Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

By Ron Warnick
QCS Senior Writer 

Mitchell retained to post


November 11, 2020

Ron Warnick

Voters at the Tucumcari Convention Center line up to insert their completed ballots into a counting machine as presiding election judge James Kleinsasser watches during Election Day.

Area voters decided to retain 10th Judicial District Judge Albert Mitchell Jr. to his post, according to unofficial results Tuesday night from Quay, De Baca and Harding counties.

Results in conservative-leaning Quay County contrasted the strong finish by Democrats in New Mexico's overall results, including the presidential race and a locally contested state senate seat.

Quay County fell just short of a record with 64% turnout at the polls. The record is 65%, set during the 2008 general election. (See accompanying story.) The Quay County Commission approved a canvass of official results Monday.

Quay County voters favored President Donald Trump by a more than 2-to-1 margin over Democratic challenger Joe Biden, though Biden was declared the winner in New Mexico less than an hour after polls closed.

Biden won by a 54% to 44% margin in the state.

Several media outlets, including the Associated Press, on Saturday declared Biden president-elect after many votes were counted in battleground states that included neighboring Arizona. The Electoral College will vote next month to formally pick the winner of the presidential race.

Judicial races

In the judge vote, Mitchell needed 57% of the "yes" votes from Quay, De Baca and Harding counties in his judicial district to retain his seat on the bench.

He received 59% of the affirmative vote in Quay County, and he won by a more than 2-to-1 margin in De Baca County and more than 3-to-1 in his native Harding County.

"I'm happy. I'm grateful for the continued opportunity to serve everybody in the 10th Judicial District," Mitchell said when reached by phone Tuesday night.

Mitchell attributed his victory to ensuring that "I got my message out the way I wanted. It worked out really well."

When asked about that message, he replied: "I'm a good judge."

"I work this job really hard, as hard as I know how, for 12 years," Mitchell elaborated. "I give people a fair hearing, they have access to the courthouse, and I do my best to be impartial. That's what a judge is supposed to be - fair and impartial."

Mitchell, who initially was elected district judge in 2008, lost a previous retainment vote in 2014. Gov. Susana Martinez appointed him back to his post in January 2015, and the state Supreme Court nixed a petition to block the appointment. Mitchell was re-elected in 2016.

The New Mexico Supreme Court censured Mitchell in April 2019 for violating the code of Judicial Conduct. He was accused of saying in January 2018 he would ask Gov. Martinez to veto capital-outlay funds due to Quay County because of his dispute with county officials over court-security funding.

Mitchell denied he engaged in "willful misconduct regarding political influence" but did not contest several allegations made from a private meeting with county manager Richard Primrose.

The New Mexico Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission this fall recommended Mitchell's retention.

In state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals races, Republicans won by more than a 2-to-1 margin the county.

Statewide, Democrats in those races won by margins of 4 to 12 percentage points.

Judge Jaqueline Medina of the Court of Appeals also won retention in Quay County with 65% of the vote. Statewide, she received 73% support.

Other races

Republican challenger Melissa Fryzel of Taos won by a 3-to-1 margin in Quay County over incumbent Democratic state Sen. Pete Campos of Las Vegas in District 8 that encompasses the northern part of the county.

Campos, however, easily won his district 65% to 35% - a signal of Democrats' strong overall showing in the state. He has served in the New Mexico Legislature since 1991.

"First, I want to thank everyone for their support and friendship," Fryzel stated in an email Sunday. "Additionally, I want to say I am so glad to see we had so many newly registered voters in the district for 2020."

An email to Campos requesting comment was not returned.

In the U.S. Senate race, congressman Ben Ray Lujan, a Democrat, lost by a more than 2-to-1 margin in Quay County to Mark Ronchetti, a Republican.

Statewide, Lujan won 52% to 46% over Ronchetti to take over the seat from retiring U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, also a Democrat.

For U.S. Representative District 3, Quay County voters preferred Alexis Johnson, a Republican, over incumbent Teresa Leger Fernandez, a Democrat, by a more than 2-to-1 margin.

Statewide, Fernandez cruised to a 59% to 41% victory.


In Quay County, voters roundly rejected New Mexico Constitutional Amendments 1 and 2 by 28 to 14 percentage points respectively.

The first would have allowed the governor to appoint three professionally qualified members to the Public Regulation Commission instead of voters electing them. Commissioner Jefferson Byrd of rural Tucumcari opposed the measure.

The second amendment would have adjusted the terms of non-statewide elected officers. Byrd also opposed the amendment.

Statewide, however, voters approved both amendment questions by double-digit margins.

Quay County approved Bond Questions A, B and C, as did statewide voters by wide margins.

Bond A was for senior citizen facility improvements.

Bond B was for public library improvements.

Bond C was for public higher education institutions, special public schools, and native tribal schools. Mesalands Community College advocated passage of the measure.


These candidates listed on Quay County ballots were unopposed:

• State Sen. Pat Woods (R), District 7

• State Rep. Jack Chatfield (R), District 67

• 10th Judicial District Attorney Timothy Rose (I)

• Quay County Clerk Ellen White (D)

• Quay County Treasurer Patsy Gresham (R)

• Quay County Commissioner Robert Lopez (D), District 1

• Quay County Commissioner Jerri Rush (R), District 2


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