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Pirtle steps aside congressional race; Former Eddy County commissioner announces his candidacy for Congress

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A Roswell state lawmaker has announced he is not running for Congress, while a Carlsbad pharmacist says he has the right prescription to succeed U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce on Capitol Hill.

Pirtle

State Sen. Cliff Pirtle told supporters this week that he and his wife, Aysia, have decided not to enter the congressional contest. Pirtle had told the Daily Record in June he was considering running for the 2nd Congressional District and that he would make a decision by Tuesday, when he released a statement to supporters. “Aysia and I would like to thank all of our family, friends and supporters for the texts, emails and phone calls encouraging us to run for Congress,” Pirtle, R-Roswell, said in the statement. “In truth, this was not a hard decision. While we feel our passion for rural New Mexico would help our state and America during these tough times, our focus must be on our family.” Pirtle, 31, ran unopposed last year for a second four-year term in the New Mexico Senate. Pirtle was elected to the state Senate in 2012 when he defeated Senate majority whip and 34-year incumbent Democrat state Sen. Tim Jennings to represent Senate District 32, which includes Roswell, Artesia, Dexter, Hagerman, Lake Arthur and Mescalero. “My priority is raising our two young boys and our daughter we are expecting this fall,” Pirtle said. “Aysia and I want to raise our kids on our family farm, not in Washington D.C. We want them to learn hard work and strong values not ‘inside the beltway’ culture. I am looking forward to continuing to stand up for Chaves, Eddy and Otero counties and fight for New Mexico and our values in the New Mexico State Senate.”

Volpato for Congress

Volpato

On Wednesday, Carlsbad pharmacist and businessman Jack Volpato announced his candidacy for the Republican primary for the 2nd Congressional District, geographically one of largest congressional districts in the nation, which spans the southern half of the state and represents a varied constituency from the Permian Basin oil fields of southeast New Mexico to much more politically Democratic cities like Las Cruces and Silver City.
Volpato becomes the fifth person, and third Republican, to enter the race to succeed Pearce, R-Hobbs, whose announcement that he is running for governor instead of an eighth term in Congress has opened up a field of contenders of both Democrats and Republicans.
“This is something I’ve wanted to do and I would have run eventually sometime,” Volpato told the Daily Record Wednesday. “I think the fact that it’s an open seat, the timing is right. I discussed it with my wife. I thought about this for a long time. And then my wife green-lighted it. Sometimes the stars align. I’m running now, but five to 10 years down the road I would have thought maybe I’d run for it. It was something I was ultimately going to do.”
If elected, Volpato, 55, said he would fight for New Mexico job creation by promoting oil and gas production and exportation, and to end what he described as the overregulation of the oil and gas industry. Volpato said potash and agriculture are key industries in the 2nd Congressional District, and he would support them by ensuring fair competition and advocating for necessary roads and infrastructure. Volpato also said he wants to see the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Artesia continually put to excellent use.
“Beyond any individual issue, I want to make sure that people in southern New Mexico have a voice,” Volpato said in a news release. “Elected officials must remember that it is their job to listen to members of the public and then take action to serve their constituents.”
Volpato, who was born and raised in Carlsbad, graduated from Carlsbad High School in 1979 and from the University of New Mexico in 1987 with a degree in pharmacy. He served on the Eddy County Commission from 2007 through 2015, which he said was an unprecedented period of economic growth and development in the region.

Tax revolt
Volpato said a tax revolt in Eddy County, in which petitioners have forced a special election on sales tax increases approved by the Eddy County Commission, is an example of voter discontent.
”If the voters feel that strongly about something, then maybe it needs to go to referendum and we will see what the sentiment is,” he said. “I was blessed when I was on the commission. We really didn’t have economic hardships and the mandates from the state hadn’t really kind of started coming down like they are now.
”If it’s something worthwhile, then you’re going to have to raise the tax if it’s something you can’t fund any other way. I think raising the taxes is a last resort.
”I’m curious to see the outcome myself.”
Volpato, who said he very strongly supports the Second Amendment, said he supports the healthy management of the state’s forests, the expansion of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant’s mission and aggressively pursuing funding for remediation of the Carlsbad Brine Well. He said the best way an elected official can support growth and industry is to make certain areas receive support with needed infrastructure improvements, especially roads.
Volpato is currently the co-owner of Carlsbad’s Southwest Pharmacy. He has been named Pharmacist of the Year by the New Mexico Pharmacy Association and as Wal-Mart’s Community Pharmacist of the Year. Volpato said his decades of experience in the medical profession give him a good knowledge base on which to assist with the improvements that are needed in the nation’s health care system.

Name recognition
Volpato acknowledged he is entering the congressional race with less name recognition than some of his opponents.
“But voters have made it very clear that they are fed up with insiders and career politicians,” he said. “I’m running as a businessman and as a former county commissioner, and I’m running because voters deserve someone who is going to listen to them and practice what he preaches when it comes to eliminating roadblocks and fighting for job growth.”
So far, State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn and state Rep. Yvette Herrell of Alamogordo have also announced their candidacies for the Republican primary, while Las Cruces Democrats Tony Martinez and David Baake have announced their candidacies for the 2nd Congressional District. The Republican and Democratic primaries are June 5.
Dunn unsuccessfully sought the GOP nomination for the congressional district in 2008, when Pearce left to run unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate. Pirtle and Pearce squared off in the June 2010 Republican primary for the 2nd Congressional District, when Pearce won 84.8 percent of the votes cast.
Martinez met last week with local residents at Los Cerritos Mexican Kitchen.
”I’m looking forward to getting up (in Roswell) pretty soon,” Volpato said. “This is a big district. It goes from Arizona to Texas.”
The 2nd Congressional District, geographically the fifth largest district in the nation and the largest one that does not comprise an entire state, includes all of Chaves, Catron, Cibola, De Baca, Doña Ana, Eddy, Grant, Guadalupe, Hidalgo, Lea, Lincoln, Luna, Otero, Sierra and Socorro counties, and portions of Bernalillo, McKinley, Roosevelt and Valencia counties.
Volpato is the past president of the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce and served on the board of directors with the United Way and the Carlsbad Department of Development. He is also active with the Carlsbad Mayor’s Nuclear Task Force and the Eddy Lea Energy Alliance, and was selected for the University of New Mexico Top 100 Alumni.
Volpato is also the co-founder of the Noah’s Ark Animal Refuge, and he awards an annual one-year tuition scholarship in memory of his mother, Elaine. The father of five children lives on a farm near Carlsbad with his wife, Julie, who is the principal at Dr. E.M. Smith Elementary School, a Carlsbad school for developmentally delayed children.
Editor Jeff Tucker can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 303, or at editor@rdrnews.com.