Alibi V.27 No.16 • April 19-25, 2018 

Election News

To The Future Governor

This year’s essential truths, revealed

Just about anyone you talk to who is engaged with la politica in this state—and I hope that’s a plentiful amount—knows that the outcome of the governor’s race in N.M. will give direction to our culture’s movement. Either we will all trudge ahead, forward-looking as we strive for solutions that daunted the last administration or we remain tethered to a system whose hallmarks are depletion division.

It’s clear that in order to embrace and manifest progress in this state, we are going to need a Democratic governor and legislature to turn the tide on Trumpian and Tejana-based poor governance.

But, apparently that’s going to take some work. The Democratic primary campaign, so far, has been marked by internecine fighting and a lack of unity that bodes badly for maintaining inertia though the general election.

Of a more interesting note that is the not-necessarily-sinister, but indeed-with-oily-undertones campaign of Congressman Steve Pearce, the only Republican vying for the highest office in our state. Dude has all sorta Trump cards in his wallet if you will allow the pun; aspects of his candidacy that might in fact signal his ascendancy come November. Democrats should be worried because Pearce could become a serious deal-breaker. Their number one goal should be preventing this; spending time taking each other apart only makes a Pearce Administration more probable.

Clearly it’s up to the Dems to clean up their act (this scenario has played out before, much to the chagrin of voters who tend to remember the state Democratic party as the one with a persistent taste for crow) and take their rightful place at the executive table, but in the meantime, let’s take a look at the basic structure of this year’s contest for command of the Roundhouse, from an Alibi perspective.

Steve Pearce
Rep. Steve Pearce
courtesy of the candidate

Steve Pearce

Pearce represents the southern voters of this state, with a congressional district that spans the lower half of New Mexico. Sixty-three percent of the district is white and has regularly voted for Republican presidents; congressional representatives from this district have traditionally been of the elephant variety too; a notable exception was Democratic congressman Harold Runnels, who served through the ’70s. Besides agriculture, the major industries are based in the extraction, refinement, transport and distribution of the fossil fuels, oil and natural gas.

Pearce is from Hobbs, N.M., one of the southern hubs of the state’s gas and oil industry. Not surprisingly, the largest contributors to Pearce’s campaign, as first detailed in New Mexico In Depth, have so far been a plethora of oil and gas companies with an interest in New Mexico.

It should be noted that the gas and oil industry does play a huge role in our state’s economy. This year and late last year, a large, unforeseen, but cautioned-about rise in the state’s oil and gas revenue was a major contributor to a solid budget for the upcoming fiscal year. Pearce, longtime friend and proponent of the industry, is well aware of this competitive advantage in that he can say he represents growth and prosperity.

Significantly, Pearce recently won a court case that essentially allowed the candidate to donate money from his previous congressional campaign to his latest effort to be elected. The result of this soon to be settled legal hurdle means that Pearce’s campaign is now the top fundraiser of all four gubernatorial campaigns—Democrats included. Those sorts of resources are one more reason that Democrats should focus on Pearce.

Though Pearce has some heavy cudgels in his bag, it doesn’t take much research to find the deep, Trumpian holes in his soul, aspects of his persona and policy that should make him essentially unelectable.

Just last month, the Huffington Post reported that, a scant 10 years ago, Representative Pearce appeared at a meeting in Carrizozo, N.M., where he spoke on numerous topics, including LGBTQ rights and marriage equality. Pearce told those gathered that the latter would lead to “polymorphism” and consequently concluded, “Where this all gets headed is toward the access to benefits, and so you can imagine that a person would say, ‘Oh all these people in California don’t have access to AIDS treatments.’ ... They might say this to themselves: ‘I’m gonna marry everybody in California with AIDS,’ and suddenly they’ve got access to the, maybe the benefit program, the health insurance that a single person has.”

Wow. Pearce was also the elected representative of the people who wrote in his 2014 memoir that because of biblical principles, wives must “voluntarily submit” to their husbands.

It’s clear that embracing the values that Pearce represents, whether it be his connection to unrenewable, dead-end energy sources or backwards-looking social agenda, will not be good for this state and its citizens. Meanwhile, Pearce’s social media crew have been floating the statement that their man is tied with frontrunner Grisham, yet another reason Dems should be doing their due diligence now and not later.

Michelle Lujan Grisham
Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham
courtesy of the candidate

The Democrats

I’m sure the Dems agree with that last sentence, you know about the inherent foolishness of electing Pearce to lead New Mexico. But you wouldn’t know it from the way they’re running their campaigns.

As detailed in this week’s Newscity, the number two and number three contenders for the democratic nomination to be governor are busy battling each other in court. Former media executive turned favorite son Jeff Apodaca—his dad was governor for one term back in the ’70s—is trying his damnest to get fellow Las Crucan Joseph Cervantes thrown off the primary ballot. Even though a judge dismissed Apodaca’s latest complaint, the candidate’s attorney told the Santa Fe New Mexican that she intends to appeal to the state Supreme Court.

In the meantime, there has been no clear word on where either candidate stands with regard to substantive issues facing this state, especially how they plan to counter the machinations of a Trump administration that Pearce is practically ready to partner with after he assumes power because of a possible Dem meltdown post-primary.

The frontrunner in the Democratic field, Michelle Lujan Grisham, is not without her problems either. In particular, this candidate’s tenure as secretary of our state’s department of health continues to be under media scrutiny; the student newspaper at New Mexico State University (arguably smack in the middle of Apodaca and Cervantes territory) very recently examined the controversies Grisham encountered when she served in this position during the aughts.

Further, there is some controversy surrounding Grisham’s current efforts. Disruptions of campaign events by a former staffer who claimed that she was wrongfully terminated from her position—based on her transgender status—lead to criminal charges against former intern Riley Del Rey after she allegedly grew violent when confronted by authorities. The situation grew more complicated last week when Del Rey teamed with defense attorney JoHanna Cox—who is also the Republican candidate for Secretary of State—and asked for a jury trial.

Of course Grisham denies that any discrimination was involved and states that she didn’t even know Del Rey was transgender. All of that is reasonable, coming from a reasonable candidate many assume will be the Democratic flag-bearer for the Land of Enchantment, come November. But the news remains distracting, a potential stumbling block for voters—not to mention fodder for Pearce—with strong opinions about the LGBTQ community.

Clearly Grisham needs to weather this controversy but she also needs to make substantive moves to see that it is resolved sooner rather than later—so that it is no longer any concern after the primary season is merely a memory, so that the looming giant that is Steve Pearce can be faced bravely and without reservations or distractions.