Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – New Mexico Republican Party insiders voted Saturday to keep a familiar figure at the party’s tiller for the next two years, even after a predicted red wave failed to materialize this year.
Former congressman Steve Pearce got about 55% of the votes cast at a GOP State Central Committee meeting in Las Cruces to win reelection to the post he’s held since December 2018.
The next closest candidates behind Pearce was Sarah Jane Allen, an Albuquerque real estate agent, with 20.7% of the 386 votes cast by party delegates. Robert Aragon, an Albuquerque attorney and former state legislator, came in third with 13.2% of the votes.
Pearce had faced calls to resign after general election results last month saw Democrats retain all statewide offices – including the Governor’s Office – and win the only Republican-held congressional district.
But he easily fended off four challengers to win reelection as party chairman, a position he will now hold through the 2024 election cycle.
“Turning New Mexico red is a marathon, not a sprint, and as we look toward 2024, I am excited about helping our future Republican nominees be successful in their campaigns,” Pearce said in a statement after Saturday’s vote results.
Pearce had drawn support in his reelection bid from some prominent GOP figures, including Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel.
However, not all Republicans were thrilled with the leadership vote’s outcome.
Jeff Glassburner, the campaign manager for Mark Ronchetti, who lost a hotly-contested race for governor to Democratic incumbent Michelle Lujan Grisham, said on Twitter it was “incredibly stupid” for Republicans to reelect Pearce as party chairman.
Republicans entered this year’s election cycle with hopes of winning back the Governor’s Office and picking up seats in the Democratic-controlled state House.
But Democrats essentially maintained their advantage in the 70-member chamber and will enter the 60-day legislative session with a 45-25 majority over Republicans, pending automatic recounts in two House races.
Republicans have faced particular challenges in New Mexico’s urban areas, as Democrats currently hold all but two legislative seats – out of more than 30 total seats – in Albuquerque, after big gains in 2018 and 2020.
In a statement, Pearce said a data-driven approach has helped Republicans get “closer and closer” to defeating Democrats in high-profile New Mexico political contests.
“This was a spirited campaign, and I thank the grassroots Republican leaders from across New Mexico for trusting me to lead for another term as RPNM chairman,” Pearce said.
The GOP has also struggled with recent internal strife, however, with party leaders in Bernalillo County resigning last year amid an insurgency and supporters of Republican former Gov. Susana Martinez butting heads at times with Pearce and his loyalists.
Former President Donald Trump has also proved to be a polarizing figure within the state Republican Party, with some Republicans embracing Trump’s assertions he was the rightful winner of the 2020 presidential election and others distancing themselves from the unsubstantiated claims.
Republicans face structural disadvantages in New Mexico, as they are outnumbered by Democrats when it comes to statewide voter registration.
As of last month, Democrats made up about 44% of registered voters statewide, while Republicans made up about 31% of voters, according to the Secretary of State’s Office. Independent voters, Libertarians and those affiliating with minor political parties made up the rest.