By Ron Warnick
The Staff of The News 

Tucumcari voters oust 2 commissioners


November 15, 2023

Ron Warnick

Quay County Clerk Ellen White reads the results of city election races on Tuesday night at her office. Listening at left is Jerry Lopez, a Tucumcari District 1 commission candidate who defeated incumbent Ralph Moya.

In a sign that Tucumcari voters desired change, two incumbent city commissioners - including the mayor - lost decisively during local elections last Tuesday.

Another race for Logan Village Board was too close to call after just one vote separated two candidates for a second and final seat. A recount appeared almost certain.

In Tucumcari District 1, Jerry Lopez earned 85 votes - almost double of runner-up and fellow challenger Maria Carmen Gonzalez's 44.

Incumbent Ralph Moya, who also serves as mayor and has been on the commission for more than two decades, finished a distant third with 27 votes.

Moya's third challenger, Tommy Snapp, earned four votes.

"I believe the voters have spoken. It's time for a change," Lopez said moments after vote totals were announced in the Quay County Clerk's Office shortly after 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. "I told people when I was knocking on doors that it's not my ideas; it's what you're concerned with."

Lopez, also a member of the Tucumcari Public Schools board, attributed his victory to "a lot of work, a lot of campaigning, talking to voters" in the northside district.

"Honestly, I have some big shoes to fill," he said. "Commissioner Moya has been in that position for a total of 24 years, and he's done some good for this community, a lot of capital outlay (funds)."

Moya wasn't present at the courthouse when city election results were announced.

Asked about the election before a commission work session on Thursday, Moya said: "What can you say, other than the people have chosen and elected a new commissioner for District 1. I will support him in anything he needs from me. I'm there to help anyway I can."

In Tucumcari District 2, challenger Jonathan Brito totaled 70 votes, comfortably winning over incumbent Paul Villanueva, who was seeking a second term. Villanueva gained 49 votes.

Moments after city vote totals were announced in the clerk's office, Villanueva congratulated Brito and shook his hand.

"It was a good run," Villanueva said. "They got a new guy, and maybe it'll be better."

Brito said he was excited about winning a seat on the commission.

"I hope we can move Tucumcari forward," he said. "(The voters) were ready for change, ready for something different."

District 2 encompasses much of the northeast side.

In Tucumcari District 3, Barton "CJ" Oglesby was unopposed for his seat. He will replace Ruth Ann Litchfield, who resigned for health reasons in December 2022.

Commissioners didn't find a replacement for Litchfield in the first few months after she stepped down. One commission choice, Matt Bednorz, was found to have not lived in the district, and he never was seated after then-District 4 Commissioner Christopher Arias filed a lawsuit to block the selection.

The commission's call for another set of District 3 applicants drew no takers. Commissioners eventually elected to let voters make that choice. District 3 is generally in the southwest side of the city.

On Thursday, commissioner chose Quay County Family Health Center administrator C. Renee Hayoz as the District 4 commissioner to replace Arias, who resigned in September due to personal reasons. District 4 is in the city's southeast side. (See other story in this edition.)

By the time the commission officially is seated in January, it will have four new commissioners.

The only holdover is District 5 Commissioner Mike Cherry, who was not up for election. District 5 is in the city's south side.

Logan logjam

A race for the Logan Village Board appears destined for a recount after just one vote separated an apparent winner and loser for a second and final seat.

In unofficial results, Deanna Osborn totaled 122 votes for the second seat on the village board. Wesley Brian Cox had 121 votes.

County Clerk Ellen White stated in an email the day after the election she was "100%" certain the state canvass board would order a recount of the Osborn and Cox race after it meets on Nov. 28.

"The Recount would occur within 10 days of that," White wrote. "If a results margin is less than 5 votes, we are required to recount."

White said results of the Village of San Jon and San Jon school board races also could be recounted, "but I am less inclined to see that as it would not change the outcome of those elected."

If a recount finds a tie between Cox and Osborn, a game of chance - such as a coin flip - would determine the outcome.

The top vote-getter in the Logan village board race was TJ Smith, who gained 142 votes.

Kerry James Cross brought up the rear with 108 votes.

Other races

For San Jon school board, incumbent Brian Watson fell to defeat in a three-way race for two seats.

Newcomer Eddie Ray Behrends earned 63 votes and incumbent Dale Bone garnered 61. Watson finished third with 56 votes.

For the House school board, Kerri Rachelle Hestand was the odd person out in a four-way race for three seats.

Carl Parmer was the top vote-getter in the House district with 52 votes, followed by Lisa Downey's 45 and Wendy Green Grigsby's 39. Hestand totaled 31 votes.

House's three incumbents on the board didn't run for re-election.

White said voter turnout in the county was 26% overall, one of the largest in the state and a significant increase from the 16% seen in local elections in 2021. She attributed the increase to more contested elections.

The Quay County Commission on Monday approved the canvass of the election results. White said just one provisional ballot was cast during the election, and that had no bearing on the outcome of any races.

The internet and phone system at the courthouse went down briefly shortly after the polls closed at 7 p.m. Tuesday. The delay appeared to be minimal; the clerk's office tabulated all the county vote totals before 8 p.m.

Uncontested races

These other candidates were unopposed in their races last Tuesday:

- Tucumcari Municipal Judge: Jerry Mares

- Tucumcari School District 1: Matthew Pacheco

- Tucumcari School District 4: Heather Gonzales

- Tucumcari School District 5: Jehu "JD" Knapp

- Mesalands Community College District 1: Richard Primrose

- Mesalands Community College District 5: Phillip Box

- Logan school Board: Laurie Strebeck, Kene Terry, Cole Wallin and Tom Humble

- Logan Mayor: Barry Bass

- San Jon Mayor: Billie Barnes

- Village of San Jon: Caryn Grzegorek, Rodney Stoner, Justin Tucker and Gilbert Donovan II

- Village of House: Rodger Grigsby, Steven Foust, Danny Joe Dodd and Heather Ann Wooldridge

- Canadian River Soil & Water: Tommy Wallace, Heidi Humphries and Larry Perkins

- Southwest Quay Soil & Water: Guy Tatum, Jovani Armendariz and Clyde Moon


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