Local state House races: Bandy rolls to easy win; Allison pulls upset
High voter turnout in county as local voters buck state trends, support GOP
FARMINGTON — While Democrats across New Mexico enjoyed a banner night on Tuesday, capturing nearly every statewide and federal office, the results in San Juan County races were mixed.
Incumbent state Rep. Paul Bandy, R-Aztec, rolled to victory in his District 3 race. He had 6,215 votes to the 1,814 votes that San Juan County Democratic Party Chairwoman Mary “MP” Schildmeyer collected with 32 of the 33 voting convenience centers reporting, according to unofficial results.
In the District 4 state House race, unofficial primary results showed first-time Democratic candidate Anthony Allison getting 4,104 votes to upset incumbent Rep. Sharon Clahchischilliage, R-Kirtland, who received 3,764 votes with all voting convenience centers reporting.
According to unofficial results, 37,533 San Juan County residents voted during this year’s midterm election. This is about 51.44 percent of the 72,963 registered voters.
Bandy faced first Dem challenger
"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.
The rancher, who specializes in grass-fed beef, will serve a seventh term as a state representative. He was elected to his first term in 2006.
Bandy is a member of several legislative committees, including the House Appropriations & Finance, House Rules & Order of Business and the Legislative Finance Committee.
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.
Allison says he's ready to work
"I feel great. I'm ready to go work," House District 4 candidate Allison said. "I like working with people. I like helping people."
Allison said it was his first experience running for office, but he remained calm as he monitored the results on his phone while at a family party at Chef Bernie's in Farmington.
Allison said he believes the people have spoken, and he promised to deliver the change they deserve.
He said he would rather win by one or two votes than by a landslide because that means he ran a good campaign.
A priority for Allison is focusing on fixing roads from Shiprock to the Arizona state line.
"They said, 'We'll fix that,'" Allison said. "In six years, nothing has been done."
In the District 2 County Commission race, Republican Michael Sullivan defeated Democrat Ervin Chavez, a former county commissioner, and independent candidate LoRenzo Bates.
Unofficial results released early today showed Sullivan receiving 3,051 votes compared to Chavez's 2,081 votes and Bates' 1,073 votes.
Sullivan will replace Margaret McDaniel as the commissioner representing District 2, which encompasses the southeast portion of the county. McDaniel reached term limits and was not eligible to run for re-election.
Sullivan will be returning to the County Commission after decades away. He served on the commission from 1986 until 1990 and was chairman for one year.
“I’m thrilled that the people in the county entrusted the counties duties to me, but at the same time, there’s a lot of work to do,” Sullivan said.
He cited water and the pending shutdown of the San Juan Generating Station as two of the critical issues facing San Juan County.
In addition, Sullivan said the county needs to work on infrastructure updates, including roads and bridges.
Elsewhere on the commission, GloJean Todacheene will be returning to her District 1 seat. The Democrat from Shiprock defeated write-in candidate, Pete K. Atcitty III, a Republican who previously ran against Todacheene in the 2006 elections.
Unofficial results show that 466 people had written in a candidate’s name for County Commissioner District 1 while unofficial results showed Todacheene with more than 5,352 votes.
“I’m ready to work for my constituents,” Todacheene said when reached by phone.
Todacheene served on the County Commission from 2006 until 2014. County commissioners can only serve two consecutive four-year terms. She was replaced by Wallace Charley, who she defeated in the Democratic Party primary election in June.
Todacheene started the morning in an optimistic mood. In addition to Tuesday being Election Day, it was also her daughter’s birthday. She made her daughter blue corn pancakes and waited for the election results to come in.
When reached by phone Tuesday morning, Todacheene said she felt hopeful she would win another term on the commission. She said she was the first Navajo woman to serve on the commission, and she thinks that helped inspire young people to run for office.
Todacheene anticipated her record and her background as an educator would help her win voters during the election. She said it is an honor to work for the people who voted for her.
“To be a leader, you have to have people who support you,” she said.
She said the county has a lot of challenges facing it in the future that she plans to work on. She said people are still concerned about the impacts of the Gold King Mine spill on the Animas and San Juan rivers, as well as the wastewater spill from an extraction well site in Colorado this weekend. Todacheene said contamination of the Animas River impacts the irrigation water farmers rely on.
In addition, Todacheene said she will focus on infrastructure.
“We’re due for a lot of fixing of roads and fixing of bridges, sewer and water systems,” she said.
Todacheene said the county is also concerned about job loss, especially in light of the pending closure of the San Juan Generating Station.
“We need some big employer out here,” she said.
Todacheene emphasized that the county will have to work closely with newly elected officials on the Navajo Nation.
She praised the voter turnout this election cycle.
“This year, nationwide, we’ve been hearing the message that your vote counts,” she said.
In the Division 2 magistrate judge race, incumbent Republican Rena Scott received 2,809 votes, according to unofficial results. She faced independent candidate Stanley King, who had 2,526 votes.
“Election nights are always an exciting day for me,” said Scott, who has been the magistrate judge for Division 4 for the past four years.
When Scott entered her position, she said the Magistrate Court in Farmington was still using an old television with a VHS tape player. Scott said that made it hard for attorneys to present evidence that was on a phone or a disk.
“We had dinosaur-age television and a VHS,” Scott said.
She said evidence had to be viewed on a laptop screen, which required jury members to squeeze in around a small computer.
Scott said she worked to upgrade the equipment and to get separate phone lines in all three court rooms. She said she also worked to get security improvements at the magistrate court, including fencing.
She said this election was tough because she was facing King, a former judge with a law enforcement background. In addition to having a tough opponent, she often discovered her signs were being vandalized and her campaign team would have to replace signs that had been cut to pieces with box cutters.
Scott said she appreciates the voters who cast a ballot for her.
“I love my job,” she said. “I’ve loved it since Day One."
In a rematch of the 2014 election, incumbent Democrat Trudy Chase held a narrow lead in the District 4 magistrate judge race. Chase was being challenged by Republican Melvin Sam.
Chase received 3,170 votes while Sam had 2,697 votes, according to unofficial results.
“I think this has been my closest race ever,” Chase said.
Chase was first elected in 2012.
It isn’t the first time Chase has faced Sam in an election. The two candidates also faced each other in 2014.
Chase said the 2014 race was also a close race. According to The Daily Times archives, Chase received 57 percent of the votes in 2014, while Sam received 43 percent.
“The Republicans really just came out to vote in San Juan County,” Chase said.
She said she will work to increase interaction with the community, including with the chapter houses within her division.
Chase also anticipates the magistrate court could see some changes if the Legislature changes the pretrial release rules in the upcoming legislative session.
Dems win big in state, federal races
On a larger basis, Democrats were faring much better, winning in every statewide race, as well as the race for a U.S. Senate seat and two of the state's three U.S. House seats. Only in the 2nd Congressional District was the GOP candidate ahead, where Yvette Herrell led Democrat Xochitl Torres Small. By 1:30 a.m. today, they were separated by fewer than 2,000 votes, with Herrell leading by a little more than 1 point and votes still being counted,
In the 1st Congressional District, Democrat Deb Haaland was the winner over Republican Janice Arnold-Jones and Libertarian Lloyd Princeton by a wide margin. She becomes one of the first Native American women elected to Congress.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich won re-election to a second term Tuesday in a three-way race against a Republican political newcomer and a Libertarian former governor.
The 47-year-old engineer and former congressman finished ahead of construction contractor Mick Rich and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson.
Rich ran unsuccessfully on his reputation as a businessman while embracing Trump — echoing the president's warnings about a migrant caravan approaching the United States from Mexico — and voicing anti-abortion sentiments.
Johnson served two terms as a Republican governor starting in 1994, earning a devoted political following as a fiscal hawk who clashed with the state's Democratic establishment. His 2016 campaign for president won 9 percent of the vote in New Mexico.
In the race for governor, Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham outpaced Republican Steve Pearce statewide to win. The bruising campaign focused in part on public education issues, with both sides attacking the character and records of the other.
Pearce was the clear choice among San Juan County voters, who also rejected Heinrich in favor of Rich.
Lujan Grisham favors legalization of recreational marijuana and background checks on private gun sales, among other issues championed by Democrats. Pearce, by contract, had President Donald Trump’s full backing, although his issue ads focused largely on educational issues and job training.
Incumbent Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, a Democrat, finished ahead of Republican Gavin Clarkson and Libertarian Ginger Grider. Likewise, voters returned incumbent Tim Eichenberg to his job as state treasurer.
About 8,000 votes in Dona Ana County were not in Tuesday's totals. There are 4,000 absentee votes that will be counted this morning, according to Office of the Secretary of State spokesperson Alex Curtas.
"Additionally, approximately four-thousand absentee ballots that have been tabulated will be posted at the conclusion of today’s process (for an approximate aggregate total of eight-thousand)," Curtas said in a press release early Wednesday morning.
Long lines at some polls
All those local numbers reflected a healthy turnout among voters in the county and across the state for a midterm election. A line had formed shortly after 5 p.m. Tuesday at the San Juan County voting convenience center at the Farmington Museum at Gateway Park as voters arrived to cast a ballot.
The parking lot was packed, and voters were forced to use overflow lots.
While the line occasionally backed up to the museum doors, voters nevertheless moved fairly quickly to the voting booths.
Tonya and Tim Hendricks said they waited about 20 minutes to vote, and there was steady movement in the line. Tonya Hendricks said it was important for her and her husband to vote “so our voice is heard and counted, so whether it goes our way or not I can be confident that I had my say.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.