SILVER CITY — The race for the District 38 seat was a nail-biter all the way, but in the end, Republican Dianne Hamilton held onto the seat she has occupied in the New Mexico House of Representatives for the past 14 years.
The vote tallies in Grant County had her opponent, Terry Fortenberry, leading the way for most of the evening. And in the end he did carry Grant County, with 4,291 votes to Hamilton's 4,117 but it wasn't enough.
As numbers starting coming in from Sierra County, Fortenberry said he knew he had lost. Hamilton received nearly double the votes Fortenberry did in Sierra County, with 2,882 to Fortenberry's 1,527. Despite not being as well known in Sierra County, where Hamilton has been representing that county for the past 14 years, Fortenberry said he knocked on 3,000 doors there.
Hamilton also swept the tiny corner of Hidalgo County that the seat represents, basically the village of Virden, with 128 votes to Fortenberry's 42.
"It was a long race," Fortenberry said by phone Wednesday afternoon as he loaded up his fifth-wheel camper to take his family camping.
"It's been almost nine months of campaigning and I missed a lot of time with my family," he said.
He was undecided whether he will run again for that seat or another office.
"It's too early to say," he said.
He said that while he hadn't called Hamilton to personally congratulate her, he did want to express his congratulations publicly.
Hamilton said she was up until 2 a.m. watching the votes come in and it was about midnight when she realized she had won.
"This has been a long and very difficult campaign," she said Wednesday afternoon. "It's been a very difficult year. It started out with the lawsuits," she said, referring to Fortenberry's early attempt to disqualify her and fellow Democratic challenger Guadalupe Cano before the June primary election on the grounds that both had made errors in filling out their petitions to run for office. The case was eventually decided by the state Supreme Court.
"I was very pleased the way it turned out," she said referring to the dismissal of the lawsuit and her eventual re-election. "It's just been a long and expensive campaign. Everyone spent way too much money. I spent more money than I think I have ever spent before."
She said she was surprised at some of the attack ads directed at her from the Fortenberry camp, but said, "that's politics."
"I'm pleased I get to represent my constituents for another two years because I've gotten to know them very well," she said.
Now that the campaign is over, she said it will be back to the business at hand. She said she will continue to push for some sort of voter ID bill, legislation she has tried to get support for over the past few years without success. That and the simulation treatment for PTSD will be two of her main priorities, she said. Veterans issues have always been very important to her, as she is married to a retired lieutenant colonel and all but one of her immediate family members are veterans.
Registered voters in Grant County: 20,892
Independent or other political parties: 3,859
Total ballots cast in county: 12,189
Voter turnout for 2012 Election in Grant County: 58 percent
Christine Steele can be reached at (575) 538-5893 ext. 5802