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Republicans elect delegates, candidates speak at convention

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Robert Corn, left, chair of the Republican Party of Chaves County, stands at a podium with James Duffey during the local party’s pre-primary convention Jan. 31 at Pioneer Bank on North Main Street. The party’s candidates in the races for New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District and for a U.S. Senate seat spoke to the crowd. Delegates were also elected to represent Chaves County at the Republican Party of New Mexico’s State Pre-primary Convention in March. (Alex Ross Photo)

Chaves County Republicans held their county pre-primary convention Jan. 31 where they elected delegates and heard from candidates hoping to be their party’s nominee in two upcoming congressional races.

Scores of party volunteers, voters and campaign workers packed into a room in the Pioneer Bank building on North Main Street, with a slate of 28 delegates submitted for approval by the county party’s nominating committee.

The delegates will be among 742 elected at the county level throughout New Mexico to attend the state pre-primary convention scheduled for March 7 in Albuquerque.

According to the Republican Party of New Mexico website, delegates to the state pre-primary convention will determine which of the party’s candidates in races for the U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives and statewide office get onto the June primary ballot.

The Chaves County delegates are: Bob Corn, Caleb Grant, Alice Eppers, Carrie Hollifield, Teresa Barncastle, Judy Hobson, Phelps Anderson, Greg Nibert, Candy Ezzell, Cliff Pirtle, Charlotte Andrade, Mike Herrington, Will Cavin, Claire Chase, Chance Chase, Rod Adair, Dara Dana, Juliana Halvorson, Robert Crook, Casey Conlee, Dick Taylor, Andrea Moore, Jeff Billberry, Dorothy Hellums, Mona Kirk, Mark Murphy, Linda Krumland and Greg Graves.

Attendees also heard from five of the party’s primary hopefuls in the race for U.S. Senate and three for a seat in New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District.

U.S. House

Republicans are hoping to make a comeback following a disappointing 2018 midterm, which saw their candidates defeated in every statewide and congressional race on the ballot.

In the usually reliably Republican New Mexico 2nd Congressional District that year, Democrat Xochitl Torres Small defeated Republican Yvette Herrell by fewer than 3,000 votes.

Herrell hopes to be her party’s candidate again in November.

“You know what I decided is, I could either get mad, or I could get mad, pray about it and do something,” Herrell said to the crowd.

A former-term member of the New Mexico House of Representatives, Herrell said her time in office has allowed her to form relationships at federal and state level while familiarizing her with the nuances of the communities within the district she hopes to represent.

Claire Chase, a government relations director for an oil and gas company and former legislative assistant to now-former U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, R-NM, and Chris Mathys, a Las Cruces businessman, are challenging Herrell in the primary.

Many, such as Chase, spoke glowingly of President Donald Trump. Chase had just returned from Washington D.C., where she was with Trump when he signed the United States Mexico Canada Agreement, also known as the USMCA.

“And I would like to go to D.C. to fight for this president and what his agenda is,” Chase said.

Mathys also painted himself as a Trump supporter, calling him “the best president in my lifetime,” and said border security is one of his top issues.

“The bottom line is that if you want to come to the United States of America, you need to come here with your work clothes on and come legally; if you don’t, please, stay where you are from,” he said.

U.S. Senate

Republicans are also hoping to win a U.S. Senate seat now held by Democrat Tom Udall, who last year announced he would not run for re-election. The Republican will likely face Democratic U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan.

Gavin Clarkson, who unsuccessfully ran as the party’s candidate for Secretary of State in 2018 and a former official in the United States Department of the Interior, said the economy is a major factor in why he wants to run for the Senate.

Now a college professor, he said 95% of his students can’t get a job in New Mexico when they graduate.

He added that New Mexico and its needs often get overlooked. Clarkson said that back in 2018, when he and his now-wife wanted to get married in Washington D.C., and he went to get married, people forgot that New Mexico was a state.

“In fact, they asked me for my New Mexico passport,” he said.

Mick Rich, a builder and radio talk show host from Albuquerque, lost to Democrat Martin Heinrich in 2018 when he was the party’s nominee. He ran that year in a three-way race against Heinrich and Libertarian Gary Johnson.

Rich said that as someone who has spent decades in business, he wants to keep business safe from too many federal regulations and improve the quality of life in New Mexico.

Elisa Martinez, an American Indian from Gallup and a conservative activist who has led the New Mexico Alliance for Life, a group against abortion, said she has the experience needed to advance conservative agenda items and will do so in the U.S. Senate.

Louie Sanchez, the owner of two shooting galleries, emphasized his experience in the private sector, and said that his connections to the state’s south valley can help win over moderate Democrats in the general election.

“And you know we need to turn 5,000 Hispanic votes for us to win,” Sanchez said.

Mark Ronchetti, a former television meteorologist, said he entered the race because he believes conservative principles can help improve the state.

He added that much like television, elections are a “people moving business.”

“That’s what I’ve done my whole career. You’ve got to move people to you or you don’t win in TV — you’ve got to move people to you or you don’t win elections,” he said.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.