Though surrounded by fellow Republicans, it was an ability to work with and win over Democrats that candidate for governor Steve Pearce emphasized when he spoke at the opening of the Chaves County Republican Party campaign office in Roswell Saturday.
Pearce, who represents New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District — that includes Roswell and the southern portion of the state — is the Republican candidate for governor. He faces Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, in November.
Pearce told the crowd he had just completed his second or third trip through several Democratic strongholds in the northern part of the state — including three days on the Navajo reservation. Pearce added that he has received a positive reception in each of them.
Pearce stated that he always has reached out to Democrats.
“The second district is 52 percent Hispanic, 60 percent minority, is one of the poorest districts in the U.S. and a Republican represents it because I went into those places that Republicans typically don’t go and that was the process,” he said.
He touted recent endorsements he received from two high profile Democrats: Dorothy Runnels, the widow of former U.S. Rep. Harold Runnels, and former New Mexico Gov. Jerry Apodaca, as proof of his cross party appeal.
“They are supportive because they know me, that I work across party lines, across the racial lines across every line that divides us as people,” he said.
Apodaca’s son, Jeff, lost the June 5 Democratic primary to Lujan Grisham.
A Hobbs resident, Pearce was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2002. He opted not to seek re-election in his reliably Republican district in 2008, when he made an unsuccessful run against then-Rep. Tom Udall, D-New Mexico, for an open U.S. Senate seat.
Two years later, he was again elected to the seat he held. During his time in the U.S. House, he amassed a conservative record, receiving an 86 percent lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union.
He also is a member of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of conservative Republicans who often bucked their party’s leadership in the House.
If elected governor though, Pearce will have to work with Democrats who now hold majorities in the both chambers of the state legislature.
Pearce said although he has a conservative voting record, he also collaborates with Democrats on legislation. A member of the House Financial Services Committee, Pearce said he has worked well with Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., who President Donald Trump has routinely taunted in tweets. Reps. Beto O’Rourke of Texas and Luis Gutierrez, of Illinois, are Democrats Pearce said he has worked with on immigration legislation.
“Yes I am conservative, but I also work well with people,” he said.
Pearce said he decided to run to succeed Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican unable to run for re-election due to term limits, because New Mexico is suffering.
He said he made the decision after consulting with his wife.
“So we felt at some point that we had an obligation to run,” Pearce stated.
Education, jobs, crime and poverty are the issues Pearce said he has heard most about on the campaign trail.
“Those are the four things I hear about everywhere I go,” he said.
Like Martinez did in her campaign, Pearce is running on a pledge to not raise taxes. He said revenue can be generated other ways, such as getting money back from overpaying insurance companies on Medicaid claims.
Pearce said that he does have concerns about the security of the election system but thinks those threats will not be from Russian hackers. The real threat, he said, is people voting multiple times or casting the ballots of other people.
He said people tell him that their sons or daughters who attend college have gone to vote, but discovered someone already had cast a ballot using their name.
A requirement that someone present a photo ID before they can vote is something Pearce said he would like to see.
New Mexico does not require voters show a photo ID or any documentation in order to vote, according to the website of the National Council of State Legislatures.
Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.