Press Must Treat Candidate Fairly

by | Oct 15, 2021 | Editorials and Opinions

The Rio Rancho Observer in its Oct. 10 editorial and opinions page threw its policy out the window that banned publication of letters that tout or attack specific candidates for election.

The attack came against Gary Tipp in a nonpartisan election for Rio Rancho School Board District 1. Since Gary is a known registered Democrat and previously ran for a New Mexico House seat, we find the blatant misrepresentations in the letter reprehensible and could adversely impact his campaign in the election.

Our county chair, Alexandria Piland, has sent the following letter to the newspaper’s editor:

Dear Editor Duncan:

I am compelled to respond to last Sunday’s letter to the editor signed by Robyn Schmalz that viciously attacks Gary Tripp and is filled with lies and inflammatory language. Gary Tripp has served the citizens, and especially the children, of Rio Rancho for many years as the principal of Rio Rancho High School and a district administrator. He is an accomplished and respected educator whose experience also includes elementary school principal and classroom teaching.

What is particularly galling is that the Observer printed that letter when your own policy states, “For these pieces to be printed on the opinion page, they may not support or oppose specific candidates, as that would function as political advertising.” Apparently, this policy applies only to Democrats since it is common knowledge that Gary Tripp is a registered Democrat and has previously run for public office as such.

It is disappointing when Rio Rancho’s newspaper so obviously shows its bias. It is particularly disingenuous considering that the Observer’s own policies are clearly described, and it touts its political independence.

At a minimum, I expect the Observer to issue a public apology to Gary Tripp for publishing that letter, and I urge the Observer to follow its own policies in the future.

 Alexandria Piland, Chair, Democratic Party of Sandoval County

As a measure of how unfair the Rio Rancho Observer acted in printing the misinformation, here   is a letter sent earlier by Missy Fernandez that the paper twice rejected for publication:


As an educator, I was heartened to read Gary Tripp’s September 13 letter to the Observer. His ideas for improving our schools are a much-needed antidote to Patrick Monroe Brenner’s willfully ignorant letter published the week before and the false accusations in Robyn Schmalz’s letter published last Sunday.

No, critical race theory is not taught in the Rio Rancho public school system. This talking point is the latest weapon in the right wing’s mission to further divide us and hobble public education. 

As loathsome as Brenner’s attack is, those with the fortitude to follow his Twitter pronouncements are not surprised. Brenner’s Twitter feed is brimming with odious tweets, but those most dangerous for our schools include his casting doubt on masking, especially for children, and his false claims that healthy children will not need to be vaccinated because their death rate from COVID is zero. 

He also tweeted that the PED (New Mexico Public Education Department) should be defunded. The motto that he tweets, “fund students, not systems,” is a euphemism for starving our public schools. 

It doesn’t end with assaults on education. He also asserts there is no such thing as good government, proudly declares himself a misogynist, and calls President Biden a domestic terrorist for imposing vaccine mandates to keep us safe.

I find his enjoyment of posing with an assault rifle troubling, as well, especially given the high levels of gun violence and youth suicide in New Mexico.

Attacks on educators have escalated since the pandemic. Hostilities have gotten so intense that the Observer thought it important to reprint an article from the Rio Rancho Public Schools newsletter about the problem. It listed the violence and insults to which school employees have been subjected throughout the pandemic and pleaded for civility. 

Brenner’s diatribes do nothing but provoke rancor and promote destructive culture wars. Rio Rancho needs clear and responsible ideas such as Tripp’s that will benefit students and bring our community together.

Missy Fernandez

We hate to bring attention to the original misinformed letter published by the Rio Rancho Observer that sparked this problem, but it is needed for context. Here it is:


Sunday, October 10, 2021


Just say ‘no’ to RRPS board candidate Gary Tripp


 It’s worrisome that an extremist like Gary Tripp is running for Rio Rancho School Board (District 1). A year ago, Tripp’s elderly neighbors upset his alt-leftist sensibilities by hoisting up a Trump flag on their own property, prompting Mr. Tripp to contact the pipeline to his associates in Antifa and Black Lives Matter. Both groups went out to Tripp’s normally peaceful neighborhood to protest against the elderly couple’s free expression, which included vandalizing their home.

We don’t need a nihilist like Mr. Tripp on the school board, pushing radicalism and hate vis a vis his embrace of Critical Race Theory. Rio Rancho students don’t need race hate rammed down their throats when their futures would benefit from actual academia.

The eminent Rio Grande Foundation has endorsed

Patrick Monroe Brenner, who has a history of strong advocacy for teachers, not their unions that kept our schools closed for over a year ? with Tripp’s blessings, of course.

Let’s show our kids that we care more about their education than the politics of an extremist.

Robyn Schmalz Rio Rancho

Mr. Tripp has talked with the Editor of the Rio Rancho Observer and a letter from him will be printed in the next issue, along with an editor’s note about the situation. The editor says the original policies will be used in the future.

We rely on the Rio Rancho Observer’s editors assurances that such an unfair, misinformed attack letter never again appears in the paper’s pages.

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