Sanders backer seeks to lead state Democratic Party

February 22, 2017 GMT

A Las Cruces resident and vocal Bernie Sanders delegate to the Democratic National Convention last year is running for chairman of the state Democratic Party.

Rusty Pearce, 31, said in a statement, “After careful consideration, I’ve decided to be the progressive change this party needs.”

Pearce joins state party vice chairman Juan Sanchez and former Santa Fe County Democratic Party chairman Richard Ellenberg in running for the state chairmanship. Current Chairwoman Debra Haaland — who is considering a run for Congress — is not seeking a second term.

In his statement, Pearce, who has been active in protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota, called on the party to divest its money from big banks, support local renewable energy companies and take bold action to “support our environment and indigenous peoples.”

The state Democratic Party, Pearce said, “makes no attempt to hide where they get their money and it’s not from small contributions. While I applaud the large donations that have funded the party in the past our goal should be to broaden its portfolio through small donations. When the platform speaks to the people, and the party is committed to the views of its rank and file, there is no limit to what we can achieve.”

“If we fail to elect a true progressive,” Pearce wrote, “I fear we will not adopt a progressive platform and will not win the governorship [in 2018]. It’s paramount that you act now by participating in these local elections. Don’t risk years of stagnation by electing a party elite focused on their political future.”

Pearce is a native of Austin, Texas, who works as an “instructional technologist, helping teachers and students to utilize technology to improve the educational system.”

During the convention last summer, Pearce was one of several Sanders delegates from New Mexico who loudly booed speakers who spoke favorably of the party’s nominee, Hillary Clinton.

Pearce spoke with The New Mexican during the convention about jeering an 11-year-old girl, the daughter of undocumented Guatemalan parents in Nevada who spoke about her fear of her parents being deported.

“I wasn’t booing because she was an 11-year old girl,” he said in a telephone interview. “I was booing because of the vomit coming out of her mouth.”

He said he also booed a young pro-Clinton speaker who has cerebral palsy and spastic quadriplegia, as well as then-first lady Michelle Obama because he disagreed about what they said about Clinton.

Pearce also was one of the Sanders delegates who, less than a month before the general election, sought to remove Haaland as chairwoman for allegedly showing favoritism toward Clinton over Sanders during the state primary. That move was unsuccessful.

Contact Steve Terrell at 505-986-3037 or sterrell@sfnewmexican.com. Read his political blog at www.santafenewmexican.com/news/blogs/politics.

On the web

• Visit Rusty Pearce’s campaign website at www.rusty4newmexico.com.