On Thursday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s communications director, Tripp Stelnicki tweeted out a jab at anyone who is trying to reopen New Mexico’s economy — a group mostly led by Republicans worried about fiscal impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier this week, the New Mexico Republican Party pushed back on Lujan Grisham sending cease and desist orders to New Mexico businesses staying open to provide necessary goods and services, despite the Governor labeling many businesses “non-essential.”
On Tuesday, the New Mexico Business Coalition unveiled its plan to reopen the state’s economy, beginning with allowing businesses who can operate under the current guidelines of 20% capacity to reopen. “When you look at all the goods and items that can be purchased in a big box store, for example, why could we not purchase those locally? If we were to do that, we would get more businesses open,” said NMBC President Carla Sonntag.
During Lujan Grisham’s Thursday address, she made clear she has no intention of letting up on restrictions yet, saying, “…we are not at a point currently where it would be safe to reopen.”
The same day as the Governor’s address, Tripp Stelnicki wrote up a tweet directly targeting the Republicans who are aiming to help reopen the state’s economy. He wrote, “You don’t have to ask the death cult their opinion or publish their quotes. False equivalence now is actually life or death. There is no “both sides” to this. There is one group preaching accelerated illness & death because they “love” “business” & if you can’t see through that?”
Republican state leaders rebuked Stelnicki’s jab at their concerns as a “death cult,” with the Republican Party responding, “This outrageous tweet, suggesting that Republicans want to get more New Mexicans to contract COVID-19, is shocking and disgraceful. The tweet shows to what lengths the Governor’s Office will go to scare the public and politicize the pandemic. The tweet is disgusting and twisted, and the Governor’s Office is way out of line with this monstrous claim. Nothing is further from the truth.”
Moderate Republican Rep. Rebecca Dow of Silver City suggested Stelnicki’s tweet goes against state laws mandating state employees cannot be “engaging in a political activity while on duty,” citing the New Mexico statute.
The Governor has not responded to her communications director’s statement, which appears to have violated state statutes barring state employees from political activity while on duty. The Republican Party of New Mexico has demanded an apology from the Governor’s office in response to Stelnicki’s jab at Republicans.
Previously to working for Gov. Lujan Grisham, Stelnicki worked as a reporter for the left-wing paper, the Santa Fe New Mexican, and has bashed President Trump and Republicans on countless occasions, such as in September 2019 when President Trump visited Rio Rancho, New Mexico for a rally. Stelnicki mocked the President about how he would pronounce “Rio Rancho.”
According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, the Governor’s spokesperson, Nora Meyers Sackett, said, “The tweet in question does not reference any person, group, or organization specifically by name — if someone seems to think it’s about them, I’d say they’ve placed that upon themselves.”