A Roswell native and an oil and gas industry manager plans to challenge Democrat Xochitl Torres Small for New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District seat.
Republican Claire Chase, governmental relations director of Mack Energy Corp. based in Artesia, announced her candidacy Tuesday.
“We need a businesswoman, a mother and a conservative who will step up and fight for good-paying jobs, better schools for our kids and a strong, secure border,” her announcement said.
Voting for congressional seats will occur in fall 2020. The 2nd Congressional District, the fifth largest in the United States, represents most of the state south of Albuquerque and includes the New Mexico portion of the Permian Basin. Also part of the district is Las Cruces, the state’s second-largest city and Torres Small’s home city.
Republicans have won the seat four times out of the past seven elections. Republicans Chris Mathys and Yvette Herrell already have thrown their hats into the ring.
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Democrats represent 40% of registered voters for the district, while Republicans represent 36% and Libertarians and other affiliations represent about 24%, according to July 2019 data from the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office.
Chase, the mother of 3-year-old twins, Cash and Collins, said she feels prompted to run primarily because she cares about the education and well-being of children and other New Mexico residents. She said she thinks that one of the keys to improving an educational system that ranks lowest in the nation is to ensure the viability of the oil and gas industry, which she said provides about a third of the public educational system’s annual funding.
“My husband and I, when we woke up after the election in November, we woke up to a New Mexico that we didn’t really recognize anymore,” she said. “And I say that because, when I think back about the New Mexico of my childhood, we had senators (Pete) Domenici and (Jeff) Bingaman, who were our leadership in D.C. They were chairman and ranking member of the Senate Energy Committee and they really worked together to protect what is important to New Mexico, like our natural resources and our national labs. We want to try to bring some of that balance back to New Mexico here, because we think that fits the people here. We all tend to be more friends than strangers. We might have some differences but, for the most part, we are all New Mexicans and we all value that.”
Chase’s prior political experience includes serving as a senior legislative assistant for about four years with former U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, a Republican from Hobbs. She also has worked since 2013 in governmental affairs for the energy company founded by Mack Chase and has represented the industry as a whole as chair of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, which has about 900 members.
She is a 2001 graduate of New Mexico Military Institute and a 2006 graduate of New Mexico State University, where she received a bachelor of arts in journalism and communications. She is married to Chance Chase, and they live in Roswell.
Other professional positions prior to joining Pearce’s office include serving as membership director for New Mexico Association of Commerce and Industry and as a financial advisor with the New Mexico Finance Authority.
Chase said she plans to continue working with Mack Energy as she campaigns for office.
She said she wants improved border security and objects to having the issue framed as “anti-immigration.” She said she thinks immigration laws should be changed, but also supports President Donald Trump’s view of the current situation as a “crisis” and his efforts to build walls, increase technological improvements to stop illegal crossings and hire more border patrol agents.
“We need to fix our immigration system,” she said, “but we also need to secure our border, not only for us but for the people who are risking their safety to try to get across.”
She also said she believes economic diversity is important, and supports efforts to protect producers, the environment and develop sound regulations. She added that she is passionate about the oil and gas industry and ensuring that it can make the most of the “greatest opportunity New Mexico has ever had, the Permian Basin.”
A strong oil and gas industry is necessary to funding education and programs that benefit children, she said, but more than increased funding is needed to bolster education.
“The education system is fairly well-funded,” she said. “I think we are about in the middle of the list in terms of funding education, so I think finding other reforms (are needed).”
The federal government’s role in local educational policy is limited, she said, but an issue she thinks needs attention involves mental well-being.
“One area that has become one of my platform issues is mental health,” she said, “ensuring that all of our districts, whether urban or rural, have access to mental health professionals who can help students in the schools.”