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FARMINGTON — Incumbent state Sen. Shannon Pinto appeared headed toward an easy victory over challenger Shawn Nelson in the race for the Democratic nomination for the District 3 seat on June 2, jumping out to a big lead as early returns were posted and maintaining her position into the afternoon of June 3.

With 17 of 35 precincts fully reporting, Pinto had attracted more than 81 percent of the vote to Nelson's more than 18 percent. Those results from the Secretary of State's Office were unofficial.

Pinto, who was appointed to the seat in 2019 by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to complete the term of her late grandfather, Sen. John Pinto, was facing Nelson, John Pinto's nephew, in her first attempt to win the seat on her own.

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Shannon Pinto said she was pleased with the figures she was seeing as the results rolled in, but she voiced some concern over feedback she had gotten from a handful of voters who discovered on the morning of June 2 that their normal polling stations were not open. She worried that a lack of communication about which voting centers would be open was leading to a lower turnout.

Live results:Check out county-by-county vote totals 

"I voted by absentee, and my mind was focused on that," she said, explaining that she hadn't anticipated any such confusion on election day and that most of the discussion about potential problems seemed to be focused on the large number of people who would be submitting a ballot by mail for the first time.

District 3 takes in parts of San Juan and McKinley counties, stretching from the Colorado border south to northern Gallup. It includes Kirtland and a significant portion of the Navajo Nation.

Pinto will face Republican challenger Arthur Allison in the general election in November. She said she hadn't given a lot of thought to the next round in her campaign, quoting the philosophy her grandfather always took while he held the seat from 1977 to 2019.

More: Leger Fernandez wins Democratic nomination for CD3, Johnson leads in Republican primary

"It's up to the voters if they want you in there," she said.

Despite her apparent victory in the primary, Pinto said the COVID-19 shutdown has made her first re-election campaign a challenging one.

"With this (pandemic) scenario, it's very hard for people to get to know you face to face," she said. "I find that a little big more of an uphill (battle)."

Rather than return immediately to the campaign trail, Pinto said she would turn her attention to preparing for the upcoming special session of the legislature as lawmakers attempt to deal with an anticipated budget shortfall caused by the shutdown.

"That's what's on my mind vs. getting out and campaigning," she said.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription.

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