red Mountain Press, details some of the hard work Perkins did far from fields of glory. Perkins is called Leroy Flowers in the novel.
O’Neill described Flowers as “a revered African-American former gladiator on our side — there to speak for us.”
Politics can be a wide-ranging, unreal world. There’s a giant inspired by Perkins, and dwarfs sidestepping truth in Otero County.