NM gubernatorial race

Politics column: Win for Kavanaugh is bad news for Pearce

By Milan Simonich
Posted 10/9/18

You might ask what in the world Pearce has to do with Kavanaugh. It's a fair question.

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NM gubernatorial race

Politics column: Win for Kavanaugh is bad news for Pearce


Not many people realize it yet, but Brett Kavanaugh's ascent to the U.S. Supreme Court will drag down one candidate in New Mexico. The fallout might even turn a competitive race into a runaway. So, who stands to lose votes because of Kavanaugh's confirmation by the Senate?

It's Congressman Steve Pearce, the Republican nominee for governor. You might ask what in the world Pearce has to do with Kavanaugh. It's a fair question.

As a member of the House of Representatives, Pearce didn't have any say-so in Kavanaugh's confirmation. But Pearce has a record of being strident and downright unfair regarding nominations for the Supreme Court.

This backdrop is important. It shows that how Pearce operates politically is far different from how he campaigns.

In the race for governor, Pearce has presented himself as a moderate, a grandfatherly figure who would gladly reach across the aisle to embrace any Democrat with a good idea or the skills to improve New Mexico.

His pitch might sound good until you review his recent history as it relates to judicial appointments.

In March of 2016, President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court. Did Pearce applaud the selection by a Democratic president of a brainy, dedicated and even-tempered judge?

Of course not.

"While I am sure Judge Garland is a qualified and competent judge, we should not let President Obama decide who will fill the shoes of the late Justice [Antonin] Scalia," Pearce said. "... The next justice could dramatically change the direction of the court. I support Senate Majority Leader [Mitch] McConnell's position that this decision should be made by the next president."

That's the real Pearce, a man who puts politics above sanity. Pearce admitted Garland was qualified, but wanted him blocked for purely partisan reasons.

Majority Republicans in the Senate froze out Garland. This left the Supreme Court shorthanded, with eight members instead of nine. Pearce was fine with the court having a longstanding vacancy, even if tie votes denied justice to defendants in criminal cases or hurt businesses in civil proceedings.

Pearce's hope was that a Republican would be elected president in November 2016. Then a member of his own party would choose a nominee for the court -- someone Pearce believed would see the world in a way that conforms with his own views.

Pearce got the outcome he wanted. Donald Trump won the presidency. He nominated Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court to replace Scalia, and the Republican-controlle­d Senate confirmed Gorsuch in April.

Soon after, Justice Anthony Kennedy retired. This gave Trump another pick for the Supreme Court.

He nominated Kavanaugh, who displayed a vile temper and floated conspiracy theories during his confirmation hearing. Kavanaugh later wrote in the Wall Street Journal that he was intemperate because he faced false allegations, including one from a woman who accused him of sexually assaulting her in 1982, when both were in high school.

Kavanaugh would never have been in the running for the Supreme Court if Republicans had given Garland fair consideration.

Garland would have filled the first opening on the court and Gorsuch the next one. Most people would never have heard of Kavanaugh had the system operated on merit, rather than stalling as Pearce advocated.

I expect apologists for Pearce to claim his comments about Garland and Obama were twisted out of context by the liberal media.

Not so. Pearce distributed a press release in which his own office quoted him as saying Garland was competent but unacceptable because he was nominated by Obama.

In interviews while campaigning for governor, Pearce often says he maintains a friendship with U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., even though they agree on almost nothing. This is part of Pearce's attempt to burnish his claim of being a reasonable politician who's willing to listen and work with anyone.

That's not his style. Not really. The proof is in his own pronouncements.

Hard feelings and harsh words about Kavanaugh are everywhere. Pearce will feel the sting of them on Election Day.

Ringside Seat is an opinion column about people, politics and news. Contact Milan Simonich at msimonich@sfnewmexic­an.com or 505-986-3080.


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