The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Legislative retirements open way for fresh races

 

October 14, 2018



Across four large and diverse districts serving eastern New Mexico in the state’s House of Representatives, two feature Republicans running unopposed and the other two present some interesting options for voters:

In District 63, it’s a contest between a Democrat incumbent from Santa Rosa and a newcomer Republican from Clovis, and in District 67 a contest between two men each mounting their first political campaign.

In District 64, Randy Crowder (R-Clovis) is running unopposed for his third term in the position. For District 66, which covers portions of Chaves, Lea and Roosevelt County, Republican Phelps Anderson is running unopposed. The Roswell oil and gas businessman and rancher will fill a position held the past eight years by Bob Wooley, who announced this year his retirement.

Also retiring from the state Legislature is Republican Dennis Roch, superintendent of Logan Municipal Schools. His departure from District 67 opens the race to two new politicians: from the Republican Party is Jackey Chatfield, 61, a rancher, restaurateur and former school board president in Mosquero. From the Democratic Party is Mark McDonald, 26, who grew up on a ranch outside Raton and has worked in healthcare his entire professional career.

District 67

“This is my first time running for public office. The campaign itself has been exhilarating and such a unique learning experience,” said McDonald, who named for the top issues of his campaign economic development, rural healthcare and rural education.

“I grew up in a time when the Main Street of Raton was booming, similar to a lot of economies in rural New Mexico. And I’ve watched as those economies struggled,” he said. “I think we’ve been focused on a ton of other things toward the center of the state. We can really bolster the abilities of our rural departments if we’re invested in them.”

He said he hopes to see the economy diversified, along with support mechanisms for rural healthcare facilities and investment into rural schools. To get all that done, the key word is bipartisanship.

“I want to do what’s best for the community, not what’s best for the party,” he said. “I think the biggest thing is being able to work with anybody and everybody, and being able to stand up to anybody who has special interests and say ‘no’ when it’s best for the community.

“We need community experts. I want my advisors to be the farmers and ranchers, the experienced rural educators. They’re the ones who know the issues, they know the solutions; I’m merely going to serve, listen to them and have an open mind,” he said. “I come to the table with solutions. My opinion has always been that if you go to Santa Fe with a problem, you’re going to leave Santa Fe with a problem.”

You need to bring a solution as well, he added.

Chatfield and McDonald, for their differences in age and political affiliation, still agree on several issues facing their district, which includes parts of Portales at its southern terminus and extends north along the state’s eastern border up to Colorado.

“It has the most counties of any district in the state of New Mexico, so it’s a very low population density in this area,” Chatfield said during a phone interview from his restaurant “The Headquarters,” which “pays tribute to ranching traditions” in its food and decor.

The food-service business is but one of many hats Chatfield has worn: he was on the Mosquero school board for 16 years, owns a consulting business and serves in the leadership of the New Mexico Cattlegrowers Association.

“So I’m very aware of the needs of this district. I have the experience,” he said, referring additionally to work in the rotunda the past 15 years on securing funding for watershed restoration efforts on the Canadian River.

As for the issues, he spoke to jobs, funding for schools and senior services.

“We need to try to take away some of the regulation and overregulation, I would say, and let our economies work for us and let the private sector create some jobs,” he said. “And funding for our small schools — small schools struggle every day to survive. ... Another thing in eastern New Mexico of concern to me is our senior citizen centers. So often it’s such a long drive to see anybody or obtain services or get a meal. Our senior citizens really need someone to serve them a warm meal and help them with whatever services we can provide there.”

Another item the candidates have in common: this is also Chatfield’s first bid for public office, and he said it’s been “exactly what (he) expected” and that he was “honored and grateful for the support.”

McDonald and Chatfield have met at a few debates in the course of the campaign, which is a little more than the contact between District 63 Democrat incumbent George Dodge and his Republican challenger Martin Zamora.

District 63

Dodge said he spoke once with Zamora, but otherwise only discussed his position on the issues — education, infrastructure, and veteran healthcare — during an interview last week with The News.

“We need to focus on funding our schools and funding our education system,” he said. “The second issue is roads ... The roads I travel up and down between Santa Rosa, Fort Sumner and Clovis are just in horrendous shape.”

As a veteran, he made it a point to say he intended to “improve the healthcare system for veterans and improve the health of veterans any way that I can.”

To achieve those goals, he intends to draw on connections and experience from his time since 2010 serving the district.

“Right now I sit as the vice-chair of the House Appropriations Committee. It sets the budget for the state of New Mexico ... The biggest advantage there is that I’ve got a huge say in where the money goes,” he said. “It’s taken me eight years to get to the positions where I’m at as far as seniority is concerned, the appropriations committee and the legislative finance committees. You know, I’m just working for the people in my district foremost and the state of New Mexico to make sure that we spend our money correctly and have plenty of money in our reserves going forward.”

Martin Zamora, “a farmer and rancher by blood,” does not have that seniority in the Legislature; in fact this is his first political campaign of any kind, and putting his hat in the ring was a “pretty quick decision” when he “decided it was the right thing to do.”

However, he said he was committed to “learning from the senior representatives from our state” and promised to bring something different to the table.

“I believe the people of the district are ready for a change, and I’m offering them a change, and we’re looking to do good and serve the people in a good manner,” he told The News, attending an interview in Clovis with his young grandson in tow. “I wanted to give the people a good chance to have a choice in the election, and I feel with my experience that I can represent the people of this district.”

He said the biggest issue in the District 63 was “the safety and well-being of the people of the district,” which includes all of Guadalupe and De Baca counties and portions of Curry, Roosevelt and San Miguel counties.

“I wish in the next couple of weeks I could talk to every person in the district, which is nearly impossible,” he said. “I’ve been doing all the knocking myself, and I’m finding that it’s impossible to reach everybody.”

 

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