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

1970: Year of the woman in politics


January 29, 2020

File photo

Don Bonner's political ad made it clear he was 'The Man' in the 1970 election.

Their names are long forgotten, at least in Clovis' political circles.

But they laid the groundwork for other women to become active in city government.

Phyllis Wood, Tommy L. Turner and Lela Bainum were all making headlines 50 years ago as they were "believed to be the first women to ever seek city offices in Clovis," the Clovis News-Journal reported.

All three women were soundly defeated in their respective municipal races in 1970, but all three presented credible candidacies.

Wood was the first to announce, on Jan. 28, and the C-NJ reported on its front page that she was "the first woman in memory to seek a seat on the Clovis City Commission."

She was a former grocery store checker who had lived in Clovis seven years.

She was seeking the District 4 seat held by Don Bonner, owner of the New-Tex Outdoor Advertising company.

Bonner made sure voters understood he was "The Man!" in the race.

The Sunday before the March 3 election, Bonner published an ad in the newspaper that stated he was "The Man!" in the headline. And then the text of his 52-word ad concluded "the man that wants to and should represent you ... is Don Bonner. The man - Don Bonner."

Bonner easily won re-election with 1,372 votes. Wood was fourth in a four-person race with just 72 votes.

Turner ran for the District 5 city commission seat.

She reported in one of her campaign ads that she was the wife of Cannon Air Force Base Lt. Col. Joseph Turner and a mother of three.

"Since my husband is seriously considering retiring here, I want to work to help Clovis become the best city in the Southwest, one in which even more families will wish to make their home in the future," she said in a political ad.

"I have no particular axes to grind. ... Perhaps a viewpoint which is unrestricted by 'We've always done it this way' could be the open door through which Clovis walks to the future."

Dr. William Crawford won the five-person race, receiving 1,250 votes. Turner finished third, with 471 votes.

Bainum ran for the open municipal judge seat. She said she had been secretary to a previous judge for six years before going to work at city hall.

"Her knowledge of the office and all that such a post entails is not limited to hearsay or second-hand information, but is based on actual time spent in hearings, legal proceedings and the other aspects of the work of the municipal judge," one campaign ad read.

She had lived in Clovis since 1928 and "knows the people of the area and their problems."

She promoted herself as "efficient, impartial, experienced."

She fared better than the other women, picking up 561 votes, but still finished a distant second to Earl Booth who had 1,004 votes.

Many women followed Wood, Turner and Bainum into Clovis politics over the next 15 years. They mostly made their marks as outspoken civil rights leaders or active city committee workers.

Then in 1986, the Clovis News-Journal reported hospital marketing director Anita Westbrook had become the first woman elected to Clovis city commission. She won in a landslide, defeating incumbent Lynn Martin 883 votes to 296.

Gayla Brumfield was the first woman to run for Clovis mayor in 1996. She lost to City Commissioner David Lansford, but then was appointed to Lansford's city commission seat.

By 2000, the city commission had two female members - Gloria Wicker and Lunell Winton - and Brumfield soon was elected Clovis' first woman mayor.

This month, five women filed to run for municipal seats in Clovis' election, including a sitting city commissioner, and an incumbent city commissioner. A woman who wants to be the municipal judge was appointed to the position after the previous judge - also a woman - retired.

City politics are no longer controlled solely by "The Man!"

Today's a good day to thank Phyllis Wood, Tommy L. Turner and Lela Bainum for that.

David Stevens writes about regional history for Clovis Media Inc. Contact him at:

[email protected]

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