GOP convention moved to Texas to avoid coronavirus rules

A file image of Amarillo.

LAS CRUCES, N.M. – The New Mexico Republican Party is moving their three-day convention and retreat this weekend to Amarillo, Texas, citing speakers’ concerns over New Mexico’s COVID-19 restrictions.

Mass gatherings in New Mexico are limited to 150 people or less in most counties. Restrictions are based on county-level infection and vaccination metrics, with the state planning to fully reopen once 60 percent of eligible residents are fully vaccinated.

Meanwhile, Texas lifted its mask mandate and restrictions on business in March. Amarillo's health department recommends mask use around vulnerable people, social distancing and and exercising caution during gatherings, but such public health measures are not required.

State Republican Party Chairman Steve Pearce told the Las Cruces Sun News that hundreds have registered to attend the state Republican event in Amarillo, dubbed “Operation Freedom." The convention's workshops will focus on local organizing efforts and problem-solving beyond the pandemic, Pearce said.

Notable figures planning to attend the event include South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem and U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio. New Mexico Sen. Mark Moores, who is running to fill the seat formerly held by U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, is slated to speak.