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State rep seat sought by Libertarian, Republican

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Republican Phelps Anderson is running unopposed for a seat being vacated by Rep. Bob Wooley. Anderson previously served in the state Legislature from 1977 to 1981.
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Rep. Greg Nibert seeks re-election to the District 59 state House of Representatives seat.

A retired radiological technician living in Carrizozo who wants to legalize all use of marijuana is challenging a conservative local oil and gas lawyer in the only contested race among the four New Mexico House of Representatives seats involving Chaves County up for election this year.

In the District 59 race, incumbent Greg Nibert, a Republican lawyer from Roswell seeking his second term, faces no primary opposition. But Libertarian Carl M. Swinney of Carrizozo, also unopposed for the primaries, has filed to run for the office. The District covers portions of Chaves and Lincoln counties.

Other people who have filed for state House of Representative offices representing the area are retired oil industry executive James G. Townsend, a Republican from Artesia, for District 54 (portions of Chaves, Eddy and Otero County); rancher Candy Spence Ezzell, a Republican from Roswell, for District 58 (portions of Chaves County); and real estate, ranching and oil and gas businessman Phelps Anderson, a Republican from Roswell, for District 66 (portions of Chaves, Lea and Roosevelt counties).

New Mexico state Senate offices will be decided in 2020.

Absentee voting begins Tuesday for county, state and U.S. Congressional races, with early voting starting May 19. Voting day for the primaries is June 5. Voting for the general elections begins with absentee voting Oct. 9 and ends on Nov 6.

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Nibert and Swinney need to receive only one vote in the primaries to proceed to the general elections.

Nibert, a former Chaves County Commissioner from 2007 to 2015 and a lawyer with the firm of Hinkle Shanor, said he has felt honored to represent District 59 since 2016.

He won his first term in the state legislature by defeating Democrat Richard Garcia of Roswell, a retired business supervisor and a New Mexico State Parole Board member.

During the past two sessions, he said he considered his most important legislative accomplishments to be the proposed bill to enact an air authority for the Roswell International Air Center, which passed both chambers but was vetoed by Gov. Susana Martinez, and his work to support legislation sponsored by others to reform laws to protect the elderly from financial or other abuse by guardians.

He also said that he considers his first session a success because he was able to learn how the Legislature functions.

“I am very pleased with where I am at in terms of learning the procedures and processes that go on within the Legislative bodies,” he said. “It was a personal goal I had to spend my first term to comprehend and to really understand the House and the Senate and then working with the Governor’s Office to effect policy and law.”

His goals for a second term include forming additional relationships with fellow legislators, regardless of party affiliation.

“The legislative process really is a process that requires great interpersonal relationships,” he said. “So a personal goal of mine would be to continue to build those relationships and then be more of a spokesman for our community and really be viewed as a spokesman for rural New Mexico and this part of the state.”

A former Roswell Independent School Board member, Nibert has been a leader with numerous professional and community organizations in the area, including the Roswell Kiwanis Club, Boy Scouts of America, the Independent Petroleum Association of New Mexico, the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, the New Mexico Landman’s Association, the American Association of Professional Landmen and the New Mexico and Chaves County Bar associations. In 2015, he was named Lawyer of the Year by the Natural Resources, Energy and Environmental Law section of the State Bar.

Challenger Swinney moved to Carrizozo with family after his retirement from a 42-year career in the Los Angeles area as a radiologic technologist with medical offices and services and an acute care hospital.

He said he has been involved with the Libertarian Party since 1973 and, in New Mexico, has served as state party chair and as Lincoln County chair pro-tem.

He has made nine prior runs for public office as a Libertarian. All of those campaigns occurred in California and were for the state Assembly, the state Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. None of those resulted in a win, but Swinney said he did as well as most Libertarians fared at that time.

“I don’t bear any ill will toward any of my opponents,” he said. “I am too busy focusing on the way I think that government should be.”

He said he advocates for the decriminalization of marijuana, the “end of the drug war,” the reform of the justice system to reduce penalties or prosecutions of victimless crimes, and the reduction of both government costs and taxes.

He added that he also thinks New Mexico needs to allow businesses to be more competitive by reducing taxes and costs, including by eliminating duplication of government services or staffing.

He said he would not raise taxes without first seeking to reduce government spending.

“The full pledge on that is that I would never raise taxes unless there was an equal or larger reduction in taxes in another area so that the trend would be continuously lower while it would leave room to operate legitimate functions,” he said.

The District 66 election brings a veteran New Mexico politician back to the Round House.

Republican Phelps Anderson, a Roswell native who is president of a family business involved in real estate, agriculture and oil and gas, is running unopposed in both the primary and general elections. He previously served two terms as a District 58 representative from 1977 to 1981.

The District 66 seat has become available following the decision by Rep. Bob Wooley (R-Roswell) to retire after eight years. His term ends in January.

“Rep. Wooley has given us honesty and hard work for eight years,” said Anderson. “His steady hand and common sense will be missed in Santa Fe.”

Anderson said that he considers the current period an important time.

“New Mexico faces important decisions, and the new governor may give us the opportunity to go in a growing direction,” he said. “I sometimes say that we have been pursuing a course to become 50th in per capita income. I want to reverse that. I want New Mexico not to have the second highest unemployment rate in America and the poor success rate in our public schools. .. We need to create a state where business growth is welcomed, not discouraged.”

He said he is ready to serve the constituents of Lea, Roosevelt and Chaves counties. “I am ready to try to create a better climate for jobs and a better education for our children and grandchildren,” he said.

Holding an agricultural economics degree from New Mexico State University, he said he is for jobs, regardless of industry. “Where we fail is growing the businesses we have and attracting new businesses to our growing economy,” he said.

Anderson, named a Roswell Association of Realtors’ Citizen of the Year in 2017, is a member of the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico, the Roswell Rotary and a leader with Boy Scouts of America.

The District 54 election sees Rep. Townsend, a Carlsbad native from a ranching and farming family, running unopposed in the primaries and the general elections for his third term in the state House of Representatives.

He is a former executive and board member with Holly Energy and also worked with gas companies, pipeline companies and other energy companies during his career.

Rep. Ezzell is running unopposed in the primary and general elections for her eighth term as District 58 representative.

A native of Chaves County, Ezzell runs a cattle ranch near Artesia with family members. She was first elected to the seat in 2004 and typically faced opponents in the general elections to retain her seat.

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

 

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.