Serving the High Plains

Garcia, Fortner win local GOP races

Undersheriff Dennis Garcia easily won the Republican nomination for Quay County sheriff, and Brian Dale Fortner prevailed in a five-way race for the GOP nod in the District 3 county commissioner race during last Tuesday's primary election.

Garcia overwhelmed retired Tucumcari police officer Herman Martinez by about a 5-to-1 margin. Garcia gained 947 votes to Martinez's 187.

Because no candidate filed for the Democratic nomination, Garcia almost certainly will become the county's new sheriff, succeeding the term-limited Russell Shafer.

Garcia's only possible opposition in the Nov. 8 general election would be a write-in candidate who would face long odds for victory.

"I'm very thankful for all the support we received throughout the whole county," Garcia said in the Quay County Courthouse after vote totals in all the precincts were reported Tuesday night.

Garcia, who was Shafer's handpicked undersheriff when he first ran for office, told the Quay County Sun several weeks ago that, if elected, he wanted to "continue to move the Quay County Sheriff's Office in a positive direction."

"I think we've done a good job here, and I think people see it and support it," Garcia said Tuesday.

Martinez was gracious in defeat.

"Congratulations to Dennis Garcia, and I appreciate all the voters turning out," Martinez said Wednesday morning.

Fortner gained 403 votes in the county for the Republican nomination for District 3 commissioner, easily surpassing runner-up Kent Terry's 280 votes in a crowded field. Justin Knapp totaled 203 votes, Franklin Gibson 175 and Zachary Scot Murray 103.

Fortner won the Logan and House precincts and early voting totals. Knapp, Gibson and Terry won precincts in Tucumcari, San Jon and Nara Visa respectively, but it wasn't enough to overcome Fortner's sizable advantage.

"I was hoping to do well in Logan and House," Fortner said Wednesday, who once was a schoolteacher in those districts, "and hoping to finish in the top two in Tucumcari and San Jon.

"I'm pretty humbled and thrilled," he added. "I was talking to my daughter about this; I think this was the first time I'd run for anything."

Fortner faces Democratic nominee Tommy Wallace in the November general election. Wallace was unopposed in his race Tuesday, totaling 371 votes.

Fortner declined to say anything about his general election opponent.

"Just like when I coached: I'm going to enjoy the win and take a little time to relax, then get ready for November," Fortner said.

District 3 encompasses Logan, San Jon, Bard, Nara Visa, Norton and east Tucumcari. The position is at-large, which means every registered voter in the county can cast a ballot.

Other local candidates who were unopposed in the Tuesday primary:

• Noreen Hendrickson (R), magistrate judge

• Janie Hoffman (R), county assessor

• Christina Wilson (R), probate judge

In state races, Mark Ronchetti prevailed by 20 percentage points in Quay County over runner-up Rebecca Dow for the GOP nomination for governor. Ronchetti won by more than 30 points statewide.

In Quay County, Ronchetti gained 47% of the vote, versus Dow's 27%, Gregory Zanetti's 14%, Jay Block's 11% and Ethel Maharg's 1%.

Ronchetti will face Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who was unopposed for the Democratic nomination.

Voter turnout in the county was about 34%, which County Clerk Ellen White said was near historical norms of 35% to 40% in previous primary elections, especially considering the Democratic side saw no contested local races.

Final totals were known in the clerk's office about 30 minutes after polls closed at 7 p.m. No provisional ballots were cast in the county.

White said the only problems during Election Day were several iPads used for same-day voter registration intermittently lost their internet connections that morning. Those problems ceased by about noon, she said.

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