Ten years before Donald Trump became president, Couy Griffin traveled across the country for a different master.

Griffin used to be a street preacher with a style all his own. Two animals, a horse named Daisy and a miniature mule called Black Jack helped Griffin publicize his tours.

“Cowboy gallops for God,” read a headline in an Indiana newspaper. Another in Ohio said, “Preacher spreads the good word on horseback.”

Griffin drew an audience by riding Daisy on city streets. His little mule tagged along, carrying copies of the Book of John.

Griffin, 46, still knows a thing or two about making headlines, but now they are political. Many are bad, at least in his eyes.

He’s an Otero County commissioner who founded Cowboys for Trump. Griffin stirred controversy by incorporating his organization as a private business instead of a political action committee.

He rides a horse to state capitals and any other town with a pulse to kick up support for the president.

Griffin, a Republican, won’t disclose how much money he collects or spends through Cowboys for Trump.

New Mexico’s Democratic secretary of state, Maggie Toulouse Oliver, says he’s circumventing laws on political organizations.

A more heated controversy enveloped Griffin this week after video surfaced of him making a speech in Truth or Consequences.

“I’ve come to a place where I’ve come to the conclusion that the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat,” Griffin said, drawing cheers from his audience.

Perhaps sensing trouble, Griffin softened his next words.

“I don’t say that in the physical sense, and I can already see the videos being edited where it says I want to go murder Democrats. No, I say that in the political sense, because the Democrat agenda and policy is anti-American right now.”

I asked Griffin if he regretted what he said.

“Could I have used different verbiage? Absolutely. I could have said the only good Democrat policy is a dead Democrat policy. I did try to clear up the water by saying I didn’t mean it in the physical sense.”

Formerly the pastor of a church in Alamogordo and the proprietor of a barbecue restaurant, Griffin says he dislikes his new profession of politics. He portrays himself as a victim of mean and false attacks.

“This is the nastiest, dirtiest, most slanderous place I have ever seen,” he said of political office. “I’m the target of lies and slander, horrible slander. There’s no uproar from the left over that.”

Griffin’s critics call him an inefficient county commissioner who stoops to underhanded and secretive practices.

Jeff Swanson, who chairs Otero County’s Democratic Party, is suing Griffin on grounds the commissioner violated open-records

laws. Griffin posted public records on his Facebook page, then blocked residents he didn’t like.

Swanson is represented by attorney A. Blair Dunn, who’s run for public office as a Republican and a Libertarian.

“Commissioner Griffin has responded to such criticism from Mr. Swanson and other constituents expressing concern with hostility and unprofessionalism,” Dunn said.

Griffin calls the lawsuit “bogus” and describes himself as the aggrieved party.

“I’m not going to discuss it any detail, but I will say I’ve given them everything they’ve asked for,” Griffin told me.

Has he blocked anyone on social media?

“Who hasn’t blocked people when all they do is harass you?” Griffin said.

Swanson sees Griffin as a politician with one exceptional talent and many flaws.

“I’ve told him he’s one of the most genius marketers I’ve ever seen,” Swanson said.

The same formula Griffin used as an evangelical preacher works well in politics.

As king of the cowboys, Griffin generates as much publicity for himself as he does for Trump.

In one his battles against logic and reason, Griffin also claims Cowboys for Trump is a nonpolitical business, even as it promotes the president for reelection.

Griffin insists the only business of Cowboys for Trump is championing what’s good for America.

“The reason why I don’t want it to be a [tax-exempt] (c)(3) is I don’t want to be censored,” Griffin said. “You have to account for money, what you take in and what you spend, and there are guidelines on what you can say in those (c)(3)s.”

His arguments are as flimsy as they are convoluted. Political Action Committees hurl political attacks as regularly as the sun rises. He just doesn’t like the idea of revealing how Cowboys for Trump generates and spends money.

Griffin lists himself as manager of Cowboys for Trump. Yet he couldn’t say why its principal place of business is listed as Santa Fe but its mailing address is in Spokane, Wash.

Griffin said his sister, Kay, filled out the paperwork. She is listed as organizer of Cowboys for Trump.

Toulouse Oliver’s challenge to Griffin’s claim that he is running a business was supposed to be heard in February by an arbitrator. Griffin asked for a delay. The case has stalled since the onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The biggest ride Cowboys for Trump ever made also is a source of controversy.

Griffin traveled to Washington in September. He took along his horse, and a posse joined him on a ride from Cumberland, Md., to the White House.

Griffin snagged an audience with President Donald Trump, then submitted a voucher for more than $3,200 in expenses to the Otero County government. All his talk with Trump centered on county business, Griffin said.

An examination of Griffin’s travel voucher is “open and ongoing,” said a spokeswoman for State Auditor Brian Colón.

Griffin said he would resign from office only if someone presented him with a valid reason.

He’s back in the saddle, but the preaching is not nearly so fun for him as the old days. Back then, with a horse, a mule and the Book of John, he always wore the white hat.

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

(21) comments

Kim Audette

The reason for this Big Show full of paranoia, gaslighting and calls for a partisan bloodletting is to distract from the Sierra County Sheriff's Department involvement with the California drug pipeline that runs through T or C.

The out of focus character with the giant moustache and badge beside Couy is Sierra County Sheriff Hamilton. One of Sheriff Hamilton's deputies was caught with meth in the Sheriff's department vehicle. To cover up the hiring and inevitable arrest of a known long time drug abuser, Hamilton invited his assault-weapon waving cronies from all over the Southwest. Hamilton tried to make this hooplah into a civil rights issue, using the pastor of a tiny church as his patsy. The smoke screen allows the drug pipeline to coninue to operate, including human trafficking and neck slashings. The eiighborhood, though mostly abandoned now, consists of a few Democrats, whom the dealers threaten with bloody enfs twice a month. It ties in nicely with Couy's threats.

So, while it is a reporters duty to give light to the self-admitted perversions of an Otero County Commissioner and his Cowboys for Trump, you would give your readers a better understanding of the depths of corruption if you wrote the whole story. It's know coast to coast that the Sierra County Sheriff's department has a drug problem, and there in the photo is the Guy in Charge. The dots really need to be connected.

Stefanie Beninato

Thank you for this information. I am sorry the New Mexican does not seem interested in digging deeper into these stories including Alan Webber's possible knowledge of and cover-up of NEil Goldschmidt's rape and pedophilia and the alleged lack of real diploma from Highlands U for Ben-Ray Lujan.

Angel Ortiz

First of all, it is really disgusting that the New Mexican even provides Mr. Griffin with the publicity. Even more disturbing are those who follow him and stand by his insanity. I would be truly impressed if the King of the Cowboys would have the bravery to take his posse into a Northern New Mexico county? Perhaps he could meet my cousins in Mora or Rio Arriba?

John Block

Obviously, Cowboys for Trump’s Couy Griffin could have used weaker language to get his point across that radical Death Cult Democrats look to strip away our rights, but he didn’t. And we have had about enough of the weak, spineless, and useless party-dividers (including an ambulance-chasing lawyer and an anti-Semitic failed political operative), who look to tear down our own and weaken the strong voices in our Republican Party. 

This leftist campaign to take down Couy Griffin is without a doubt a childish publicity stunt seized on by a failed party-jumping opportunist who seeks to drag Griffin’s name through the mud to get a better outcome in a frivolous lawsuit this ex-Republican lawyer mounted on behalf of the Democrat Party. 

I may not agree with everything every Republican does, but by kowtowing to the radical socialist Democrats, we do nothing but hurt ourselves and put our conservative family on the defense. We need leaders with guts, who are unafraid to speak — even if that speech is offensive. That’s the point. We must not cave to the left-wing fringe of the GOP to join ravenous Democrat wolves in attacking our own.

The tiny band of bitter anti-GOP outcasts is small, frail, and inconsequential. They have proven time and time again that their feeble voices are getting weaker and by each passing day, they are rapidly fading into extinction. Anyone willing to partner with the Democrat Party to remove our leaders has no place in our Republican Party family and should be treated as nothing more than pariah, deserving shame for their grievous betrayal of our values.

Khal Spencer

Bet you feel better now that you got that bile out of your system.

Carolyn DM

LMAO!! And exactly what rights of yours is the Democratic party trying to strip away? Please humorous with your ignorance and delusion, in complete detail. Mr. Griffin is just another pro-birth, fake, "christian", that calls himself a preacher. He couldn't even come up with the fees for his litttle Cowboy clown show to have their procession from the rodeo grounds to the capitol building in Santa Fe last year. "Cowboy", my A!! And haven't you gotten a clue yet that the "Conservative", party no longer exists? It's turned into nothing but a merry band of old, pale, fake christian, Republican goons that only care about money and how bad they can rob the people of this country while bowing down to their pathetic excuse for a leader that's currently squatting in our White House. It's way past time to get WOKE, Blockhead!!

Lupe Molina

Oof. Time to get a real job, John.

Tim Long

Talk about honkie crackers! Birds of a feather...

Jeff Clark

Has this self proclaimed "cowboy" ever actually worked on a ranch?

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Moses Townsend

You’re a brilliant illustration of the racist and unworldly Norteno population. Guess what...if you’re Spanish descent...you’re white, too.

Craig O'Hare

Griffin is a member of Cowboy (Terrorists) for Trump - a group of heavily-armed violent people masquerading as church-going "family ranchers."

Khal Spencer

"Honky"? "Cracker"? Does the New Mexican only enforce its rules of discourse if someone is saying offensive words to a minority group member? Or hasn't anyone checked this discussion yet?

Well, I did send Mr. Griffin an email trying to bridge the chasm. See if I get a response.

Stefanie Beninato

Sorry I got interrupted. Why is the SOS not investigating the money Griffen is putting into a private business that should be called a PAC since it operates like one?

And Richard--Milan does not pretend to be a cowboy like Griffen does.

Stefanie Beninato

Well, if he dislikes politics so much why not resign and put his full time into the business he created? And why is

Raquel Casillas

What an insult to real cowboys out there in our wonderful state of New Mexico. We need to all pull through this together.

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Judith Senda

Honky? Cracker? And to think just today, a letter to the editor lauded Santa Fe’s diversity, tolerance and community.

Hate much, Tara?

Alan Courtney

All hat and no cattle.

Paul Groh

Also the fringe.....and no cattle:)

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Richard Reinders

Who are you talking about Milan who wrote the article?

Welcome to the discussion.

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