Republican voters outpace Democrats in primary

Brett Berntsen
Voters fill in their ballots during the primary election Tuesday at the San Juan County Fire Operations Center in Aztec.

FARMINGTON – San Juan County Republicans outpaced Democrats in voter turnout during Tuesday's primaries, according to preliminary numbers form the County Clerk’s Office.

About 7.9 percent of registered Republican voters made it to the polls on Election Day, compared to 6.1 percent for local Democrats. Local members of the GOP also had a higher participation rate during early voting periods and among absentee ballot counts, according the clerk's office.

Voter turnout across the county was 21 percent, higher than the previous presidential election year in 2012. A total of 14,406 ballots were issued during this year's primary, while 12,356 were issued in 2012.

Statewide numbers mirrored this trend, with New Mexico's total primary turnout topping 34 percent. The Associated Press today reported that this was higher than during any of the last three presidential elections.

Donald Trump registered a big win with local voters, as the Republican presidential candidate further strengthened his grasp on the party's nomination. Trump received roughly 72 percent support in San Juan County, garnering more votes than both Democratic candidates combined.

Tucker Keene, communications director for the Republican Party of New Mexico, said those numbers bode well for the general election in November.

"It's clear that Republicans will unify behind our nominee," Keene said.

While other Republican candidates combined to receive about 28 percent of the votes in San Juan County, Keene said support for the frontrunner remains similar to levels seen in 2012.

"Our party is no more divided than at any other time," Keene said.

Divisions were evident on the Democratic side, however, with support nearly split between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Clinton defeated Sanders in San Juan County by a margin of 4 percent, a ratio that was similar to results statewide.

Keene said the figures look favorable for Republicans, but Henry Silentman, chairman of the San Juan County Democratic Party, said he expects Democrats to unify in the general election. Silentman said the Democrats are also hoping to pick up votes from registered Independents, who weren't able to participate in the state's closed primary. While Silentman said he doesn't expect every independent to vote Democrat, he said the party expects to sway enough to at least win the presidential race.

“We’re going to try and unite and defeat Trump,” Silentman said.

The Republicans, meanwhile, have similar intentions. Keene said independent voters typically lean right and usually favor the more unconventional candidate.

"I don’t expect it to be any different this year," Keene said. "We might actually do better."

Brett Berntsen covers government for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4606.