Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – The Republican Party leadership team in New Mexico’s largest county is in flux after several officials resigned in the wake of an intraparty insurgency and claimed state party officials had violated rules in their handling of the situation.
The resignations of the Bernalillo County Republican Party chairwoman, secretary and treasurer come amid a recent losing streak of Republican candidates in statewide elections and with a high-profile 2022 election cycle on the horizon.
In her resignation letter sent late Friday, former county chairwoman Julie Wright said it had become clear that “many RPNM officers fully support a small faction of dissenters who are causing chaos within the party” and she specifically claimed GOP chairman Steve Pearce had encouraged those dissenters.
“How am I supposed to help our candidates fight the Democrats when Steve Pearce allows and incentivizes a group of rogues to sow unrest amongst our party?” Wright wrote in her resignation letter.
In response, Pearce disputed the assertions in an interview Monday, saying the state GOP has limited involvement in most county party matters.
He also described the situation as “unfortunate,” saying the state party had helped the Bernalillo County GOP find office space during the 2020 election cycle, but said he was focused on moving the party forward.
“People have very high emotions about these things,” Pearce said. “Sometimes it plays out nicely and other times not as nicely.”
The resignations of Wright and other county officials came after a group of Bernallilo County Republican Party central committee members recently sought to call a special meeting to address issues including the “failure of current leadership” to win elections. The possible removal of the county chairwoman was also listed as an agenda item.
While the meeting took place July 22, it was determined to be an unofficial meeting since the county party’s executive committee ruled the dissenters fell short of getting enough valid signatures. The meeting ended without any official action.
However, the state party rules committee chairman subsequently ordered the county party to revise its membership list and provide it to the group of dissenters, according to Bernalillo County GOP Executive Director Geoff Snider, who said in an email to county central committee members the actions went against party rules.
He also said at least two state party officials attended the meeting – secretary Mari Spinelli and treasurer Leonard-David Chavez – and said additional rules were broken when the group of dissenters placed a paid advertisement for the special meeting in the Journal.
Snider, who challenged Pearce for state party chairman last year, said his goal was not to attack state party leaders in raising the alleged rules violations but to point them out in hopes they can be addressed.
“It’s up to the state chair to unite the party – these actions would seem to suggest there’s no headway being made in that department,” he told the Journal.
New Mexico Republicans have absorbed drubbings in many recent statewide races, and Democrat Melanie Stansbury easily won the June race for an open Albuquerque-based congressional seat over a field that included GOP candidate Mark Moores.
In Albuquerque, only two Republican lawmakers are still in office out of more than 20 seats – Moores and Rep. Bill Rehm – after big Democratic gains in 2018 and 2020.
In an interview Monday, Wright said her decision to resign was “heartbreaking,” adding she had hoped to bring cohesiveness to the Bernalillo County Republican Party as chairwoman.
But she said the stress caused by political attacks ultimately made the position untenable. The other county party officials who resigned were treasurer Joe Foor and secretary Denise Foor.
“I’ll never stop being a Republican,” Wright said. “I’m a Republican through and through.”
In the wake of Wright’s resignation, Daniel Moore was appointed as the new Bernalillo County GOP chairman and urged central committee members in an email Saturday to eschew a “toxic spirit.”
Meanwhile, internal GOP divides have also emerged in other states, as some Republicans have faced criticism and even censure for not supporting former President Donald Trump and his claims of widespread voter fraud, which have been dismissed by most courts.
But Snider said he did not think Trump was the driving factor in the recent party drama, saying frustration among newer party insiders over recent election losses in Bernalillo County played a larger role.
He also said party officials would fully support the GOP’s 2024 presidential nominee – whether it ends up being Trump or someone else.