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NM GOP leadership race jolted by Garcia Holmes endorsement

Michelle Garcia Holmes

SANTA FE — An already zesty race to be the New Mexico Republican Party’s next chairman got a new infusion of political intrigue today.

Michelle Garcia Holmes, who was Steve Pearce’s running mate in this year’s gubernatorial race, announced her endorsement of John Rockwell, an Albuquerque businessman who is running against Pearce for the party chair post.

In her letter to state GOP central committee members, Garcia Holmes touted Rockwell’s business background. She did not directly mention Pearce.

“Rockwell’s vision for a strong foundation and structure is sound; utilizing best practices and team building will bring solid results in key areas to truly unite our party and build a strong foundation with future leaders in New Mexico,” Garcia Holmes wrote.

State Republican Party insiders will meet Saturday in Albuquerque to pick a new party chairman for the next two years after an election in which Democrats swept all statewide offices on the ballot and picked up eight seats in the state House of Representatives.

Pearce announced his candidacy shortly after being soundly defeated by Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham in New Mexico’s governor’s race. Despite running for the party chairman post, he has not ruled out a 2020 run for his current congressional seat, according to a campaign spokesman.

Pearce, a Hobbs resident, has said he would rebuild the state Republican Party, which has been roiled by infighting in recent years. After this year’s general election, several loyalists to Gov. Susana Martinez’s political machine lashed out at current state GOP leaders.

However, Rockwell, who ran unsuccessfully for Republican Party chairman in 2012 and 2016, has said Pearce would represent a status quo choice at a time when Republicans should be seeking change.

Under a New Mexico law that some legislators have sought to change, candidates for lieutenant governor run separately from gubernatorial candidates in the primary election. But whoever wins the lieutenant governor race then runs as part of a ticket with the gubernatorial nominee in the general election.

Garcia Holmes is a former law enforcement officer who was also chief of staff to ex-Attorney General Gary King. She was unopposed this year in the GOP primary race for lieutenant governor.