Few people are more partisan than Couy Griffin, the fast-talking, horseback-riding New Mexico politician and founder of Cowboys for Trump.
Griffin, 47, once led his Republican posse on a ride from Cumberland, Md., to Trump’s White House. After Democrat Joe Biden defeated Trump, Griffin was arrested for breaching the U.S. Capitol grounds Jan. 6 as Congress moved to certify Biden’s victory.
Griffin’s style has inspired his most dedicated opponents to play down party labels.
Members of the group trying to recall Griffin from his job as an Otero County commissioner say they must act nonpartisan if they are to throw him out of office.
“Had this been a Democrat-led effort, it would have gone nowhere,” said Paul Sanchez, a Republican who heads the 11-member group circulating petitions to force a recall election of Griffin.
To get this far, Sanchez’s group had to persuade the state Supreme Court it had good grounds to recall Griffin.
A mixture of Republicans and Democrats is pursuing the recall election of Griffin. Sanchez’s group has 90 days to obtain the signatures of at least 1,574 voters in Griffin’s commissioner district.
Depending on one’s perspective, the first-term county commissioner is either a famous promoter of the former president or a notorious politician.
“He’s a national figure. He’s annoying, but he is one,” Sanchez said.
Jeff Swanson, calling himself an Eisenhower Republican who chairs the Otero County Democratic Party, says Griffin is a reckless commissioner, alienating people and tarnishing his community.
“He’s not good for business. He’s not good for schools,” said Swanson, who’s rooting for the recall to succeed.
Griffin didn’t respond to questions after the recall petitions began circulating last week. In previous interviews, he told me he’s been treated unfairly.
“I’m the target of lies and slander, horrible slander. There’s no uproar from the left over that,” Griffin said.
Those sorts of defenses are the reason Sanchez said the recall campaign cannot be the province of Democrats.
Sanchez believes being a county commissioner is about delivering services. Smooth roads, clean parks and safe neighborhoods are core responsibilities of local government.
“When I see someone not interested in the work, I get concerned,” Sanchez said.
Griffin used his political soapbox to promote Trump and comment on social issues. His rants could be incendiary.
“They want to talk about playing the Black national anthem before football games?” Griffin said in one rambling commentary. “I got a better idea. Why don’t you go back to Africa and form your little football teams over in Africa and you can play on a old beat-out dirt lot, and you can play your Black national anthem there.”
No matter how twisted or racially charged Griffin’s tirades might be, Sanchez’s group knew it couldn’t force a recall on that basis.
A county commissioner who’s a buddy of Trump’s would simply point to his right of free speech and say he was misunderstood or misrepresented by mean-spirited progressives.
Sanchez’s group instead staked its claim for a recall on Griffin’s record as a county commissioner.
It brought five complaints against Griffin. They included charges of Griffin misusing county resources for Cowboys for Trump, skipping commissioner meetings and exhibiting misconduct that led to his banishment from Mescalero Apache lands.
Proponents of recalling Griffin say he committed malfeasance and misfeasance, violating his oath of office.
Recall elections seldom succeed. For Sanchez’s group to prevail, it has to win over people who voted for Griffin in the 2018 election.
It won’t be easy. Griffin received 65 percent of the vote.
His four-year term would conclude at the end of 2022. Some might ask why not wait for the regular election cycle, then vote him out then.
The answer is Griffin is a babbler without much interest in the job he was elected to do.
Formerly the proprietor of barbecue restaurants, a roving street preacher and stagecoach driver at Paris Disneyland, Griffin showed more interest in Trump’s political fortunes than in county issues.
While in public office, he claimed Cowboys for Trump was a private business, but the secretary of state proved it was a political action committee subject to financial disclosure laws.
Recall efforts usually are acts of desperation, a frustrated electorate feeling double-crossed by a politician.
This one is no different. Being a hard-working county commissioner wasn’t going to make Griffin famous. Linking himself to Trump was his ticket.
There’s an old saying in politics: Don’t let the sideshow overtake the circus.
With Griffin, one isn’t any different from the other. The only question is whether enough voters are tired of his act.
Ringside Seat is an opinion column about people, politics and news. Contact Milan Simonich at email@example.com or 505-986-3080.
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