Updated: July 31, 2020 05:20 PM
Created: July 31, 2020 02:58 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- Political candidates are not exempt from the governor's public health order, which bans mass gatherings in New Mexico.
"The Democratic Party of New Mexico made it very clear that they would not engage in anything that would be in violation of the public health order to campaigning, or organizing or fundraising, including reminding candidates that they can't be going door-to-door," Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham stated during a Thursday press briefing about COVID-19. "That is just a terrible idea in a COVID world. I am calling on all political parties and politically affiliated organizations to follow suit."
Steve Pearce, chairman of the Republican Party of New Mexico, believes the order tramples on 1st Amendment rights.
"It takes away our first 1st Amendment rights for us to go out and speak. She's not limiting your ability to speak to someone at the supermarket or at Walmart or anyone else," Pearce said. "As long as it's a big box stores, she thinks it's OK to expose yourself to anyone you want to talk to, but if you go about campaigning, she says that's going to be dangerous."
Pearce said he's spoken with attorneys, and is considering challenging the governor on the issue.
"We've asked the DOJ to look at this, but we've also talked to our lawyer today about that very issue," Pearce said. "If we have to, we'll raise more money and bring about a lawsuit. This will be the sixth or seventh one that we brought."
Pearce said he has not issued guidelines to Republican candidates on safe ways to campaign.
"We've simply said-- look, you know what the risks are and you know the recommendations in New Mexico are that we do this and do that, but we aren't saying we're going to go out and check every single one of you. It's up to each candidate and up to the voters," Pearce said.
Mark Ronchetti's campaign, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, believes limiting in-person contact with voters tilts the field for Democratic candidates.
He said his campaign relies on meeting with New Mexico voters.
The governor's office provided the following statement in response to the New Mexico GOP:
Certainly it's disappointing but not surprising to hear the Republican Party hasn't taken any public health precautions when it comes to canvassing and campaigning for the fall election. The governor's expectation is that parties and candidates all across the political spectrum will do everything they can do keep themselves and the voters they're reaching out to safe as they campaign for votes. It's going to be a bit of a different campaign this year because of the public health emergency but candidates are creative and parties can show real leadership in keeping their candidates and their constituencies safe. - Tripp Stelnick, director of communications for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.
Copyright 2020 - KOB-TV LLC, A Hubbard Broadcasting Company