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Legislative candidates continue raising money

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(Alex Ross Chart)

Though most legislators representing Chaves County are unopposed in their bids for re-election, new reports filed with the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office suggest the cash is continuing to pour into their campaigns.

Of the eight legislative seats on the ballots of county voters this fall, only two lawmakers — state Rep. Greg Nibert, R-Roswell, in House District 59; and state Sen. Bill Burt, R-Alamogordo, in Senate District 33 — have general election opponents.

Nonetheless, reports covering the financial activity of the campaigns between June 30 and Sept. 7 show that opposition or not, the campaigns continue to take in money.

State Rep. Phelps Anderson, R-Roswell, who is unopposed in his re-election campaign, said it is not unusual for candidates without an opponent to actively raise money. He said campaigns having cash on hand is often important whether or not a candidate is facing a challenger.

“An unopposed candidate still has campaign expenses as hard as it is to believe,” Anderson said Monday.

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The latest reports show that during the period the reports cover, Anderson’s campaign raised $5,750 in contributions. In that same timeframe, he spent $9,304.42. He had $1,279.43 remaining in his campaign account.

In the contested races, Nibert had a big fundraising edge over his opponent, Democrat Kimble Lee Kearns of Capitan.

Nibert, who is hoping to win a third term representing House District 59, which includes portions of Chaves and Lincoln counties, outraised Kearns $22,880 to $1,950 in the recent fundraising period.

Between late June and early September, Nibert went on to spend $1,702.92. He ended the period with $63,763.71 remaining cash on hand.

Kearns, in that same timeframe, spent $41.80. He entered September with $2,986.56 in his campaign war chest.

In Chaves County’s other contested race, Burt hopes to fend off a challenge from Democrat Denise Lang-Browne of La Luz in a district that consists of Chaves, Lincoln and Otero counties.

According to the reports for the most recent fundraising period, Lang-Browne outpaced Burt in fundraising. She received $3,785.80 compared to Burt’s $1,700.

Burt though outspent Lange-Browne with $7,782.02 in expenditures, while Lang-Browne spent $119.63.

Despite trailing her in contributions during the period documented in the reports, Burt maintains an overall cash advantage over Lang-Browne with $31,366.22 remaining in his campaign bank account. Lang-Browne ended the period with $4,150.99 in cash on hand.

Unopposed races

Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell, raised $5,750 in contributions during the reporting period. He went on to spend $5,998.10 and began September with $4,789.23. According to the reports, he has $9,100 in unpaid campaign debt.

State Rep. Candy Ezzell, R-Roswell, who is seeking re-election representing southern Chaves County in House District 58, also received $5,250 in donations in the latest period covered in the reports.

After spending $2,500, her campaign as of Sept. 7 had $15,057.39 remaining in cash on hand.

The campaign of State Rep. Jim Townsend, R-Artesia, who also does not have an opponent in his re-election race in House District 54, took in $20,575. Townsend, whose district covers southern Chaves as well as Eddy and Otero counties, went on to spend $11,473.22.

Townsend, who is currently the minority leader in the New Mexico House of Representatives, had $63,391.99 in his campaign fund as of the end of the reporting period.

State Sen. Gay Kernan, R-Hobbs, had a strong fundraising period. According to the reports, she received $53,600 in contributions of which $43,650 came from donors who reside in Kernan’s hometown of Hobbs. She also spent $45,514.19.

Kernan, whose Senate District 42 covers parts of Chaves, Eddy and Lea counties, ended the reporting period with $20,167.98 in her campaign account.

The lead Republican in the New Mexico Senate also demonstrated a strong fundraising ability. According to the reports, state Sen. Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, took in $14,000 in contributions in recent months. He then spent $21,057.72.

Ingle, whose Senate District 27 seat represents Chaves, Curry, De Baca, Lea and Roosevelt counties, had $67,603.92 remaining in his campaign fund as of Sept. 7.

Most of the money that the campaigns received though came from outside of Chaves County. Nibert and Kearns were the only candidates to receive contributions from Chaves County residents during the reporting period.

According to the reports, Nibert received $13,530 from contributors who live in Chaves County. Kearns trailed Nibert with $1,350.

The biggest donors often came from outside the county or even outside the state. Chevron contributed $5,000 each to the campaigns of Anderson, Ezzell, Kernan, Ingle, Nibert, Pirtle and Townsend. The multinational energy company also gave Burt’s campaign $500.

County races

Democrats this year did not field candidates for county offices in Chaves County, and so fundraising for Republican candidates for those offices has ceased.

Most of the candidates filed statements of no activity with the Secretary of State’s office, stating that they did not engage in any fundraising during the recent reporting period.

T. Calder Ezzell Jr., current member of the Chaves County Board of Commissioners in District 2, became the only candidate for county office to spend any money since June. According to reports, he spent $100, thereby leaving his campaign war chest empty. He also has $5,050 in unpaid campaign debt.

Other county candidates though continue to sit on some campaign cash. Richard Taylor, the Republican candidate for the District 4 seat on the Board of Commissioners, stopped receiving campaign contributions after prevailing over fellow Republican and Roswell City Councilor Barry Foster in June, according to reports.

However, Taylor does still have $250.50 in his campaign account.

Cindy Fuller, who defeated Barbara Gomez in the Republican primary for County Clerk, also did not spend more money, but her campaign still has $1,048.02 left on hand.

Charlotte Andrade, who is unopposed in her bid for another term as County Treasurer, filed a statement of no activity, indicating she has not raised funds or spent money.

No report for Commissioner Jeff Bilberry, who represents District 3 on the Board of Commissioners, was available on the Secretary of State’s website as of Thursday.

Judicial races

In the Fifth Judicial District, which is comprised of Chaves, Eddy and Lea counties, District Attorney Dianna Luce along with district judges Thomas Lilley of Division 1 and Jared Kallunki of Division 8 are unopposed.

The only money raised by Luce, a Republican seeking her second term as the district’s chief prosecutor, is 10 cents, interest accrued from two campaign bank accounts, according to the reports.

Luce did not have any campaign expenditures at the end of the reporting period. As of early September, reports show she had a balance of $2,724.54 remaining in her campaign account and $4,000 in unpaid campaign debt.

Lilley and Kallunki, both Democrats running for their first terms for their seats on the bench, submitted statements of no activity to the Secretary of State’s office.

Kallunki has not raised or spent any money during the election cycle. Lilley’s campaign also did not take in or spend any money during the reporting period, though reports state that he does have $248.08 in cash left on hand.

According to the reports, Lilley’s campaign also has $318.75 in unpaid campaign debt.

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