Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – Three Albuquerque Republicans are challenging Steve Pearce – a former congressman from Hobbs – as he seeks reelection to his post as chairman of the state Republican Party.
Members of the party’s state central committee plan to convene an online meeting Monday to elect officers for the next two years.
Pearce took over as chairman in 2018, shortly after losing the governor’s race to Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham.
He now faces Eddy Aragon, CEO of the Rock of Talk radio station; Eric Lucero, a retiree who served in the military for 24 years; and Geoffrey Snider, a business owner and executive director of the Republican Party of Bernalillo County.
The election of a state chairman comes after Republicans had mixed results in the 2020 general election. They flipped control of a congressional seat in southern New Mexico and roughly held their ground in the Legislature, where they gained a seat in the House but lost one in the Senate.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden carried the state by 11 percentage points, and Democrat Ben Ray Luján won the open race for a U.S. Senate seat by 6 points.
The race to serve as chairman of the Republican Party pits Pearce – who’s from the conservative oil patch in southeastern New Mexico – against three candidates from the Albuquerque area, where Democrats have picked up legislative seats the last few election cycles.
In an interview, Pearce said the Republican Party supported a more diverse and larger field of candidates than usual in the 2020 election. The party made gains in Republican voter registration, he said, and an intense campaign of door-knocking, telephone calls and advertising helped turn out GOP voters.
“We just need to continue what we’re doing, frankly,” Pearce said.
Aragon, in turn, said he would bring new strengths to the party. He spends three hours a day talking on the radio and fielding calls directly from people harmed by Democrats’ control of state government, he said.
Aragon said he was once a Democrat but left the party 16 years ago – an experience that gives him insight into appealing to a broader group of voters.
“We have to get more people involved in politics,” he said.
Lucero declined a Journal interview request. But in a written statement, he described himself as a lifelong Republican activist and consultant.
“I’ve been in the trenches for decades,” he said, “and know what needs to be done at this point to bring us to victory in 2022.”
Snider said his background as a campaign manager and fundraiser – in addition to operating an online business – would help the party modernize its digital campaigning and spend its money effectively. He would be dedicated, he said, to helping Republican candidates win.
“My focus is allowing an infrastructure to be built that serves all of our candidates,” Snider said.
The party, he said, should be a “one-stop shop” where candidates can get help printing campaign materials and handling any other work necessary to run for office.
Monday’s election of a party chairman is to be determined by one round of voting. Whoever gets the most votes wins, without a majority required.
Besides a statewide chair, the state central committee will also pick a series of vice chairs, a secretary and a treasurer, all for two-year terms.
To participate, committee members must have registered ahead of time and paid a registration fee.
Aragon described the requirements as an improper attempt to limit who can vote in the election.
A Republican Party spokesman said the election process matches the party’s rules. Registration fees are standard, he said, and cover the cost of voting software and similar expenses.
New Mexico Democrats are expected to elect state party leaders of their own at an internal meeting next spring.