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Three PRC seats at play in primaries

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Eleven candidates are seeking nominations for three seats on the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission this November.

The winners of those seats will help determine everything from local consumer rates for electricity, heating and telephone bills, to how fast renewable sources of energy replace coal generation in New Mexico. The five-person regulatory body also oversees transportation companies, the State Fire Marshal and the Pipeline Safety Bureau.

The races are being closely watched by environmental and consumer advocacy groups.

Two of the contests involve Democratic incumbents, Lynda Lovejoy for District 4 in northwestern New Mexico, and Sandy Jones for District 5 in the southwest. Both face significant challenges from other Democrats seeking nominations in the June 5 primary.

Some groups are calling for Democratic opponents to oust incumbents Lovejoy and Jones in the primaries, because they believe other candidates might be more aggressive in promoting consumer and environmental interests.

No Republicans are competing for Lovejoy’s seat, so the winner in the Democratic primary there will emerge as the de facto victor in the general election. The two¬†Democrats facing Lovejoy: indigenous rights activist Janene Yazzie, and Theresa Becenti-Aguilar, a former PRC commissioner who left office in 2014.

The Democratic candidate for the southern district now held by Jones will face off against one of three Republicans seeking the nomination to compete in the general election. Jones’ Democratic opponent is Stephen Fischmann, a former state senator from Las Cruces. His Republican competitors are former PRC commissioner Ben Hall, who lost his seat to Sandy Jones in 2014; Joseph Bizzell, a retired electrical and gas utility contractor from Los Lunas; and Chris Mathys, a conservative businessman from Las Cruces.

In District 2, which covers the eastern half of New Mexico, current Republican commissioner Pat Lyons has termed out and is now seeking the office of State Land Commissioner. Two candidates, Jefferson Byrd of Tucumcari and Jerry Partin of Portales, are seeking the Republican nomination to replace Lyons next January. One Democrat, Kevin Sanders of Cedar Crest, is on the primary ballot for Lyon’s seat.

Detailed PRC candidate biographies and questionnaires are available at