Lessons Learned from the 2020 NM GOP State Central Committee Election
Conservatives in New Mexico are ready for Political Change. Will the Republican Party be able to adapt to our conservative values, or will we continue to embrace the losing political strategies of the past?
On December 7, 2020, the Republican Party of New Mexico State Central Committee Election was held where a number of positions were to be voted upon by the “inner circle” of the Republican Establishment. Those who voted are members of the “State Central Committee (SCC)”, comprising of County Chairs and officers from across New Mexico.
The SCC meeting, which has been described as a “fiasco”, was most importantly a referendum on current Chairman Steve Pearce in a state clamoring for change from “Politics as usual”. Steve Pearce is a seven-term Representative for NM02 and unsuccessfully ran against Michelle Lujan Grisham in 2018, who served as RPNM chairman of since 2018 who was running for re-election among rumors that he would be seeking to run for Governor in 2022.
The previous few weeks had set the stage between Steve and his main competition, Eddy Aragon, a well known conservative radio station owner, talk show host, and ardent Trump supporter. The two candidates offered a competing vision for the Republican party going forward: Pearce’s traditional, “compassionate conservative” approach and Aragon’s loud, braggadocios brand of “Trumpism” which mirrors the struggle of the GOP at the National levels.
Journey to the Center of the New Mexico Swamp
Out of 525 members of the State Central Committee, 180 people were in attendance on a zoom call in which voters and candidates were required to register in advance and pay a $35 fee to attend and vote, a fact that some people have referred to as a “Poll Tax”.
I decided to self-nominate for CD-1 Vice Chair because I believe that it’s time we elect strong conservatives who aren’t afraid of “getting in the trenches”, a departure from the pomp and circumstance of the current Republican Party of NM.
At the beginning of the virtual meeting — which began at 5:30 PM, each of the candidates were given two minutes to make a speech. I was third or fourth of the candidates to give my speech and I talked about how I spent much of my childhood hunting and fishing on the Jicarilla Apache Reservation near Dulce, New Mexico which is where I learned to appreciate New Mexico and conservative values just from understanding the true struggle of life itself.
I also talked about when I was elected the New Mexico Tech Student Body President, and that I graduated with a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree. I discussed my political qualifications, including my political contributions throughout 2020 including being the reason that Alexis Martinez Johnson won in the June 2020 Republican Primaries.
After everyone’s speech at around 7:10 PM, RPNM Executive Director Anissa Ford-Tinnin, who was running the meeting stated that it was time for SCC members to vote via an application named “TXT2VOTE” which the RPNM outsourced the counting of 172 votes and 3 districts. Myself, and the other “non-voting” candidates were placed in a waiting room of the Zoom call where I did not see any of the voting process which the results were supposed to have been announced at 7:30 PM.
After waiting on “hold” until about 8:15, all candidates and SCC members were invited back into the zoom meeting, and we were told that the results would be distributed in “5 minutes”, then at 9:10 PM, a member of the SCC read aloud the results of the election, including the surprising results of Steve Pearce 55, Eddy Aragon 54, Geoffery Snider 53 and the meeting was abruptly ended among a palpable feeling of shock, due to the closeness of the RPNM Chairman results, particularly after the long delay in tabulating 172 votes. Later the same evening, RPNM sent out a press release further clarifying irregularities in the vote total, and that a software “coding” error occurred and the correct totals were: Steve Pearce 76, Eddy Aragon 47, Geoffery Snider 41.
The lack of clarity of the voting procedures, the use of an outside electronic voting “TXT2VOTE” software system, and the two results that were reported are particularly ironic given the fact that only three days before the RPNM SCC election, RPNM and US House NM CD-1 Republican candidate Michelle Garcia Holmes filed a lawsuit to impound the ballots in Bernallilo County “with NM GOP Chairman Steve Pearce citing questions about election integrity issues”.
The Future of the Republican Party in New Mexico
What is interesting is how the Republican Party of New Mexico pays “lip service” to conservative ideals, for example, with “Respect New Mexico” slogan created by Jim Townsend and NM House Republican Leadership for the 2020 General Election. This dynamic was echoed during the meeting when many candidates stated that the Republican Party of New Mexico needed to attract younger people to the party with more “diversity”, but when presented with qualified and fresh candidates [Myself, Eddy Aragon, Ashley Soular], the SCC voters chose many of the same “old” candidates who are fresh off of election losses the month before in November 2020.
The meeting itself was incredibly “Republican-esque”, in that the voters were limited to the inner circle Republican elite of New Mexico and even their turnout was suppressed by requirements such as a $35 “poll tax” / entry fee, and everything was done in order to keep the current “status quo” and re-elect the same old candidates, such as limiting all candidates speeches to 2 minutes, and then allowing Steve Pearce the current RPNM chairman 20 minutes to discuss what he had achieved over the past 2 years during the time that SCC members were voting.
Conservative Values and the Losing Culture of NMGOP
In 2020 I learned the difference between being a conservative and being a Republican. A conservative is someone who identifies and lives their life according to conservative values, and a Republican is someone who belongs to a political party. For me personally I will be taking this experience as a learning lesson, and that my true strengths and abilities are less involved with the “politics”, titles, and name recognition, and more with my writing ability. I took this as a learning experience in how deep the New Mexico swamp goes, and why the Republicans are continually losing in elections, primarily due to a “comfort level” and being caught a losing mentality.
What I learned in my race for CD-1, is that I am effectively black-balled among the Republican Establishment due to the blog posts where I discussed my truthful experience with Alexis Martinez Johnson. Apparently, the Party which stands for “truth” and “free speech” did not appreciate my blog posts because I received only 1 vote and lost to Ali Ennenga, former NM State House candidate for district 15.
Ultimately I believe that Steve Pearce will resign as NM GOP Chairman in the upcoming months in order to run for Governor in 2022 against Michelle Lujan Grisham in a rematch of 2018 as has been speculated, and that this election was almost entirely an attempt by Steve Pearce to protect his political legacy from a clearly more qualified challenger in Eddy Aragon. Although, the lack of a resounding victory against two challengers and the issues surrounding the legitimacy of the election will provide new challenges for Pearce to overcome should he decide to run against MLG in 2022.
After my experience in this election, and seeing the fact that 95% of the true conservatives in New Mexico stand with Eddy Aragon, and the internal “election integrity issues” which arise in an election held by RPNM with only 172 voters in order for Steve Pearce to maintain the reigns of control on a political party which is quickly becoming obsolete in New Mexico.
It is difficult for me to see a place for myself within the current Republican Party, especially considering the “path to victory” strategy within the NMGOP is to lose multiple elections, until you have lost enough elections to win a place within the party due to the combination of name recognition and that it’s now “your turn”— a strategy which Steve Pearce pioneered in 2018 by losing to Michelle Lujan Grisham in November of 2018 and becoming NMGOP Chairman the following month. Many Republicans in New Mexico follow this path, including Michelle Garcia Holmes who ran as Steve Pearce’s running mate in 2018, and then became the 2020 NM CD-1 US House Nominee in an unsuccessful bid against incumbent Deb Haaland.
After seeing the results of the SCC election, it’s doubtful that this ultimately losing strategy will go away because it produced one victory in when Yvette Herrell was successful in 2020 for NM CD-2 in a rematch of 2018, reclaiming Pearce’s old district and a heavily conservative district which was lost to Democrat Xochitl Torres Small in 2018.