Hobbs News Sun

Ex-Democratic governor backs GOP’s Pearce

Ex-Democratic governor backs GOP’s Pearce

Democrats say the endorsement of Republican gubernatorial hopeful Steve Pearce by a former Democratic governor is connected to the former governor’s son losing the Democratic nomination for governor.

However, in a news release issued Sunday by the Pearce campaign, Pearce said former New Mexico Gov. Jerry Apodaca, a Democrat, is a great New Mexican and that he appreciates his endorsement.

“Everywhere I visit in New Mexico I tell them why I’m running and it’s simple,” Pearce said. “Let’s fix our schools and bring jobs to New Mexico. I’m running for governor for every New Mexican. I will work with anyone to put our state on the right path. That starts with attacking poverty at its roots, bringing down crime in our neighborhoods, and growing our economy in every corner of the state. We don’t need more partisanship. We need to act and we need to do it together.”

Democratic Party of New Mexico chair Marg Elliston said Sunday that Apodaca’s endorsement of Pearce is “sour grapes” on the part of Jeff Apodaca being defeated by U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham in the Democratic primary.

Jerry Apodaca, a Democrat, is the father of Jeff Apodaca.

The elder Apodaca said Sunday he found Pearce, of Hobbs, to “be straightforward and an honest man.” The former governor said he’s been sitting on the sidelines in recent years, observing political happenings from a distance. He said his friends recently suggested he sit down with the Republican and Democratic nominees for governor and discuss his concerns.

“I agreed to but didn’t expect anyone to call,” the former governor wrote in an op-ed published in the Sunday edition of the Albuquerque Journal. “I never heard from Congresswoman Lujan-Grisham. I did receive a call from Congressman Pearce. I was surprised how open he was and how we agreed on about 80 percent of the issues that plague New Mexico. I found him to be straightforward and an honest man. In fact, he reminded me of the moderate Democrats and Republicans of the past I worked with for the betterment of New Mexico; leaders like D-Harold Runnels, R-Joe Skeen, R-Pete Domenici, R-Manual Lujan, D-Bruce King, R-Bill Segal, D-Bob McBride and D-Ted Montoya. We all worked together for the good of our state.”

Jerry Apodaca, 83, governor of New Mexico from 1975-79, said the current leaders of the Democratic Party have forgotten the history and heritage of the state. He described himself as a JFK Democrat.

“They have forgotten about the JFK Democrats and Hispanic communities around the state,” he said. “Congressman Pearce is the only candidate willing to reach out across party lines and work with both Democrats, Republicans and Independents. That willingness to collaborate across party lines is exactly what New Mexico needs and it’s why I am endorsing Steve Pearce for governor.”

Jeff Apodaca has drawn criticism from some Democrats for recently attending a Pearce campaign event and shaking the Republican congressman’s hand. Pearce is running for governor, instead of running for re-election to his 2nd Congressional District seat, which he has held for seven two-year terms.

Pearce is currently the only Republican among New Mexico’s five-member congressional delegation, including both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.

The Cook Political Report rates New Mexico’s gubernatorial race as leaning Democratic. The Cook report notes Pearce is a member of the rambunctious House Freedom Caucus, and “is likely too conservative and controversial to win a statewide contest this year.” The Cook report notes Pearce lost statewide U.S. Senate races in 2000 and 2008.

According to their most recent campaign finance filings with the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office, Pearce had $1,943,069 in his campaign war chest, having spent $324,281 between May 30 and June 30. Pearce’s campaign reported total contributions of $3,177,256 and total expenditures of $1,234,187.

Lujan Grisham reported a campaign balance of $873,375 in her most recent campaign finance filing with the Secretary of State’s Office, having spent $693,882 between May 30 and June 30. Lujan Grisham’s campaign reported total contributions of $4,772,266 and total expenditures of $3,898,892.

The general election is Nov. 6.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.