GOP Chairman Has Apologies; Does he have the votes?

25 Nov – Alibis are the constant companion of defeat. Losers always touch on the same broad issues.

—Ole Rudy says the poll workers looked kind of suspicious. They could have stuffed the ballot box while our trained observers smoked a cigarette outside.

—We had a lot of injuries and all the noise the crowd was making really put us at a disadvantage.

—The referees were against us. We didn’t get a call all day.

– The district clerk was against us. We haven’t filed a formal challenge or anything, but some of us have complained about the voting machines. We had a gut feeling that these machines were rigged. The clerk wouldn’t listen because, as I said, she’s biased.

These kinds of apologists work hard for “Amarillo” Steve Pearce. They use every little twist to divert attention from Pearce’s dismal win-loss record as chairman of the New Mexico Republican Party.

“In a blue state like New Mexico, going from blue to red isn’t a sprint. It’s a marathon,” Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel said in a video endorsing Pearce for re-election.

McDaniel ignored the calendar and common sense. Pearce had four years as state GOP chairman, ample time for the slowest jogger to reach the finish line.

Pearce’s cronies circumvent his mistakes. Here’s a quick summary, starting from the top.

Republicans lost all 10 elections for statewide office, including governor, this month. A rising Democrat defeated the only Republican to hold a congressional seat in New Mexico.

Republicans remain at a 25-45 disadvantage in the state House of Representatives, as they have for most of Pearce’s presidency.

The only change came when Republicans ousted one of their own members, Rep. Phelps Anderson, after he voted to repeal a 1969 law criminalizing abortion. The episodes left the House of Representatives with 45 Democrats, 24 Republicans and Anderson as an independent.

Pearce, 75, continues to face opposition from within his ranks.

Bernalillo County Republican Party vice chair Sarah Jane Allen says she will seek to unseat Pearce in the Dec. 3 election to lead the GOP.

Allen, 48, is a homemaker and mother of six children, including three adult daughters. One of Allen’s campaign promises is to make Republicans relevant again by recruiting “credible, engaged, and trainable candidates.”

She told me opposition to coaching cost a Republican House candidate a win in this month’s election. Allen declined to name the candidate.

Allen grew up on a grain and cattle farm in Alberta, Canada. She has lived in Albuquerque for 26 years, where her husband Brad is a director of a real estate firm.

Allen joins Albuquerque attorney Robert Aragon to challenge Pearce. Aragon, 65, is a former Democrat who has gained a foothold among Republican Party Central Committee members, particularly in Santa Fe and Albuquerque.

Another potential candidate for the Republican presidency is Gallup’s Rodney Tahe. Tahe, who turns 45 next week, serves as legal counsel for the Navajo Nation.

He has until Friday to run for Republican state chairman but said he was undecided.

Tahe was more assertive about what Republicans need: “I think it’s time for a change. Steve Pearce had four years.”

Tahe has been a registered Republican since he was 18 and said his party choice was influenced by his Catholicism. Another factor, he said, was bad personal behavior on the part of Democrats, particularly then-President Bill Clinton.

Tahe had less to say about an episode involving his own behavior as a younger man. State records show that he pleaded guilty to drunk driving in 2007. “I’d rather not comment,” he said when asked about the case.

In exchange for Tahe’s guilty plea, prosecutors dropped other charges alleging Tahe failed to stop and failed to drive in a lane after an accident that damaged a vehicle.

The larger the field of candidates, the better Pearce’s chances.

Voters for the party leader are about 500 members of the Republican State Central Committee. Pearce still has a base of support in this small group.

Bob Graham, a Santa Fe Central Committee member, is committed to Aragon. But neither Graham nor other voters looking for change can rule out Pearce, who could win re-election without being particularly popular.

“The election can be decided by a majority. There’s nothing in the rules for a runoff,” Graham said.

If three challengers split the votes, Pearce could be re-elected with 30 percent support. After the year Pearce had, his apologists would declare it a landslide.

Ringside Seat is an opinion column about people, politics and news. Contact Milan Simonich at [email protected] or 505-986-3080.

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