Former coal miner upsets incumbent Republican in House District 4 race
Paul Bandy rolls to comfortable win over Democratic challenger
FARMINGTON — Anthony Allison left Chef Bernie’s restaurant at approximately 10:30 p.m. Tuesday suspecting he had lost his bid for the state House District 4 seat.
He had been at the Farmington restaurant with his family watching the election results come in.
At that time, he trailed Republican incumbent Sharon Clahchischilliage by 344 votes. Allison, who is a Democrat, said there were four voting convenience center that had not reported results, but he wasn't expecting them to turn the tide.
“Everyone kind of felt sad and defeated,” he said.
But at about 11:30 p.m., state Speaker of the House Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, called Allison. Allison said he answered the phone, and Egolf said, “Congratulations, state Representative-elect Allison.”
“I was surprised,” Allison said. “Very surprised."
The returns from those last four voting convenience centers had, in fact, fallen heavily in his direction, helping him win the election by 340 votes, according to unofficial results. Allison received 4,104 votes, while Clahchischilliage received 3,764 votes, according to unofficial results.
As a member of the state Legislature, Allison will be tasked with getting legislation through to help San Juan County’s transition when the San Juan Generating Station and its associated coal mine close.
Allison is a former coal miner and journeyman electrician who has worked at all three coal mines in San Juan County. He said he started at the Navajo Mine but later worked at the San Juan Mine, where he was tasked with electrical planning for the mine. After working at the San Juan Mine, he helped with the reclamation of the La Plata Mine.
“The closure of the coal mine and power plants is imminent,” Allison said. “But it doesn’t need to be as drastic or as harsh as both sides make it out to be.”
Allison said he hopes to help with an easy transition away from coal in San Juan County.
He compared it to a mother nurturing her child.
“We have been reaping the resources from our Mother Earth,” he said.
Allison said it is time to be weaned off of those resources. He said he would like to see more renewable energy development in San Juan County and see a railroad built. Allison said a railroad could help Navajo Agricultural Products Industry and other agricultural enterprises market their products, and it would decrease the cost of transporting products, like cars, into San Juan County.
"I feel great. I'm ready to go work," Allison said Tuesday. "I like working with people. I like helping people."
Bandy defeats Schildmeyer for House District 3
In the other contested state House race, District 3, for the San Juan County delegation, incumbent Rep. Paul Bandy, R-Aztec, easily defeated Democratic challenger Mary "MP" Schildmeyer, who lives in the Bloomfield area.
He had 6,216 votes to the 1,816 votes that Schildmeyer collected, according to unofficial results.
"I appreciate the votes, and I appreciate their confidence in me," Bandy told The Daily Times.
This was the first time Bandy had faced a Democratic challenger. He said he hadn't really had to campaign before, but he put his efforts into commissioning campaign mailers and signs along with debating Schildmeyer.
As for the future, Bandy wants to make sure the increase in revenue projections from the oil and gas industry goes toward establishing a "rainy day" fund so the Legislature doesn't "blow it" as it has in previous years, he said.
"We need to put it in reserves so that eventually when the oil and gas revenues are down, we have something to support the state budget," he said.
Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at email@example.com.
Reporter Joshua Kellogg contributed to this report.