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State GOP Chairman Says Party Did Not Endorse Call For Businesses To Violate Shutdown Order

New Mexico PBS
Steve Pearce, New Mexico Republican Party Chairman

Steve Pearce, chairman of the Republican Party of New Mexico, said Wednesday, April 22, that the party did not participate in or endorse the actions of Take Back New Mexico, a group calling for non-essential businesses to reopen in violation of the stay-at-home order.

O’Rion Perry, an organizer of Take Back New Mexico, told KUNM in an interview Monday that the state’s GOP expressed support for the group’s call for businesses to reopen this week in the chat feature of a Zoom conference call hosted by the party last week. Chairman Pearce disputes that, saying, “He is putting words into our mouth.”

KUNM reached out for Pearce’s comment earlier this week but a spokesperson canceled the interview at the last minute. After our story aired Tuesday, the GOP got back in touch.

On Wednesday, Pearce said, to his knowledge, no one with the authority to speak on behalf of the party engaged participants in the comments section of last week's conference call, though he could not account for all staff.

Regarding Take Back New Mexico’s call to action, Pearce said he supports people’s First Amendment rights to express a desire to reopen their businesses. He said as for actually reopening amid the shutdown order, “the judges need to decide if that's a form of speech or not.”

On Monday, Perry said the online form Take Back New Mexico is using to recruit participating businesses was made by the New Mexico GOP. While Pearce says it is not unusual for the party to supply grassroots organizers with guidance, contacts and tools, he didn’t know whether Take Back New Mexico’s form had been supplied by the party. “We don’t endorse every single thing that we help,” Pearce said. He added that providing such tools does not imply the party's endorsement of what a group is trying to accomplish.

Perry with Take Back New Mexico has not yet agreed to another interview with KUNM but began, via text message, to walk back his claims that the GOP was directly involved in or had endorsed the group.

Nash Jones (they/them) is a general assignment reporter in the KUNM newsroom and the local host of NPR's All Things Considered (weekdays on KUNM, 5-7 p.m. MT). You can reach them at nashjones@kunm.org or on Twitter @nashjonesradio.
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