Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – The Republican Party of New Mexico reported late Monday that former Congressman Steve Pearce won reelection as state chairman, turning back three challengers from Albuquerque.
But the party reported two different tallies of the vote total, and one candidate said a new election should be called.
The first vote total – announced at the online meeting of the party’s state central committee – was incredibly close, with Pearce edging out the win by just one vote, according to attendees at the meeting.
Several GOP sources said Pearce was reported as having 55 votes – to 54 votes for Eddy Aragon, CEO of the Rock of Talk radio station, and 53 votes for Geoffrey Snider, a business owner and executive director of the Republican Party of Bernalillo County.
But Republican Party spokesman Mike Curtis told the Journal late Monday that the initial vote totals were incorrect – the result of a mistake by the company tallying the electronic ballots.
Pearce actually won the race by 29 votes, Curtis said, with Aragon collecting just 47 votes. Snider had 41 in the final tally, according to Curtis.
In a brief interview, Pearce said the final vote totals are accurate.
“There’s not going to be another state central committee meeting and another vote,” Pearce said.
Aragon, in any case, immediately questioned the reported vote totals and said the party’s central committee should schedule a new election.
“Conservatives don’t have faith in the party leadership in a time when it matters more than ever,” he said after the meeting.
His comments came before Curtis reported new vote totals.
Snider – also speaking before the new vote totals were released – said it would be up to the chairman to unify the party after an unexpectedly close election. He noted that it took a long time to tally the electronic votes and some people had trouble casting their votes.
“There were a lot of problems with accessibility among the voting population because of the way the electronic voting was run,” Snider said.
Rebekah Stevens, chairwoman of New Mexico Young Republicans, said the meeting ended abruptly after the reporting of the initial vote totals. The race was unusually close, Stevens said, compared with past elections.
“Usually there’s a clear winner with at least a 50 vote lead,” she said, speaking before Curtis reported new vote totals.
Pearce — who lives in Hobbs, a conservative stronghold in southeastern New Mexico — pitched himself to party members as an experienced political hand who helped recruit a large, diverse field of candidates for the 2020 general election.
He faced three candidates in Monday’s election — Aragon, Snider and Eric Lucero, a retiree who served in the military for 24 years. Lucero trailed the other candidates.
Voting in the election were members of the Republican Party’s state central committee. The meeting — held online — was closed to the public.
Pearce has led the party since 2018, winning election as chairman shortly after losing the governor’s race to Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham. Before that, he served 14 years in Congress and four years in the state House.