Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Picking Apart Pearce: Why Run Against Long Odds? How Did The Roll Out Go? Who Will Be His Lt. Gov.? Who Takes His Congressional Seat? Complete Coverage And Analysis Is Up Next 

Steve Pearce knows the odds are against him winning the governorship. So why did the southern NM Republican congressman roll the dice at the age of 69 and give up his US House seat in what could turn out to be a quixotic bid for the Governor's chair? (Video here). Long time political consultant Steve Cabiedes offered one school of thought:

Pearce knows this is going to be rough sledding in a Democratic state but he is taking one for the team. If he didn't run the R's would be in a desperate position. They have no bench to speak of.  The Pearce candidacy will at least get out the base GOP vote and help protect Republican state House seats. Also, he could win. It would be like a lightning strike but such things do occur, if rarely. 

And, remember, Pearce is friendly with President Trump and Vice-President Pence. Perhaps they would put some salve on Pearce's wounds in the form of a role in the administration if he goes on to lose? Otherwise, he and his wife Cynthia have millions in personal wealth they could enjoy spending. Looks like a pretty soft landing one way or the other.

The Pearce move certainly does allow some dominoes to fall into place. Like Lt. Governor John Sanchez perhaps soon announcing a bid for the US senate seat held by Dem Martin Heinrich. And GOP State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn seriously eyeing the GOP nomination for Pearce's congressional seat, a seat Dunn once ran for. Dunn is the strongest contender of all the names floating, but in the hours following Pearce's announcement Monday, a top GOP operative described the positioning as "wide-open and wild and crazy. It will take time for it to settle."

"Wild and crazy?" Hey, we can live with that. 

(Alamogordo state Representative Yvette Harrell announced Tuesday she would seek the Republican nomination for Pearce's congressional seat.)


The Pearce roll out was solid, as it should be from someone who has run so many contests, including statewide. The news popped on the GOP friendly ABQ Journal at about three in the morning. It was also leaked early enough for it to make the print editions that the older voters still read. Pearce appeared early morning on conservative radio talker KKOB-AM, another place the GOP base is tuned into.

The announcement got solid notice on social media, but excitement about it was not much in evidence, signaling the difficulty the candidacy faces. TV coverage included sound bites from Pearce.

The messaging was solid. He cited people fleeing the state for jobs, too much poverty and bettering education. The problems will come when the Pearce policies to those pressing matters are unveiled. Meantime, he can take heart that his campaign seems up and ready for the challenges ahead.


That Pearce decided to run appeared to be one of those rare occasions when the insiders were more surprised than the public. Pearce had been telegraphing a run in news stories and on his tours of the state, but many veteran R's were not taking the bait. Thus when he announced the scurrying by the GOP political class got underway in earnest.

From our corner, Pearce's entry will cost us a steak dinner from a GOP insider. Fortunately, we hedged our bet and said the loser takes the winner to the Monte Carlo not the uber-expensive Ruth's Chris. No hard feelings, Steve. We'll do our best to present unbiased analysis even if you have already taken a bite out of our hide.

One insider who wasn't fooled was Roswell oilman Mark Murphy who has been involved in GOP politics for years and is a close friend of Pearce's. A Pearce friend tells us Murphy will serve as chairman of the gubernatorial campaign to come.


Old reliable Pat Lyons heard his name being tossed around in a more serious vein in the wake of the Pearce decision. How about letting him run for land commissioner for the GOP if Dunn goes for the congressional seat? Lyons, currently term limited on the Public Regulation Commission, is a former land commissioner.


As for a lieutenant governor candidate to run with Pearce, the pros were quick to call for a Hispanic woman to take on the task and waited for the names to start floating. One did bobble up but was not an Hispanic female. How about Dr. Richard Luarkie, the former Governor of Laguna Pueblo who Pearce has spoken highly of and who has a business background? He is also African-American.

So, as you can see the Pearce decision does indeed have the embroynic makings of a statewide team for the R's who have to face an electorate poised to go Democratic after eight years of Susana Martinez. But sometimes not losing badly is almost like winning.


For his money Cabiedes says a Guv run for Pearce does not risk a blowout of 62 to 38 as Pearce suffered at the hands of Tom Udall in 2008 when the duo faced off for an open US Senate seat.

Pearce will bring the troops home and raise the flag. That will keep the winner's circle in his sights, if not within walking distance.

Still, the early odds of a Pearce win in Dem NM following 8 years of a now unpopular GOP Governor have to be on the order of 6 to 1? What do you think?


For Dem Guv front-runner Michelle Lujan Grisham the less said about Pearce on Monday, the better. She followed the old school rule of letting your opponent have his day in the sun and let the head banging chores go to Dem Party Chair Ellenberg who ably wielded the Dem hammer on the conservative Pearce.


Down south, there's pretty much complete disarray in the Democratic ranks when it comes to the nomination for the congressional seat to be vacated by Pearce. There are four candidates running but none of them are seen by veteran observers as top tier. Still, what you see is what you may get, unless the likes of Senator Howie Morales emerges. Or how about former state Rep. Jose Campos of Santa Rosa who has talked about running for the seat if someday it became open. Well, Jose, it's open.

And forget about Dem state Senator and freshly announced Dem Guv candidate Joe Cervantes doing an about face and dropping his bid for governor to run for the congressional seat. Not going to happen, say those close to him.

Because it is conservative country and there are no big Dem names in the race yet, we are going to rank the seat in the early going as "Lean Republican."


Back in the big city, money raising is the news in the Dem fracas for the US House seat being vacated by Rep. Lujan Grisham. Former NM Dem Party Chair Deb Haaland is touting the $150,000 she raised in the first two months of her campaign as putting her on track to become the "first Native American Woman in Congress." But attorney Antoinette Sedillo Lopez is putting a hurdle up for her to jump. She says she raised $200,000 in the first three months of her campaign for the Dem nod.

The Republicans? Former State Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones is the only announced hopeful. But let's get crazy for a minute. Now that Pearce is in the Guv race and has seemingly dashed any hopes of Mayor Berry to get in that contest, how about if Berry runs as a Republican for the congressional seat? Hey, stop your snickering. We did call it getting crazy.

There's more on the Pearce run on our special Monday blog. Just scroll down.

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