By Tony Parra
Roosevelt County Clerk Joyce Fraze said Democrats want to have a say as to who fills Roosevelt County positions, and they’re willing to switch parties for that purpose.
Fraze said she has seen 22 voters change their party affiliation from Democrat to Republican so they can vote on key positions during June primaries.
The Ninth Judicial District Attorney’s position is one of the races which will be determined in the primaries. Both of the candidates, incumbent Brett Carter and challenger Matt Chandler, are Republicans, and the primary winner may run unopposed when the general election rolls around in November.
Only registered party members can vote in the respective party’s primary elections.
“We’ve targeted individuals who have never registered to vote,” Carter said. “It’s an important race and there are some Democrats changing over to Republican to vote … then they will change back to Democrat after the election.”
Fraze said the process of changing parties can be done at the county courthouse, and requires a small change on a voter registration affidavit. Fraze said switching parties to vote in primaries is not an uncommon practice.
According to Fraze, there have been 62 new registered voters for the primaries, 35 of which were registered Republicans. Fraze said of the 45 people who have done absentee voting, about 90 percent are Eastern New Mexico University students.
“There’s been more students than normal absentee voting this year than previous,” Fraze said. “A lot of it has to do with (how) the active workers for (each) candidate are pulling in a lot of the votes.”
Chandler, a 28-year-old graduate of ENMU, was a Kappa Sigma fraternity member in college and the fraternity is part of 380 new voters he said have registered through his campaign’s actions. One of the new registered voters from the Kappa Sigma fraternity was Richard Rojo, an ENMU freshman from Albuquerque. Rojo said he voted for Chandler.
“I have seen the debate and I think Chandler has the better ideas,” Rojo said. “I come from Albuquerque and some of his ideas reflect the ones in Albuquerque and it has helped reduce crime there.”
Carter said he graduated from ENMU in the early 80s. In the end, Carter believes voters will look at the experience of the candidates when it’s time to vote.
“Portales and Clovis will look at the experience of each of the candidates,” Carter said. “I have 17 years of experience while my candidate has 1 1/2 years of experience. I’ve handled first and second-degree murder cases. He’s never handled those cases.”
Chandler said what he lacks in experience he makes up for with successful cases.
“I have prosecuted many homicide cases, every type of degree and I’ve also been effective,” Chandler said. “I (had) the highest jury trail conviction rate in office over the last two years. It comes down to being effective and I have a sincere desire to fight crime.”
Chandler said that he was dismissed from his position as the assistant district attorney in February when he told Carter he intended to run for the district attorney position.
Bob Cornelius, the Executive Director of the New Mexico Federation of College Republicans, said the previous working relationship between Chandler and Carter makes the race more interesting.
“For people who live in the southeast area of New Mexico, it’s hard not to change your party to vote,” Cornelius said. “It’s been pretty constantly a Republican area. Democrats want to change their party to vote for the better Republican.”
Cornelius, who is also an ENMU senior, said he’s seen more students involved in the elections than in previous years. He said in some cases, there has been a considerably low turnout from ENMU students.
The race for district attorney is not the only race in which registered Republicans will make a difference in the selection of elected officials.
Carter said he has signed up approximately 100 new registered voters from Roosevelt and Curry County.
Republicans will have to make another decision in the opponent for David Sanders, the lone democrat, running for the District 2 commissioner’s seat. Voters have three Republican candidates to choose from to run against Sanders: George Martin, Charles May and Harvey Teague.
Gay Kernan and Will Palmer are running for the District 42 seat while Keith Gardner and Earlene Roberts are campaigning against each other for the District 66 position. All four candidates running are Republicans, according to Fraze.