The only contested race for Chaves County Commissioner, one that has seen two experienced political veterans vying against each other, was still too close to call by the end of Election Day and will not be decided until Friday.
Democrat Michael Trujillo, a former commissioner and local businessman, and Republican Dara Dana both said they will wait until the official canvassing of election results Friday afternoon by the Chaves County Board of Commissioners before declaring the victor.
As of press time, Dana was leading Trujillo, 1,276 to 1,244. They are running for the District 1 seat, with both unopposed in primary races.
“I trust in the process,” said Trujillo. “I just want to let that process work and have the decisions made about the provisional ballots.”
According to county staff and campaign workers, about 50 provisional ballots have yet to be counted, with the validities of those votes to be decided on by commissioners Friday during a special meeting. That meeting is scheduled for 2 p.m. at the Chaves County Administrative Center.
Trujillo, the owner of El Charro Mexican Foods, an Army combat veteran and the District 1 Chaves County Commissioner for two terms from 2003 to 2011, said that he thought the issues resonating most with voters he talked to are access to public lands, maintenance of county roads and ensuring the safety and welfare of first responders.
“That is what county commissioners do,” he said. “They take care of county roads and they make sure that our first responders are safe.”
He added that he was pleased with the hard work that he and his campaign volunteers had put into their effort and looks forward to the resolution on Friday.
“I will be there,” he said about the meeting, “along with my family and my supporters and we will see what happens. Hopefully it will turn out our way.”
Dana, a former state representative for District 58, winning her bids for the office in 1996 and 1998, said she will try to attend the canvassing meeting on Friday.
“It is not over until it’s over. They have quite a few provisionals that they will go over Friday,” she said. “I’ve been through squeakers before.”
Dana has said her major concerns as a prospective commissioner are the county budget and maintaining infrastructure.
She characterized the campaign run by her and Trujillo as very “cordial.” While she anticipated a tight race, she said, she was surprised by the outcome so far.
“I didn’t think this close,” she said. “We were kind of gauging 300 or 400 (votes) based on past numbers. That’s what you call a well-worked campaign on both sides.”
The only other commission seat up this election cycle was for District 5 and will continue to be held by retired educator Will Cavin, who was first elected in 2014. He was unopposed in both the primaries and general election and received 2,557 votes Tuesday.
Other uncontested races
Three other candidates running unopposed have received far more than the one vote necessary to win their bids for office.
Incumbent Mark Willard, a Republican, will continue to serve as Chaves County Assessor, having received 13,179 votes in the general election. He previously was the victor in the primary against Republican challenger Daniel Pruitt.
Republican Mike Herrington will be the new Chaves County sheriff after the swearing-in ceremony in January. He received 13,579 votes Tuesday. He won an upset race against incumbent Britt Snyder, also a Republican, in the June primaries.
Lawyer Clarke Coll has been elected Chaves County probate judge with 13,357 votes in the general election. A Republican, he also ran unopposed in the primaries.
Daniel Johnson, vice chair of the Democratic Party of Chaves County, said that the significant news about the election was the voter turnout, with about 16,700 people casting ballots. Total registered votes in the county at the end of October numbered 32,822, according to the New Mexico Secretary of State.
“I saw more enthusiasm for the mid-term than for the presidential election, which I like,” he said, explaining that he worked at the polls on Election Day and also during early voting. “Chaves County is not known for its turnout, percentage-wise, but the more that come out the better.”
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at email@example.com.