Many county races unopposed

By Kevin Wilson: Quay County Sun

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth story in a series about the June 6 primary elections. This story focuses on unopposed candidates.

Sue Smith Moore was interested in the position of Quay County probate judge. She just wasn’t interested in campaigning.

There are no such worries for Smith, who is one of five Quay County residents running unopposed in the June 6 primaries.

Early voting runs through June 4 for six positions within the county. Three of the candidates — District 3 Commissioner Franklin McCasland, county assessor Janie Murray and Moore — are unopposed for both the primary election and the November general election.

Two other candidates — sheriff candidate Jim Witcher and incumbent Magistrate Judge Edwin Bruhn — have unopposed candidates on the Republican ticket, and both will face a Democratic opponent in the general election.

Smith, a lifelong Tucumcari resident who lists waitressing and floral work as some of her previous jobs, felt she could use some of her free time to fill the role vacated by the retirement of Joyce Thrasher.

“No one else seemed to be interested in it,” Moore said. “I thought maybe I could give back to the community.”

Moore arrived at the Quay County Courthouse on filing day and saw an empty ballot. It stayed empty until 4:55 p.m. — at that point, Moore realized she would be unopposed and paid her filing fee.

Moore has no personal experience as a judge, but her husband Bronson was magistrate judge from 1974 to 2001.

The probate judge position mostly handles estate matters, and is a court of limited jurisdiction, to Moore’s knowledge.

“It’s mandatory that you spend one hour a week on the bench, and I thought I could handle that,” Moore said with a laugh. “Of course, I’ll be glad to do (the hours the job will require).”

Tax Assessor

Murray was surprised that nobody decided to run against her as the county’s tax assessor, but it’s a surprise she’s happy to deal with.

Murray was appointed as tax assessor last year following the retirement of Betty Bone. Murray was the chief deputy assessor for the previous six years and has been with the office for 14 years.

“I enjoy my job,” Murray said. “I believe in Quay County and I think it has a lot of potential to do a lot of good things.”

Murray said her campaigning will probably be limited to word of mouth during the primary and general elections.

County commissioner

As he enters the final year of his first term, McCasland said he was surprised nobody stood in the way of his bid for a second.

“I figured somebody would run. I was glad, too, that nobody did.”

A business owner who also owns a farm east of Tucumcari, McCasland said he looks forward to the next term. The Commission will be McCasland, Bill Curry (whose term expires in 2008), and the winner of the District 1 Democratic primary between incumbent Robert Lopez, Jimmy Sandoval and Doyle Frasier.

“We have a lot of positive things happening in Quay County,” McCasland said of the upcoming term. “I just wanted to devote some time and energy to helping Quay County move forward.”

McCasland will also do small amounts of campaigning, which he said he is comfortable with in any case.

“I’ve lived here all my life. Just visiting with people and having an open mind to people’s concerns (is how I campaign).”

Sheriff

Witcher, now a city commissioner, sees the job of sheriff as a way to use his experience in law enforcement to help the county residents.

“I am dedicated to the betterment of Quay County,” Witcher said, “and I believe that I can do that better as sheriff.”

Witcher will face the winner of the Democratic primary between former sheriff Juan Barreras and current Undersheriff Joe Schallert.

Witcher said he has begun campaigning already on a low-key basis, but he feels momentum is starting for his campaign already.

As a certified police officer in Tucumcari for the last 12 years, Witcher said he believes in the “good old boy” system, where a “good old boy” is defined as anybody who follows the law.

Witcher felt his role as a city commissioner would not create a conflict of interest, but would actually be an asset.

“My allegiance is to no one except the citizens of Quay County and I am dedicated to them and only to them.”

Magistrate judge

When Bronson Moore retired as magistrate judge, Bruhn was appointed by Gov. Gary Johnson in 2001. Bruhn won re-election in 2002 and is hopeful to do the same in 2006.

“I love my job,” Bruhn said. “I enjoy the opportunity to help people. It’s not about just finding people guilty. It’s about finding people help after that.”

Campaigning is just barely starting for Bruhn, who said he started putting up posters Tuesday. He’ll face the winner of the Democratic primary between former Quay County Sheriff Joel Garnett, former city Police Chief Dennis Townsend and former county sheriff’s Deputy Wayne “Charlie” Thibodeaux.

Bruhn said an upcoming issue will be drug courts. The state government, Bruhn said, wants all 33 New Mexico counties to have some type of drug court. Bruhn applied recently for grants for drug court purposes. He hopes a drug court can help get to the root of the problem so the court doesn’t end up with repeat offenders.

The magistrate judge is part of the law enforcement process when it doles out punishment for offenders, but as an elected official Bruhn must also serve the citizens that voted him onto the bench.

“It is a tough balance,” Bruhn said. “You have to be unbiased, you have to be fair and honest. Even though some people may call me tough, I’m fair and honest.”