Republican chairman offers helping hand to enemy

April 26, 2019

State Republican Party Chairman Steve Pearce has a bad case of political correctness.

With his own party continuing to crumble under his leadership, Pearce is still magnanimous enough to spend time trying to help Democrats. What a statesman.

Pearce is afraid the Democratic Party’s primary election in June 2020 won’t be fair. Imagine that. The Republican leader is worried about Democrats embarrassing themselves with a crooked election, or at least an election that critics could call unusual.

Because Pearce wants to make sure the Democrats aren’t guilty by suspicion, he is offering his visionary thinking to help the rival party.

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver will be a candidate for the U.S. Senate in the Democratic primary. Pearce says she should resign as secretary of state in a display of righteousness.

“As the state’s chief election officer, Toulouse Oliver should not make voters question the integrity of this election by overseeing a high-stakes primary election in which she is a candidate for another office,” Pearce said in a statement distributed under the banner of the Republican Party.

Pearce, of course, was too modest to attach his name to the Republicans’ call for Toulouse Oliver to step down. Being a team player, he wants other Republicans to share in the civic responsibility of cleansing the Democratic primary election.

In his statement, Pearce even supplied phone numbers for Toulouse Oliver. This way zealots everywhere can jam her office lines with abusive calls for her resignation.

But I’m sure Pearce, committed to integrity in elections, didn’t want to start a harassment campaign against Toulouse Oliver.

Others might believe Pearce is bitter because he lost the election for governor last year. In this instance, the word “lost” might be too vanilla, too stark, too bloodless. Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham edged Pearce by 100,000 votes.

Toulouse Oliver oversaw that election. She also was on the ballot as a candidate, winning re-election as secretary of state.

Under her supervision, the voting was honest. Even Pearce never complained that he lost that squeaker because a member of the rival party ran the election.

Perhaps defeat made him wiser. Now he sees trouble for the Democrats in their next election unless he moves against Toulouse Oliver.

Even though Pearce only wants a wholesome election, he has plenty of critics. They say he’s grandstanding and guilty of bad motives.

Toulouse Oliver is seeking a federal office with her candidacy for the Senate. This means she would not oversee campaign reports for herself or her opponents. The Federal Election Commission has that responsibility.

Critics who don’t understand Pearce’s generous spirit say he has ignored this point so he can attack Toulouse Oliver. But what do they know?

Another faction says Pearce ought to be paying attention to his own party’s prospects instead of worrying about a Democratic primary that’s 13 months away.

Gavin Clarkson, so far the only Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, lost two elections last year. He finished third in a four-way Republican primary for Congress. Then he became a pinch-hit candidate for secretary of state. Toulouse Oliver nipped him by 141,000 votes.

Clarkson is suing the state he hopes to represent in the Senate. He claims New Mexico State University fired him unjustly. In pleadings filed in federal court, Clarkson stated that he wants damages from the state “for the pain and suffering caused by NMSU’s hostile and discriminatory actions.”

Let’s be realistic. Pearce can’t play kingmaker by deciding who can sue whom, or who can run for the Senate. He can only do his best for rival Democrats by mounting a campaign to take away Toulouse Oliver’s job.

No matter what his doubters say, Pearce wants a fair election for the other party. Not many Republicans are that committed to the best interests of the enemy, are they?

Pearce could quiet a few of his critics within the Republican Party if he ran for the Senate. Then his sniping at Toulouse Oliver would look partisan. Nobody could ever again accuse him of playing nice with the opposition.

Sure, Pearce’s detractors would say he lost the 2008 race for the Senate and fell short again last year in his run for governor.

But think of all those crossover votes Pearce would get because of his high-minded intentions in shaping the Democratic primary. It’s a rare leader who looks out for both political parties in the name of all that is good.

If Pearce isn’t Senate timber for the Republicans, who is?

Ringside Seat is an opinion column about people, politics and news. Contact Milan Simonich at msimonich@sfnewmexican.com or 505-986-3080.