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Who speaks for the local Republican Party?


A new arrival to Las Cruces recently asked me who the local leaders were for the two political parties. I had no problem directing him to several people who can speak for the Democratic Party, but I’m not sure who speaks for the local Republican Party. It’s not the leaders.

GOP County Chairwoman Kim Skaggs and 1st Vice Chair Richelle Peugh-Swafford were both candidates for the Legislature in this week’s midterm election. Both declined invitations to appear on candidate forums I co-hosted on KTAL-LP community radio. So, their opponents had that time uncontested.

Which may be understandable. Community radio is the little brother in the local media family. Other outlets provide much larger audiences. But they got snubbed too.

Both GOP leaders also declined to provide answers to a list of questions about their positions on various issues for a voter’s guide published by the League of Women Voters. Skaggs did not participate in the candidate forum broadcasted on KRWG public television, or reply to interview requests from the Sun-News, according to their reporting.

Skaggs did attend a public forum I helped to moderate at the Picacho Hills Country Club, so maybe you just needed to be in the right demographic.

I’m writing this column before Tuesday’s election, so I don’t know for sure that the decision to ignore local media did not prove to be a winning strategy this time. But it hasn’t worked out very well in the past.

To be fair, Las Cruces and Doña Ana County are both tough environments for Republican candidates. Sometimes it doesn't matter how hard the candidate works during the campaign, the numbers are just stacked against them.

But if a candidate is likely to lose anyway, shouldn’t they take advantage of that brief moment that only comes along every two or four years, and use that temporary platform to spread their message to as many listeners as possible?

Defenders of the silent GOP leaders will likely claim that local media is biased. That is certainly the case with our show. Co-hosts Peter Goodman, Shirley Baca and I share a progressive view on most issues. That’s clear in our commentary, and in the guests who we usually have on.

I’d like to think we are still capable of conducting fair candidate interviews. I won’t speak for them, but I got the sense from those Republican candidates who did come on the show that they were glad they did.

But even if not, all candidates get the opportunity to say whatever they want. And, they won’t likely be invited back until the next election.

When I was at the Sun-News, the editorial board conducted candidate interviews in all local races to inform our endorsement decisions. I can’t remember one time when a candidate declined the request for an interview, then went on to win the election.

That is in no way a testament to the power of the newspaper, which is diminishing daily. Several of the candidates who won our endorsement went on to lose the election. But, those who were unwilling or unable to compete in our format were probably not going to be successful in other formats.

Maybe grassroots organizations like the Coalition of Conservatives in Action, which recently purchased billboard space to decry the crime problem in Las Cruces, will fill the huge void in leadership for the local Republican Party. At least they have been willing to defend their positions in an atmosphere where the questions may be confrontational.

Walter Rubel can be reached at waltrubel@gmail.com.