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County prepares for primary voters

Lisa Dunlap Photo New Mexico voters have been encouraged by state and local officials to vote absentee for the primaries, but in-person voting is still allowed. Chaves County Clerk Dave Kunko says places have been prepared and measures will be used to mitigate health risks.

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Primary elections for national, state and local races might not be “top of mind” for most people right now, but this week begins the selection process as in-person absentee voting — now often just referred to as early voting — starts Tuesday.

Contested primary races at the local levels involve two county commission seats and the county clerk position.

Tuesday is also the last day to register online or by mail to vote in the primaries, with election day June 2. In-person registration can occur until May 30.

The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled April 14 that an all-mail primary could not occur in spite of the coronavirus situation, but the justices indicated that absentee voting is the preferred method for casting votes at this time. Chaves County election officials have reiterated that message.

“We’ve already gotten a lot of absent applications, some online as well as some handwritten,” said Chaves County Clerk Dave Kunko. “We are working on processing those because those go out first thing Tuesday.”

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The New Mexico Secretary of State is mailing applications for absentee ballots to people registered with either the Democratic, Republican or Libertarian parties, the only candidates and voters allowed to participate in New Mexico primary elections. Applications also can be requested from the Secretary of State or the Chaves County Clerk’s Office, 575-624-6614.

But, Kunko said, some voters are indicating that they do not want to vote by absentee.

“We have had people talk to us who said, no way. That is not exactly what they said, but they said, no way will we be voting by mail, so we will be getting people,” he said.

He said that Area D is being prepared to handle people safely, with some screens installed. County officials previously indicated that employees will wear masks and gloves and social distancing will be enforced. The county is also asking that the public wear masks when in county buildings.

The Chaves County Clerk’s Office has established three early voting locations.

Polling Locations

The first one to open is Area D of the Chaves County Administrative Center, 1 St. Mary’s Place, to be operating Tuesday until May 30. It will have Monday through Friday voting, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday voting will start May 16.

On May 16, a polling spot will open at Berrendo Elementary School, 505 W. Pine Lodge Road in Roswell. According to the Chaves County Clerk’s Office, it will operate Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. until May 30.

The third early voting polling location will be at Hagerman JOY Center, 503 E. Argyle St. It will operate 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., May 19, May 21, May 26 and May 28.


Eligible Chaves County voters will be able to select among candidates from their parties for U.S. president, U.S. congressional representatives, state district judges and district attorney, state senators and representatives, state public board seats and county offices.

Unopposed state

and local races

Many candidates representing Chaves County are running unopposed in both the primaries and the general elections. They are New Mexico 5th Judicial District Attorney Dianna Luce of Lovington, a Republican, the incumbent; 5th Judicial District Judges Thomas Lilley (Division 2) and Jared Kallunki (Division 8), both Democrats running for the two seats to which they were previously appointed; District 27 State Sen. Stuart Ingle of Portales, the Republican incumbent; District 32 State Sen. Cliff Pirtle of Roswell, the Republican incumbent; State Reps. Phelps Anderson of Roswell (District 66), Candy Spence Ezzell of Roswell (District 58) and James Townsend of Artesia (District 54), all incumbents; Mike Taylor of Roswell, a Republican running for the District 8 seat on the New Mexico Public Education Commission; T. Calder Ezzell Jr., the Republican incumbent seeking to return to the District 2 seat on the Chaves County Board of Commissioners; and Charlotte Andrade, the Republican incumbent running for Chaves County treasurer.


Contested state

and local races

High-stakes races for U.S. congressional seats will be on the ballot. For the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Tom Udall (D-Santa Fe), there are six Republican candidates on the ballot, according to the Secretary of State’s Office: Elisa Maria Martinez of Albuquerque, Mark Ronchetti of Albuquerque, Gavin S. Clarkson of Las Cruces, Richard T. Montoya Sr. of Rio Rancho, Mick Rich of Albuquerque and Louie Sanchez of Albuquerque. The Democratic candidate is Ben R. Lujan of Santa Fe. The Libertarian candidate is Bob Walsh of Santa Fe.

For the District 2 U.S. Representative seat whose area includes southeast New Mexico, the incumbent Xochitl Torres Small of Las Cruces is running unopposed for the Democratic Party. Her Republican challengers are Yvette Herrell of Alamogordo, Claire Chase of Roswell and Chris Mathys of Las Cruces.

The District 33 State Senate seat has two Republican candidates, Christopher Glendon Hensley of Roswell, a Republican, and incumbent William F. Burt of Alamogordo. The Democratic candidate is Denise A. Lang-Browne of La Luz.

The State Senate District 42 seat has two people running unopposed in their parties. Incumbent Gay Kernan of Hobbs as a Republican and Mayna Erika Myers of Hobbs as a Libertarian.

For the District 59 State House of Representatives seat, incumbent Greg Nibert of Roswell is running as the Republican candidate for the District 59 seat. Kimble Lee Kearns of Capitan is the Democratic candidate.

For county races, two Republicans are running for Chaves County Clerk, Deputy County Clerk Cindy Fuller and Barbara Gomez.

For the Chaves County Board of Commission, the two Republican candidates are incumbent Jeff Bilberry of Roswell and Randy Robertson of Roswell, both running for the District 3 seat. Republicans Barry Foster and Richard Taylor are running for the District 4 seat to be vacated by Robert Corn due to term limits.

To keep up with coverage of this and other 2020 elections of local and regional interest, go to rdrnews.com/category/news/elections/.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.


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