All three Republican candidates vying to represent Chaves County in the New Mexico House of Representatives won their races Tuesday night, although two of them were unopposed.
State Rep. Greg Nibert, an incumbent Republican, fended off a challenge from Libertarian Carl Swinney in House District 59 by a margin of 76 to 23 percent, according to numbers from the New Mexico Secretary of State’s website.
The district is composed of most of Lincoln County and the northwestern part of Chaves County.
“I feel honored that the voters would select me to go back to Santa Fe to represent them,” he said after arriving at a watch party at the Chaves County Republican Party campaign office at the former Copy-Rite building on North Richardson Street.
Nibert, a former Chaves County Republican chair and former Chaves County Commissioner, said local Republicans have a long tradition of putting together strong campaigns for their candidates, something he benefited from in his race.
Although statewide races and a congressional race in New Mexico’s 2nd District, which includes Roswell brought high profile Republicans to the area — including Vice President Mike Pence and controversial former Trump administration advisor Steve Bannon — state legislative races in southeastern New Mexico were fairly low key.
Republicans Phelps Anderson of House District 66 and incumbent State Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell, of House District 58, were unchallenged in their races, but both said they were happy with the outcomes.
“I am very humbled by the voters of Chaves County,” Ezzell said in a phone call Tuesday night.
Ezzell said she thinks she has done a good job representing her district, made up of southwestern Chaves County.
However, Ezzell said she strives to represent the interests of the whole state and hopes lawmakers can put aside partisanship and work for the common good.
Anderson, who in 1976 was elected to the New Mexico House as the Legislature’s youngest member and served until 1981, will represent House District 66 in the next legislative session. The district is composed of eastern Chaves County along with portions of Roosevelt and Lea Counties.
“It’s a great honor to again be elected to serve in the New Mexico Legislature,” Anderson said to the crowd.
Anderson will occupy the seat now held by four-term state Rep. Bob Wooley, R-Roswell, who opted not to seek re-election.
He added that he looks forward to serving with Nibert and Ezzell and the other members of southeastern New Mexico’s delegation, James Townsend, R-Artesia as well as state Sens. Bill Burt, R-Alamogordo, Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell, Gay Kernan, R-Hobbs and Stuart Ingle, R-Portales.
Anderson and other legislators were already looking toward the upcoming legislative session that starts Dec. 31.
Lawmakers come January will have decide how to appropriate a surplus of at least $1.6 billion in the state’s general fund as well as rewrite how public education is funded in the state of New Mexico, among other things.
“So it will be a non-stop effort from the Legislature and our new governor,” he said.
New Mexico Democrats finished strong, including in the race for governor which saw Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham prevail over Republican Steve Pearce.
Lujan Grisham will succeed Republican Susana Martinez, who is barred from seeking a third term.
Wooley said before the results in the governor’s race were announced that a Lujan Grisham administration would mean Democrats would have control of both chambers of the state Legislature and the governorship.
“Best thing the Republicans can do there is just play defense because they aren’t going to get anything in,” Wooley said.
Nibert said he expects that the partisan rhetoric will die down now that the campaign season has ended and Lujan Grisham will put forth her governing agenda.
“We’ll see what she really wants to put forth in terms of priorities,” he said.
Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.