They turned Lea County red and have been credited with helping hand a presidential election to the victor.
And now, the Lea County Republican Party has a new leader. Carol Parish a self-described “life-long Republican” and immediate past president of the Lea County Federated Republican Women, brings her flair to the county party.
“I’ve been a conservative all my life,” Parish told the New-Sun recently. “A strong Republican.”
Parish, who took over the leadership of the county party in mid-January learned her conservative values from her parents, Lewis and Mattie Ayres Her grandparents were Democrats but her parents, after having to leave their farm to find work in the oil fields in the 1950s, changed their party affiliation.
“It fit better with their beliefs,” she said. “I was raised in a conservative household. We didn’t discuss politics a whole lot, but I noticed when we came to New Mexico to visit (her father’s family, there were disagreements This was back in the JFK (Demo cratic President John Kennedy) times and they believed everyone is equal They taught me to look at everyone equally.”
At her father’s knee, Parish learned some of the values he’d adopted from his own military background — belief in the flag and what it stands for and religious values. She also was raised to believe in the value of education and to take care of the elderly, in particular veterans.
“I believe in all our values,” she said. “I just want to see New Mexico survive what’s going on right now.”
Parish’s involvement in Republican Party politics in Lea County goes back years, she said, to when a friend invited her to a meeting of the Federated Republican Women.
All the friend knew was Parish had similar beliefs as the rest of the group, not even asking Parish her specific party affiliation.
“I liked what they stood for,” Parish said. “Some of the philosophy there, to ensure equal rights, to ensure religious freedom — they had everything I was looking for in a group and they still carry that forward.”
Parish held most offices available in the local Federated Republican Women group. She stepped down from the presidency of the group to take over as party chair from her long-time predecessor, Ann Batson.
“I was chair for probably 25 or 30 years,” Batson said. “I thought after 30 years, maybe it would be time to step down.”
One of Batson’s proudest moments for the Lea County Republicans was when another New Mexico newspaper — she thought it was the Albuquerque Journal, but she couldn’t remember for sure — said the county was instrumental in George W. Bush becoming president.
“We worked hard and it was a great accomplishment,” Batson said, crediting the party as a whole with that accomplishment and more.
“I had a lot of help; I was very luck,” Batson said. “I had some great people, we still have some great people (working in Republican politics) here.”
Parish’s goals for the party are to carry on the work Batson started with an eye toward expanding Republican influence across the state, she said. Parish is concerned about the ongoing battle to reform immigration in the United States, as well as healing the current rifts in the party at the national level.
“I believe in all of our (conservative) values,” she said. “I believe in immigration (reform), I believe in the wall. But I believe in the wall having a door and everyone coming through correctly.”
The political division in the country “does bother me,” Parish said. “Yes, we have a crack in our foundation but we’re going to come back together. If people have issues with the Republican Party and our beliefs, let’s go to the table and talk about it.”
Andy Brosig may be reached at reporter1@.