For decades now, Democrats have been able to assume New Mexico is theirs for the taking – at least in presidential elections. And it would be easy to look at our current Democratic governor, senators, congressional delegation minus Yvette Herrell, and majorities in the state Legislature, and assume New Mexico has been largely exempt from the current MAGA Republican assault on our democracy.
But that assumption would be wrong.
Election conspiracies have come to the New Mexico Republican Party, and New Mexico voters seem more willing to vote for Republicans, despite the party’s current extremism.
Look no further than our primary elections that took place earlier this year.
Secretary of state elections don’t receive much attention from voters or the media, but the Republican nominee for the office in New Mexico deserves our attention – and alarm. Her name is Audrey Trujillo and the only thing you need to know about her is that she is part of the so-called America First Secretary of State Coalition. The organization, founded by Nevada Republican secretary of state nominee Jim Marchant, consists of the most extreme MAGA Republicans who spread conspiracy theories about the 2020 election. If it succeeds, the coalition will have control over elections across the country, including in key swing states. Their goal is to be in a position to help Trump and his allies overturn the next free and fair election that he loses.
Even though Biden won New Mexico by 99,720 votes in 2020, Trujillo believes Trump won our state and shared her “evidence” on Steve Bannon’s podcast: “We didn’t see Biden signs anywhere. We saw Trump signs. We saw huge convoys.”
But Trujillo’s extremism doesn’t stop with election conspiracies. Her Twitter account shared tweets that mocked a Spanish accent and perpetuated anti-Semitic tropes. When first confronted with the tweets, Trujillo said the account was fake, possibly made by her political opponents, such as “antifa.” She then backtracked and admitted the profile was hers, but said she didn’t recall tweeting those messages herself. But, if she did tweet them, Trujillo said, she wouldn’t have intended for them to be racist.
If Trujillo’s (uncontested) primary win weren’t alarming enough, Republicans’ actions after the primary are even more evidence of the Big Lie’s grip on our state party.
In Sandoval County, Commissioner Jay Block – who lost the Republican gubernatorial primary – voted against certifying the primary election results. And, in Otero County, it took a state Supreme Court order to force Republican commissioners to certify the results. Even then, Commissioner Couy Griffin, who was recently convicted of trespassing on Capitol grounds on Jan. 6, still voted against certification. The reason? Conspiracy theories about Dominion voting machines. Or, as he put it, “gut feeling and intuition” about election irregularities. Again, more rock-solid evidence.
All of this would be unnerving even if Republicans didn’t stand a chance of winning elections in our state. But that’s not the case.
In the most recent statewide poll, Trujillo trails incumbent Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver 41 to 34, with 16% still undecided. And Trujillo could benefit from trickle-down support for the Republican gubernatorial nominee Mark Ronchetti, who is trailing Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham by only a few percentage points.
Regional trends are also in Republicans’ favor here in New Mexico as Hispanic voters across the Southwest are shifting toward the Republican Party. Just recently, a Republican won a special election in Texas’ largely Hispanic 34th congressional district in a region Democrats have dominated for more than a century.
Before the Trumpian takeover of the Republican Party, I would’ve been excited about my party’s expanding popularity in our state. It’s disappointing – and dangerous – that more New Mexicans are being drawn to this new, anti-democratic version of the party. Democrats and pro-democracy conservatives like me must take note. We can’t let conspiracy theorists take over New Mexico, even if they’re members of our party.
L.B. Marquez is a self-described disenchanted lifelong Republican from Las Cruces.