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GOP lawmakers unveil campaign message

Alex Ross Photo State Rep. Candy Ezzell, R-Roswell, stands behind a podium with a broom while speaking to an audience Monday at the Hi-Q Venue in Roswell. Legislators and a marketing expert spoke at the event about Respect New Mexico, an effort funded by Republican legislative political action committees to elect legislators, which the event speakers say will move the state forward while protecting the state’s traditional values.

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With Election Day less than four months away, top Republican legislators unveiled their party’s message to local activists Monday in Roswell.

Lawmakers and a marketing expert spoke about the Respect New Mexico marketing campaign to an audience of party activists and elected officials during an event at the Hi-Q Venue in Roswell, which was characterized by state Rep. Phelps Anderson, R-Roswell, as a “protest.”

Respect New Mexico is a marketing campaign that aims to elect conservative candidates to the state Legislature by emphasizing the need for a better economy in the state and to safeguard New Mexico’s unique cultural identity and traditions they say are being undermined by progressive policies and interest groups.

“We believe that a lot of these more progressive rules are trying to change the world around us,” House Minority Leader Jim Townsend, R-Artesia, said in an interview after Monday’s event.

The Respect New Mexico campaign consists of radio ads, a website, content for social media platforms, T-shirts and between 75 and 100 billboards throughout the state. Townsend added the effort has so far been financed mostly with a combined $700,000 from the New Mexico House Republican Campaign Committee and PAC 22, the political action committee of the Senate Republican Caucus.

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A roughly four-minute video posted on Respect New Mexico’s Facebook page and screened at Monday’s event summed up the effort’s message and described efforts to remake New Mexico through progressive legislation and attitudes.

“They want us to live like they do, to think like they do and to believe that the only way to make progress is to leave behind what we have always done and what we have always been,” said the narrator.

“New Mexico will cease to be New Mexico if we lose our history, our heritage, our principles and most of all, our self-respect,” the narrator continued.

Townsend said the message is based on extensive surveys of New Mexico residents and voters across the state about what their priorities and attitudes were.

What emerged from the surveys, Townsend said, is that New Mexico is a conservative state where majorities hold traditional views on family, religion, community and maintaining the state’s cultural identity.

“We don’t want to be California, we don’t want to be New York. We think there are many things about New Mexico that are unique and should be cherished because of what they are,” he said.

Steve McKee, a marketing executive from Albuquerque who spoke at Monday’s event, said the Respect New Mexico message is an effort to create a brand that candidates can run under.

Respect New Mexico, he said, is like a corporation and the individual legislative candidates who run under its banner are like franchises who have flexibility to operate as they need to.

New Mexico Republicans have not controlled the governor’s office and both of the state’s legislative chambers since 1928. Republicans have not held an outright majority in the state Senate since 1933. The party briefly held a majority in the House from 2015-2017 for the first time since the 1950s, only to lose their majority in the 2016 elections.

After a poor showing in the 2018 New Mexico midterm elections, the party was swept out of power completely, with Democrats winning control of the governor’s office for the first time in eight years.

With Democrats holding a 26-16 majority in the Senate and a 46-24 majority in the House, and having full control of the state’s executive branch, Democrats have been able to enact much of their agenda on issues ranging from same-day voter registration, renewable energy standards, and new gun control laws.

Monday, state Rep. Candy Ezzell, R-Roswell, chair of the House Republican Caucus, railed against Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham for her public health orders and Democrats for spending too much.

“We need to clean house, folks,” she said while holding a broom and speaking to the crowd.

Republicans, though, say with two years of full Democratic control of the state government — and a stable of candidates running in 101 of the legislative races on the ballot — the party is ready for a comeback.

“So this is not a long shot,” Townsend said.

Brian Sanderoff, president of Research & Polling Inc., based in Albuquerque, said the party did a good job in recruiting candidates in the coming election cycle and the Respect New Mexico message provides an overarching theme to run on, which is smart.

Several conservative incumbent Democratic legislators also lost to more progressive challengers in the June 5 primaries, and there are many other competitive races for the senate, as well.

Sanderoff said those include six seats in the Albuquerque area, some held by Democrats and others by Republicans, which will make for a competitive election.

When asked about the Respect New Mexico campaign, Marg Elliston, chair of the Democratic Party of New Mexico, touted the party’s list of legislative accomplishments, most of which were opposed by Republicans.

“An expensive PR campaign isn’t going to save the GOP from their own record, and Democrats look forward to electing leaders in 2020 who will continue to build a New Mexico for all,” Elliston said in a statement Thursday.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext, 301, or breakingnews@rdrnews.com.


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