Of the nine contested state and local races, primary voters chose to re-elect the Republican incumbent legislator for state House District 66, allow an appointed district court judge to continue to serve in her current capacity, and selected their choice for the GOP nominee for the only contested County Commission seat. The 2012 primary election results will become official only after being signed by the State Canvassing Board on June 26.
More than 20 incumbent legislators decided against seeking re-election this year, including Sen. Rod Adair, R-Roswell, first elected to the state Senate in 1996, meaning many legislative seats will change hands. Seventeen candidates were unopposed on Tuesday’s ballot. The lack of contested races may explain light voter turnout locally. A mere 2,236 individuals cast their ballots early, with 1,790 voting at the County Administrative Building, 428 at the Roswell Mall and 18 in Hagerman. In total, 6,768 ballots were cast in Chaves County, 1,585 Democratic and 5,182 Republican.
Area Democrats will now step into the ring as none faced an opponent Tuesday. Chaves County Democrats weighed in on only two contested races: U.S. Senate and New Mexico Court of Appeals.
Securing nearly 70 percent of the vote, children’s court judge Monica Zamora beat fellow Democrat and workman’s compensation judge Victor Lopez in the race to serve on the New Mexico Court of Appeals. Zamora will now face Judge Miles Hanisee, a [auth] Republican, who was appointed to the position by Gov. Susana Martinez in July 2011.
Roswell farmer Cliff Pirtle slid past Roswell Fire Chief Chad Hamill, to win the Republican primary for state Senate District 32, the seat currently held by Senate President Pro Tem Tim Jennings, D-Roswell. Pirtle, who received 52 percent of the vote, will face Jennings in November.
“We both kept it clean, were positive and knew that the ultimate goal is defeating Jennings in November,” Pirtle said. “I think the people are truly ready for something different.”
In a close race, Rep. Bob Wooley, R-Roswell, ousted Dennis Kintigh, R-Roswell, to continue to represent House District 66, receiving 52 percent of the vote. In a cruel twist of fate, the two incumbents, who are officemates in Santa Fe and sit next to each other on the floor of the House, were lumped into District 66, currently represented by Wooley, due to a state House redistricting plan. Kintigh currently represents District 57. Wooley effectively won the position as he currently faces no opposition. Wooley said he was thrilled that, “Kintigh and I ran such a good, clean race. This was the way a race was supposed to be run. We both went out and campaigned hard and let the public decide who they wanted to representative them. I commend Dennis for that, for being such a gentleman through this whole thing.”
Judge Lisa Riley was elected to continue to serve in her current capacity as 5th Judicial District Court judge, Division 9. Riley defeated fellow Republican Les Williams, an assistant district attorney with the Eddy County District Attorney’s Office. Martinez appointed Riley to the position in August 2011. Under state law, after appointment judges must be placed on the ballot to go before the voters in the next election.
Riley effectively secured the position as she currently faces no opposition. Riley said she looks forward to continuing “to provide a fair, unbiased and conservative voice from the bench.”
Incumbent District Attorney Janetta Hicks won her contest for the 5th Judicial District, with 53 percent of the vote to best fellow Republican Janet Ellis, who served as a prosecutor under former District Attorney Tom Rutledge. Hicks effectively secured the position as she currently faces no opposition. As for what she hopes to accomplish in her next term, Hicks said, “There are a number of new programs that I’d like to bring. There’s a number of improvements I’d like to make. We’ll see what we can do in the next four years.”
In the only contested race for a County Commission seat, Robert Corn, a retired Magistrate Court judge, topped Mike Kakuska, assistant superintendent for the Roswell Independent School District. Corn will face Democrat Magil Duran, a retired state employee, in November.
“When I was knocking on doors … People are letting their property go down, they’re not taking care of their yards. They’re not taking care of their houses … There’s houses that have foreclosure notices on the front door that you don’t notice until you walk up to the door,” Corn said.
“I knew the economy was down but I didn’t realize how much it had affected the folks that live in Chaves County Commission District 4 … We have got to figure out a way to get people back in the workforce so they can take care of their families and take care of their property.”
City Clerk Dave Kunko received 70 percent of the vote to Bureau of Elections Chief Stephanie De Los Santos Amaro’s 30 percent, for the position of county clerk. Both candidates are Republicans. Kunko effectively won the position as he currently faces no opposition.
Kunko thanked those involved in his campaign, both family, friends. As for his plans for the position, Kunko said, “I want to have a cohesive group of people that will work together. You have to have a closer knit group to really get the job done right.”
On Thursday, the County Commission will hold a special meeting, starting at 1 p.m., to canvass the primary results at the County Administrative Center, 1 St. Mary’s Place.