By Tony Gutierrez: Freedom Newspapers
Scott Darnell, communications director for the Republican Party of New Mexico, visited Clovis this week to speak at a joint meeting of Curry County’s Republican Party and Federated Republican Women. Darnell, 23, managed Vickie Perea’s unsuccessful run in 2006 for secretary of state. He spoke to the Clovis News Journal about the status of the party in New Mexico.
Q: You said the Republican Party of New Mexico wants to set the record straight on Gov. Bill Richardson in his run for the Democratic nomination for president. What about Richardson?
A.The statements he’s making are duplicitous, contradictory and hypocritical. He’s proving himself on most issues to be a politician who enjoys pandering. We do try to hold him to account.
He said in Arizona that Mexico should stop giving maps to illegal immigrants when they cross the border. He handed to them drivers’ licenses, free in-state college tuition and protection from law enforcement. He by and large supports blanket amnesty for illegal immigrants.
He was for the assault weapons ban in D.C., but he changed it when he came to New Mexico. It underscores (how) he’s always constantly worried about his image in order to pander to a specific audience.
Q: At the luncheon you mentioned the use of technology to appeal to voters. How will the party do that?
A: We’re doing that by increasing our utilization of the Internet (and) increased use of blogs, audio and video. We’re also working on getting our elected officials to get on video, so all people can see they’re doing good work. It’s no real secret Republicans have lagged behind Democrats when using the Internet.
In New Mexico, we want to change that and bring (on) other state parties so we can come to parody or surpass the Democrats’ use of the Internet. We just see it as a resource that will allow us to connect to the average voter. We want to be able to “tell” them, not like in an election season and have to pay for it (as an ad on television).
Q: What other methods is the Republican Party using to appeal to voters?
A: We need to discuss party matters with all the Republican (groups) in the state. It’s these groups who are registering voters on the ground. It’s those people who are going to tell us what the people on the ground are saying.
We’ve cut the voter registration deficit from 1.6 Democrats and one Republican to 1.48 Democrats and one Republican. As we close the gap, more Senate seats come into play, more House seats come into play and executive offices get more contested.
The No. 1 goal of this Republican Party is to work to build a New Mexico that is not ruled or controlled by one political party, but has a healthy two-party system. The by-products of this one-party system are case after case after case of corruption, poor education, high taxes.
Q: So are you saying you don’t want to see all Republicans win office?
A: (Having all Republicans in office) would be the ideal, but it should increase the representation of the people.
Q: You talk about grassroots campaigning and despite the stereotypical liberal image of many college campuses, college Republicans are among the most vocal students. How important are college students in the party?
A: For two years, I was state chairman of the College Republicans. During that time, University of New Mexico College Republicans grew within the top 10 of the country. We more than doubled the number of College Republican groups in New Mexico.
I directed the Bush campaign for the central five counties (in New Mexico) for the campaign. We transformed the Republican Party of New Mexico. It was that commitment to a field effort that has allowed us to register more voters. In 2006, when the Republican Party felt the blow nationwide, we didn’t lose anything.
If you look at the average age of people working the field in New Mexico, it is about 21 to 22. The College Republicans are some of the most hardworking active volunteers that exist.
Q: I had heard that the party was hoping to reach out to Hispanics. How will the party do this?
A: This is the message we have developed to take to Hispanics throughout New Mexico — our party communications will reflect this message — that most Hispanics believe in economic policies that reduce taxes, create jobs and take care of our poor communities and that they share our deep concern for the future of faith and family in America today.
— Based on an interview with Freedom Newspapers Staff Writer Tony Gutierrez and edited for style, clarity and length.