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Comments by GOP House candidate may be an election issue

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Republican 2nd Congressional District candidate Claire Chase acknowledges a Breitbart story about critical posts she made of President Donald Trump in 2015-16 will likely be an issue in her primary battle with Yvette Herrell and Chris Mathys.

Breitbart described several negative posts by Chase on Facebook about the future president, including one in which she called Trump an “a**hole unworthy of the office” of the presidency in August 2015. She said in another post in 2016 she would vote for Libertarian Gary Johnson if Trump was the nominee.

But Chase said she was no different than other Republicans who favored another primary choice during the campaign.

“The thing I will tell voters is that I support him now,” she told the Journal. “There’s a laundry list of good things he’s done for the country, especially New Mexico.”

The controversy didn’t keep Chase from attending the president’s rally Monday in Rio Rancho. Chase, a former chairwoman of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, said she was treated well at the rally and that no one mentioned the Breitbart story. Herrell and Mathys also attended the rally.

“Claire Chase’s comments speak for themselves,” said Herell, the 2018 Republican nominee who lost to Democrat Xochitl Torres Small by a few thousand votes. “I will continue to support the president and his policies, as I always have while working hard to earn the trust of the voters in this race.”

Mathys called Chase’s language “inappropriate and disrespectful.”

“She represents the moderate wing of the Republican Party who has been fighting against President Trump’s since he was elected,” he told the Journal.

Conservative blogger John Block – who describes himself as a Trump supporter from the time he announced his candidacy – said he was not going to rush to judgment, but would like an explanation “since this language is unbecoming of a potential future member of the U.S. House of Representatives.”

Longtime New Mexico political observer Brian Sanderoff said Chase’s comments could make life difficult for her during the primary campaign. He said her opponents would likely use the comments against her in television campaign ads as “an anti-Trump-Republican in a district where conservative voters strongly identify as Trump supporters.”

“I think a key factor will be how the Trump campaign responds to Chase’s previous comments about him,” said Sanderoff, who is the president of Albuquerque-based Research & Polling Inc. “Will they throw their support behind Herrell, or will they remain silent?”

Chase introduced Vice President Mike Pence during his appearance in Artesia last month and Pence had flattering things to say about Chase, including talking about her future leadership in the state. But after news of the Breitbart story, Pence’s office said his remarks were not meant as an endorsement, but an acknowledgment of Chase’s support of the oil and gas industry through her leadership with NMOGA.

Herrell, Mathys and Chase told the Journal they hoped Trump’s visit and campaign emphasis on New Mexico could boost candidates down the ballot, especially in a district the party has hopes of flipping back to the Republican column.

Chase credited the Trump administration with strengthening the oil and gas industry, which is the state’s top economic driver.

“That’s the reason I got into the race,” she said. “I want to protect the industry and these jobs.”

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