Yesterday, at their regular February meeting, the Sierra County Commission unanimously approved a resolution expressing their “strong support” for U.S. Representative Yvette Herrell, who was elected in November to represent New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District.
Previous resolutions passed by Republican commissioners made official their personal opposition to New Mexico’s gray wolf recovery program, designation of the Gila River as a scenic byway and “red flag” gun measures and their support of “right to work” laws. Each time, constituents who held differing views were reminded of the quaintness of their expectation that the commissioners should endeavor to represent the interests of all Sierra Countians.
Yesterday’s resolution went beyond a statement of conservative policy preferences. It gave aid and comfort to the seditious actions of CD2’s freshman congresswoman, who in her short time in office joined the ranks of those who sought to disenfranchise millions of Americans who voted for Biden over Trump. In backing Herrell, Commissioners Jim Paxon, Travis Day and Hank Hopkins called into question their own fitness to serve. They raised serious doubts about their respect for the truth, their acquaintance with the rule of law and their allegiance to democratic values.
Resolution 109-063 vainly tried to give Herrell cover by applauding her commitment to “fulfilling her Constitutional and federal statutory obligation, and by promoting a dialogue that would restore Americans’ faith in the fairness of our elections and the legitimacy of our institutions.”
The facts show—and history will judge—that this is gaslighting of the rankest sort.
Three days after taking their oaths of office to “defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” Herrell and a majority of House Republicans twice voted to instead defend the indefensible—the big lie that the presidential election had been stolen from Donald J. Trump. Her twin nays signaled her refusal to certify Arizona’s and Pennsylvania’s Electoral College votes and acknowledge Joseph R. Biden’s rightful installation as our 46th president.
In perpetuating the big lie mere hours after the Capitol was overrun and she and her colleagues had to flee for their lives, Herrell sided with the insurrectionists. Inflamed by Trump’s repeated false claims that election fraud had cost him the presidency, the mob sought to achieve through violence the same outcome desired by Herrell: to overturn the will of the people and install an illegitimate pretender in the White House.
Herrell attempted to justify her own assault on constitutional order by proclaiming on the floor of the House during the early-morning certification count that, as the Sierra County Commission’s resolution put it, “state executives took last minute, unilateral actions without the approval of their state legislatures to change voting procedures” and that “such changes either by executive fiat or judicial edict” are “undemocratic and potentially unconstitutional.”
But Herrell and her Sierra County Commission sympathizers know full well that there was no truth to her claims or legal justification for her refusal to certify Electoral College votes.
“Executive fiat” and “judicial edict” allude to the language of a Texas lawsuit contesting 2020 presidential election results in four battleground states. It was summarily dismissed for lack of standing by the U.S. Supreme Court. All told, 62 lawsuits were filed by Trump and his allies in state and federal courts seeking to overturn election results on the basis of undocumented charges of voting irregularities and fraud in states Trump lost. All but one suit failed, proving conclusively that the presidential election was conducted fairly.
The Doña Ana County Commission and the Grant County Commission subsequently passed resolutions “condemning Yvette Herrell for questioning the election,” Jim Paxon, the chairperson of the Sierra County Commission, reported yesterday. The Grant County resolution had indeed stated that “Representative Herrell’s votes contribute to the delegitimization of the lawful processes for resolving election disputes, which is deeply damaging to the democratic values and domestic tranquility of our country.”
Sierra County Commission Chairperson Paxon acknowledged that it was he who had asked the county’s administrative staff to draft a counter resolution, to which county attorney David Pato also contributed his thoughts. Paxon took this liberty because he was “appalled that a representative in the halls of Congress, acting under the elements of the Constitution that are laid out plain, pure and simple, is castigated.”
Paxon’s lengthy elaboration on the resolution’s rationale betrayed its origins in his feelings of personal grievance and victimhood—an ironic attitude given the power he consistently wields to bend and twist Sierra County into conformity with his world view.
“I share some of the same questions that our congresswoman Yvette Herrell has, even in New Mexico,” Paxon stated. “I think there are some problems that need to be addressed with who votes and how they vote and how those numbers are tallied. And I think we can go back to the  election of Ms. [Xochitl] Torres-Small [as CD2’s congressional representative], when Yvette Herrell had a seemingly insurmountable lead until a bunch of [legitimately cast but still-uncounted absentee] ballots were found in a warehouse. That calls into question the validity and the integrity of [that] election. “
Tribalism also played a role in Resolution’s 109-063’s formulation.
“And I think that Yvette Herrell is doing exactly what we sent her to Washington to do,” Paxon continued. “She’s standing up for so much more, protecting our border, the production of oil and gas, the help with our folks in New Mexico with our poverty situation, with our COVID concerns. So much more that reaches into what this community in Sierra County stands for. I feel like those who stood and contested the election were doing so as provided by law, but they did that at risk. I think that when we are not able to voice an opinion due to feared retribution, we’re in trouble as a community, as a county, as a state and as a nation, and this cannot be. I just hope that my two fellow commissioners will agree and we’ll pass this resolution.”
Paxon then invited comments from his colleagues.
Commissioner Day responded that he had none.
Commissioner Hopkins said: “I agree—very well stated.”
The trio then approved the shameless and shameful rewriting of history. Never-no-mind the fact that even U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) has now decried the “growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories and reckless hyperbole, which the defeated president kept shouting into the largest megaphone on planet Earth. . . .[T]he entire manufactured atmosphere of looming catastrophe. . . .The increasingly wild myths about a reverse landslide election that was somehow being stolen.”
Before the Grant County Commission passed its “Resolution in Support of American Democracy,” by a vote of four to one on Jan. 14, a draft of the resolution, written by Commissioner Harry Browne, had been circulating throughout Grant County and beyond for nearly a month. Almost 100 comments on the resolution, submitted in writing by the public, were read into the record during the commission meeting. These proceedings took an hour and a half, according to a next-day story in the Silver City Daily Press. “[W]ith near-unanimity, public input strongly supported passage of the resolution condemning Herrell’s actions,” the Press reported.
In Sierra County yesterday, County Manager Bruce Swingle read aloud the single public comment the commission had received—from a resident of Las Cruces. She had read about the resolution on a new Facebook page titled “Remove Yvette Herrell” and wanted the commissioners to know that “Herrell does not represent me or the mainstream New Mexicans.”
Persons attending yesterday’s meeting via a livestream on Facebook made three real-time comments, all of which opposed the resolution.
Typically, the county gave no public notice about the impending consideration of Resolution 109-063 other than posting online the Feb. 16 agenda, which included the title of the resolution, and the meeting packet, in which the text of the resolution could be found near the end of more than 300 pages of background materials. Residents, as usual, were given only three business days to submit public comments.
County government’s lack of transparency goes only so far in explaining the community’s relative silence.
There is no excuse for the commissioners’ complicit doubling down on Herrell’s attack on the sanctity of free and fair elections and the peaceful transfer of power. But you have to wonder: Do the Sierra County Commissioners treat their constituents like sheeple because that’s how we have been trained by their disregard for our opinions to act?
Additional reporting by Debora Nicoll and Kathleen Sloan