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County, state candidates announce their bids

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Republican Mark Willard pulls a ball from a bottle and hands it to Chaves County Clerk Dave Kunko to determine his position on the ballot. His name will appear second on the ballot when he, the incumbent, faces appraiser Daniel Pruitt for the County Assessor seat in the primary elections. At this time, there are no candidates from other parties running for the office in the general election. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

Many incumbents are seeking re-election this year, including New Mexico State Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell, as candidates and their supporters traveled through the Chaves County Clerk’s Office Tuesday, the filing deadline for major party candidates seeking county or state representative seats.

Not surprisingly, given that almost 48 percent of voters in Chaves County have registered as Republicans, most candidates who have declared belong to the GOP.

The filings are preliminary, with Chaves County election officials expected to verify signatures and candidate information by the end of today. Write-ins have until March 20 to announce their intentions to run.

In addition to two Republicans running for Chaves County Sheriff (see related story), the other contested primary race will be among Republicans vying for County Assessor. Incumbent Mark D. Willard is running against Daniel A. Pruitt, an appraiser in the Assessor’s office.

General election challenges are shaping up for the Chaves County Commission District 1 seat being vacated by James Duffey and for the Magistrate Judge Division 2 seat.

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Unopposed races

Most of the races at this point are uncontested, and many incumbents want to serve another term.

Cattle rancher and Republican Candy Spence Ezzell of Roswell has filed for the New Mexico State Representative District 58 seat, which covers the Roswell, Dexter and Hagerman areas, and has a two-year term.

“I think it is very important that we keep our rural areas represented,” she said, “and I do think that I represent this area real good. People know that if they have a problem that they can call me and I will do everything I can to help them work through this problem.”

Ezzell also noted that, as a fifth-generation New Mexican and a state representative since 2005, she has a long-standing interest in New Mexico schools and the oil and gas industry.

She said she considers herself “party-blind” when she deals with issues at the Legislature and sees two important upcoming issues as upcoming statewide re-districting to occur after the 2020 U.S. Census and the continued effort to establish an independent regional air authority for the Roswell airfield.

“Obviously one thing I would bring up again is the air authority bill. I am very disappointed in the governor vetoing that,” she said, explaining that she thought Gov. Susana Martinez acted out of upset with some people in the region. “It was a big deal for us to to be able to move forward with that airport authority, giving them the ability to, hey, let’s get some good-paying jobs up here.”

In another unopposed election bid, Clarke C. Coll, a Republican who lives in Roswell and is a lawyer with Coll Bros. Law LLC., is seeking a return to probate judge.

“I’ve held the position before and I enjoy serving the people and public of Chaves County as probate judge,” Coll said, who previously served from 2002 to 2010. “The duty of the probate judge is to fulfill the requirements of the code that the Legislature has put into place, so I just interpret the law the Supreme Court sets out for the probate court.”

One of the two County Commission seats in play this year is uncontested so far, and Will Cavin, a Republican who has been a teacher and youth leader for many years, has made his bid to return to the District 5 office for another four years.

“The first four years have been really good, but there is still work to be done,” he said, indicating that he wants to ensure the county is well represented in federal issues such as payments made to the counties by federal entities and Bureau of Land Management resource management plans.

“I just got back from Washington and I learned a lot over the last four years in working with this stuff,” he said, “so I think it makes a difference to have a person who has been working with the bill and working with the Department of Interior over the past few years.”

Republican K.C. (Keith) Rogers of Roswell is seeking re-election to the Magistrate Judge Division 1 seat.

Rogers, a former New Mexico State Police officer and a hearings officer for the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy, was first appointed to the seat by Gov. Martinez in 2013. He then won a primary challenge to take the seat in 2014.

Contested Seats

The District 1 County Commission seat to be vacated by James Duffey, who has served two terms, is uncontested during the primaries. But, in the general elections, it will pit a former state representative, Dara Dana, against a former commissioner wanting a return to the seat, Michael A. Trujillo.

Trujillo, a Democrat from Roswell who owns El Charro Mexican Foods and is a former Chaves County Democratic Party chairman, already held the seat for two four-year terms.

“I have the experience,” he said. “I can do good for the county with what I have. I own a business. I am a veteran. I can make things happen. I can bring people together.”

He said the issues he is concerned about include ensuring sufficient funding for the Sheriff’s and county fire departments “to make sure that they have the proper equipment for our cities and our county.”

He also said he wants to help bring in more businesses and jobs into the area.

Republican Dara Dana of Dexter said she felt the time was right to return to public office, having served two terms as state representative for District 58 from 1996 to 2000.

“I figure, I guess, it is time for me to get back in it,” she said, adding that she doesn’t see any pressing issues upcoming but wants to ensure what she characterized as a good history for the county. “Hopefully just kind of maintain. Make sure our budget is good. Especially in Chaves County, we have done very well with our budgets. Make sure our infrastructure is maintained and just keep on. Make sure that the taxpayers and the constituents of District 1 are well represented.”

For Division 2 Magistrate Judge, Republican E.J. Fouratt and Libertarian Mayna Erika Myers will face each other in the November general elections but are running unopposed in the primary elections.

Fouratt of Roswell was appointed to the bench in 2015 by the governor, having served for 20 years as a law enforcement officer with the New Mexico State Police and the New Mexico Military Institute.

Myers, an asset protection manager for Wal-Mart, said she is looking forward to serving the public in her first run for office and will bring to the work her many years of experiences working in correctional facilities and with corrections departments in Utah and New Mexico.

“While doing that I have seen a different side to the justice system,” she said. “And I want to be a voice to the victims, to give an independent and impartial view of the justice system, and be an advocate for due process.”

The primary race for County Assessor, which has a four-year term, will see two Republicans, incumbent Mark Willard and appraiser Daniel A. Pruitt, run against each other for the primaries.

Willard, who held the office from 1999 to 2006 and then was elected again in 2014, said he wants to continue the work he has done in the Assessor’s Office for the past 25 years.

“We are one of the most respected offices in the state by both our peers in assessor’s offices as well as probably the Tax Division. They constantly point to us as an example,” he said. “We have done a good job for the past 25 years. I am with a guy, Ron Lethgo, who has been in the office for 25 years. There is no one in the state who has the experience that we do.”

Lethgo, the elected County Assessor for two terms prior to 2014, is Willard’s campaign treasurer.

Pruitt, a Roswell native, a businessman and an Army veteran who spoke about his candidacy in February, said he thinks a fresh perspective is warranted. He added that he has ideas for improving transparency and service at the office where he has worked for almost four years.

“I think I could bring a new set of eyes to things,” he said.

The primary elections will be June 5, with absentee voting beginning May 8 and early voting May 19 through June 2. The general election will occur Nov. 6 with absentee voting starting on Oct. 9 and early voting beginning Oct. 20. Polling locations are listed on the Chaves County website.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.