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Major upset looms for Democrats in PRC District 5; GOP too close to call

Progressive candidate Steve Fischmann defeated  incumbent Sandy Jones in the Democratic primary for the Public Regulation Commission’s District 5 seat, according to unofficial  results.

Fischmann won with 52 percent of the vote over Jones’ 48 percent. It was a major upset for Fischmann over Jones, who ousted Republican and former PRC member Ben Hall in 2014 for the southern New Mexico seat.

Jones faced significant opposition in the primary campaign from environmental and consumer advocacy organizations, many of which backed Fischmann’s progressive positions in support of renewable energy development and his promise to stand up against what he called “monopoly utility interests” at the PRC.

On the Republican side, conservative Chris Mathys was locked in a tight race against Hall, who is seeking to regain the seat he lost to Jones in 2014. Hall led Mathys by 30 votes. A recount is expected.

The third Republican candidate, retired gas and utility contractor Joseph Bizzell, trailed behind.

In the PRC District 4 race in northwestern New Mexico, incumbent Lynda Lovejoy was fighting to retain her seat against two Democratic primary candidates, former PRC member Theresa Becenti-Aguilar – who lost her seat to Lovejoy in 2014 – and indigenous rights activist Janene Yazzie.

With partial results in from all 278 precincts, Becenti-Aguilar had 35 percent of the vote, Lovejoy with 33, and Yazzie was trailing with 32 percent.

The primary winner in District 4 will emerge as the de facto victor in the general election, since no Republicans are competing for that PRC seat.

Meanwhile, in the PRC District 2, which covers the eastern half of New Mexico, environmental engineer and rancher Jeff Byrd appears to have won the Republican primary against retired electric cooperative manager Jerry Partin.

With final results in from 89 percent of precincts, Byrd was ahead with about 54 percent of the votes against 46 percent for Partin.

The Democratic candidate for District 2, Kevin Sanders, had no opposition in the primary.

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