After another humiliating election defeat last week, state Republicans might have to go back to gimmickry in hopes of making New Mexico a two-party state.

One Republican lawmaker began the year with a half-serious bill that would have allowed his party’s strongholds to secede from New Mexico.

The proposed constitutional amendment by state Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell, was an admission that Republicans can’t win statewide elections anymore.

Pirtle contrived a little noise about secession with his bill. It was easier but less effective than finding better Republican candidates and running reasoned campaigns.

There are many reasons for the Republicans’ failures, the most obvious being they often field candidates who genuflect to former President Donald Trump.

Sticking with Trump and endorsing his baseless screeds about election fraud can only help Republicans in Southern New Mexico. Trump last year carried that area, the 2nd Congressional District, by 12 percentage points.

Trump lost New Mexico’s other two congressional districts by much wider margins. The results show Republican strength is regional. But the party’s brass seems content to win in the south and lose almost everywhere else.

Republicans can’t compete in what used to be swing districts. Ten years ago, Republicans represented four of the 11 state Senate districts entirely in Albuquerque. Now only one is held by a Republican.

Just five years ago, Republicans controlled the state House of Representatives, 37-33. Now Democrats hold a 45-24 majority. There’s also one independent member.

Republicans even lose badly in regions they once dominated, such as the Albuquerque-based 1st Congressional District.

Democrat Melanie Stansbury swept to victory Tuesday in the 1st District’s special election. She took 60 percent of the vote, an overwhelming showing for a second-term state representative who hadn’t run for any office until three years ago.

Republican state Sen. Mark Moores took 36 percent of the vote to finish a poor second.

Even when the Republicans choose a good candidate for a tough race like the 1st District, they find a way to appeal more to fringe groups like Cowboys for Trump than to moderates.

Moores was far and away the best candidate Republicans could have nominated in the 1st District.

He’d always been well-prepared for legislative debate. He also built a good reputation by teaming with Democrats when he believed the cause was worthy. Moores led on much of this bipartisan legislation, such as creating a citizens’ committee to redraw boundaries of legislative districts after the U.S. census.

Moores’ brand of conservatism should have given Stansbury a challenge. Instead, Moores campaigned by bobbing and weaving in the wrong direction.

Pointing to Trump’s incessant complaints of fraud, a moderator in one debate asked the congressional candidates who won the presidential election.

Stansbury and Libertarian Chris Manning didn’t hesitate. Each said Democrat Joe Biden won.

Moores tried to assuage Trump’s base in Albuquerque by avoiding a direct answer.

“Obviously, Joe Biden is the president of the United States,” Moores said.

At other stages, Moores sidestepped questions on Trump’s claim that the presidential election was rigged.

Moores’ weasel words made him sound like he’d be another congressman more concerned with Trump’s blessing than with candor.

All of it was out of character for Moores, who’d been known for his direct, fact-based arguments at the state Capitol.

Pirtle and Moores are good pals in the state Senate. But only one of them would introduce legislation to enable secession.

It’s what legislators call “a message bill.” The measure stirred some talk before heading to the legislative cemetery.

The proposal was Pirtle’s way of saying his district in southeastern New Mexico and other rural areas don’t have much of a voice in state politics.

His amendment to the state constitution would have allowed counties to petition to form a new state or to join an adjoining state. Had legislators agreed to place the measure on the ballot, voters would have had the final say.

Pirtle’s pitch was an outgrowth of his affinity for Texas, a place he praised in early March for its “freedoms,” such as ending mandates to wear a mask during the coronavirus pandemic. At the time, many people in New Mexico with respiratory illnesses or other serious health problems still had not been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Pirtle’s position played well in his own district. It did nothing to improve confidence in Republicans in the most populous sections of the state.

The secession amendment went nowhere, which is the same place most Republican candidates in New Mexico end up.

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

(19) comments

Russell Scanlon

I agree that NM Democrats must have more positive results to show for their dominance in this state’s politics, (even though the problems of poverty and education are much deeper than one party or the other.) However, I won’t even consider voting for any Republican until they rid themselves of the disaster of Donald Trump and start fielding some serious people as candidates instead of adding occupants to their expanding clown car. Also—going to Texas for their convention was an act of unrivaled stupidity. And talk of secession isn’t just moronic, it’s not even original.

Scott Smart

I find it interesting that the data about NM, while needing improvement, does not address the true issues the GOP is plagued by

Peter Wyman

Milan's reportage (aka hucksterism for the Left) is equal parts "ineptitude of the GOP" along with slam dunking after the recent election.

Meanwhile, according to US News & World Report, after decades of Dem dominance, New Mexico's scorecard:

RANKINGS SCORECARD

#33 in Health Care

#50 in Education

#44 in Economy

#45 in Infrastructure

#49 in Opportunity

#35 in Fiscal Stability

#47 in Crime & Corrections

#31 in Natural Environment

There seems to be a distinct correlation between NM's ranking in Education and the choices of its voters on Election Day.

But you guys just keep on high-fining yourselves.

Jim Klukkert

Peter Wyman's comment ignores the fact that while in name Democrats, the party dominating NM for at least 50 years, has been a CONSERVATIVE party quite willing to sell out Working & Rural People for the monied energy interests.

Of course that leaves us with a big what if, but we will never know, will we.

On the other hand we already know that Mr. Wyman's snarky sarcasm, i.e. "(aka hucksterism for the Left)" and "But you guys just keep on high-fining yourselves," does not move this discussion further, except to remind myself not to engage here in such foolishness.

John Martinez

Right on Peter! Well said! This stats speak for everything the Dems have not or will not do for us. But yet Full Term Abortions and Recreational Weed is at the top of their lists?? Money Talks and the New MNexican gets alot of these proceeds from the same supporters as our Dem. politics.

Daniel Mathews

Decades of Democrats dominating the state? The last governor was a republican who served two terms. The state house was run by republicans 5 years ago. These are facts, which I know are irrelevant to republicans drinking trump koolaid

Paul Davis

What I find amusing as generally far-left eco-anarchist libertarian-friendly communist (decide for yourself how seriously to take any of that...) is that I could put together better Republican policies than the Republicans. That's true of them across the country, but even easier here in NM. I have never come across such a collection of third rate politicians. There are some coherent arguments to be made for some Republican policies, and there are some cogent criticisms to be made of Democract policy. Some of them don't even involve defending the interests of existing wealth and power.

Why do I have to imagine these for myself when it ought to be the Republicans making them?

Ernest Green

Policy and the act of legislating used to inform and be bound by electoral and fundraising support. For some time now on one side of the aisle these two objectives have decoupled, it is now possible to fundraise with out a legislative record or even a recognizable policy stance (ex: the 2020 GOP convention saw no need to adopt a policy platform of any kind). Same goes for conservative policy at the state level in NM, undefined and ephemeral. Holding office is secondary to competence as a fundraiser (see Otero County). Campaign fundraising does not even rely on constituents themselves but rather on national and regional media and related PACs. This is how one arrives at bizarre scenarios like the conference in TX (Texas!) last month - the intended audience is not potential NM voters, it is national media and access to larger pools of money than available in-state.

Khal Spencer

[beam][thumbup]

Jim Klukkert

[thumbup]

Tom Ribe

Republicans in Oregon are talking about carving off part of the state and adding it to Idaho because the urban parts of Oregon vote heavily for democrats while rural areas vote republican. In New Mexico, republicans don't seem to offer much substantial policy. They are too busy worshiping Donald Trump, a dishonest radical anti-environmentalist and openly racist person. Republicans deserve to lose until they outgrow their Trump fetish and start to actually think again.

Jerry Appel

Rep. Pirtle's approach is not original, nor uncommon. There are many regions of many states where this approach gains traction for a while. As I live in El Paso, TX, this city and county had been treated like a step-child by the rest of Texas until a local judge launched a Court of Inquiry which forced the state to face the fact that it was discriminating against El Paso on a per capita funding basis. The results were positive for El Paso. Prior to this Court of Inquiry, there was a movement to use legislative means to have El Paso become part of New Mexico which is possible under the agreement when Texas, the country, became part of the USA.

As to the record of failure of the Republican Party since the election of Gov. Martinez, that can be directly laid at the feet of ex-President Donald Trump and the failure of the Republican agenda during her eight years in office. New Mexicans had had enough of Republican education reform (test and punish students, teachers, and schools while stealing the public's money for charter and private schools) and tax reform ( giving more and more tax breaks to businesses that weren't providing the job growth promised just like Kansas, her version of trickle-down economics).

Until the Republican Party separates itself from Trump and its old, phony ideas, its decline is assured despite the unrelenting propaganda machine of its mass media outlets: Fox News, OAN, et cetera. The GOP needs to look in the mirror and see themselves as the problem and figure out how to fix it, not the rest of the country.

Khal Spencer

Except that the GOP has rarely controlled NM State Government. You can blame the GOP all you want, just as the GOP blames liberals, but there is enough blame to go around. Here is a graph of historical party control in NM since 1992.

https://ballotpedia.org/Party_control_of_New_Mexico_state_government

Otherwise, I agree. The GOP has to stop trying to sell Edsels when the public wants Toyotas.

Erich Kuerschner

Indeed, When we are lead by the three stooges, none of which seems to have ANY understanding of what creates wealth or causes poverty, NM has dim hopes of rising from the bottom. To wit:

"Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M... said New Mexico’s national labs stand to gain from provisions within the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act. "

ttps://www.abqjournal.com/2397368/national-labs-could-get-boost-from-bill.html

NM is back in the mercantile days before Adam Smith, when money was confused as being wealth. More than sad.

Khal Spencer

[thumbup]

Joseph Tafoya

I guess your analysis guarantees New Mexico will remain near the bottom of every economic, educational, quality of life, and crime metric. I guess it could be worst we could be at the bottom.

Khal Spencer

Heh. Depends on who you ask.

https://moneyinc.com/worst-states-for-education/

Mike Johnson

Yes, NM is almost the worst in poverty as well, 49th overall, 49th for children, 49th for working women, but 48th for working men.....there is hope, so keep the same people in office doing the same things over and over......https://talkpoverty.org/state-year-report/new-mexico-2020-report/

Khal Spencer

Milan, one question. Moores could not be all that politically saavy or he should have realized he was not running in a GOP primary where he had to kowtow to Trump's supporters, but in the general election, and moved out of Trumpland and to the center. The last Republican to hold that seat, if my memory serves me, was Heather Wilson, who was her own person and certainly not a member of the lunatic fringe.

What was Moores thinking?

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