LAS CRUCES SUN-NEWS: Progressive groups form Step Up Steve, rally against Pearce

LAS CRUCES - A new coalition of progressive and public lands groups formed to challenge the record of U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., held a rally Thursday morning at Albert Johnson Park.

Step Up Steve was formed in June, and includes the OLÉ Education Fund, Vet Voice Foundation, Hispanic Access Foundation, New Mexico Wildlife Federation, and ProgressNow NM Education Fund — all 501c3 nonprofit organizations.

Thursday's rally focused primarily on Pearce’s call for a reduction in the size of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was here last week as part of a review of the monument. Many of the speakers countered comments made by Pearce in a July guest column published in the Sun-News in which he argued that a reduction in the size of the monument would be good for the local economy.

Gabe Vasquez, of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, took issue with a claim by Pearce that “roughly 800 businesses and ranchers were in favor of a smaller footprint” for the monument. Pearce has never provided a list of those 800 people, he said.

It was also noted that, while the Chile Challenge rock crawl has moved out of the area, as Pearce said in his column, it is still in Sierra County.

Andrea Sandoval with the Vet Voice Foundation, said the monument was important for people to be able to find peace and solitude.

Lucas Hearndon of the ProgressNow NM Education Fund said Pearce has not been supportive of renewable energy production in the state. He said the purpose of the new group is to track Pearce’s voting record, and highlight those vote that they believe go against the will of the district.

Pearce has announced that he will not seek re-election in 2018, but will run for governor instead.

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