Serving the High Plains

Fortner breezes to county commission win

Republican candidate Brian Fortner cruised to an easy win over Democratic challenger Tommy Wallace for the Quay County District 3 commission seat in unofficial election results Tuesday.

Fortner, 63, a retired schoolteacher, coach, broadcaster and rancher from rural Tucumcari, won by a nearly 2-to-1 margin. He gained 1,982 votes in the county compared to 997 for Wallace, 62, a third-generation rancher near Grady. Fortner prevailed in every precinct in the county.

Wallace stood nearby Tuesday night as Quay County Clerk Ellen White announced the vote totals about 7:45 p.m., less than an hour after the polls closed.

Wallace commended Fortner for the effort he put into the race.

“I’m sure he overworked me,” Wallace said. “I didn’t get out and work that hard. I just thought I’d get in (the race); it didn’t matter to me either way.”

Wallace said he wasn’t disappointed by the outcome.

“I’ve been trying to get off boards,” he said, laughing. “I was on the fair board for 40 years; I’m still chairman of (Canadian) Soil and Water. I’ve got plenty to do.”

Fortner, who had broadcast a volleyball playoff game in Texas on Tuesday night, said by phone he was “excited” by his victory.

“It was something I never dreamed of until (former commissioner) Sue Dowell started talking to me about it three years ago,” he said.

“I’ve got a lot to learn, and I look forward to doing anything I can to make Quay County a better place,” he added. “Thank you to Quay County.”

Fortner will be sworn into office on Jan. 1. He replaces current county commission Chairman Franklin McCasland, who is term-limited.

Fortner prevailed in a five-way race in the GOP primary election earlier this summer. Wallace was unopposed in his Democratic primary.

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 could cast a ballot in that race.

Fortner vs. Wallace was the only contested local race in Tuesday’s election.

Republican sheriff candidate Dennis Garcia, unopposed Tuesday after winning the GOP primary, gained the most votes of anyone on the county ballot, with 2,571 votes.

Garcia also will take office on Jan. 1. He will replace current Republican Sheriff Russell Shafer, who is term-limited.

Magistrate Judge Noreen Hendrickson, a Republican who also was unopposed, drew 2,358 votes.

Incumbent county assessor Janie Hoffman, a Republican, totaled 2,466 votes in her unopposed race.

In state races, conservative leaning Quay County went strongly for Republican candidates, often by a 2-to-1 margin or more.

Results statewide at 9 p.m. — including for governor — showed Democratic candidates generally leading by 10 points or more. Those races, however, were too early to call, with only a handful of precincts in New Mexico reporting all their votes.

County voters split their votes on three constitutional amendments and three bond questions. Statewide, “yes” votes for those questions were leading comfortably, though it was too early to call those results.

A total of 3,045 registered voters cast ballots in Quay County for 52% turnout — virtually identical to turnout during the previous midterm election in 2018.

White said no problems were observed by her and her workers on Election Day. That followed a smooth several weeks of early voting, as well.

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