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Elections could radically alter PRC

Environmentalists and consumer advocates are closely watching the Public Regulation Commission’s electoral race in southwest District 5, where progressive Democrat Stephen Fischmann and Republican Ben L. Hall are facing off.

Conservation Voters New Mexico has thrown its weight behind Fischmann, a former state senator who promises aggressive support for renewable energy and consumer advocacy if he wins. The group has spent $2 million on pro-environment candidates for state office this year, its largest electoral investment ever, including significant backing for Fischmann through the group’s two political action committees, Verde Voters Fund and the CVNM Action Fund.

A Fischmann victory could put control of the five-member commission into the hands of a progressive regulatory bloc for the first time, according to Conservation Voters.

“If Fischmann’s campaign is successful, he will join (Democratic) Commissioners Valerie Espinoza and Cynthia Hall to form a pro-climate majority on the PRC,” the group said in a Nov. 2 update on its election activities.

Fischmann’s candidacy has converted what’s typically a sleeper election for PRC seats into a political lightning rod this year. It led to sharp exchanges during the June primaries between current District 5 Democratic Commissioner Sandy Jones and environmental group New Energy Economy. NEE supported Fischmann in the primaries through two political action committees, while a PAC backed by PNM Resources, parent firm for Public Service Co. of New Mexico, ran ads for Jones.

Fischmann’s electoral opponent, Republican candidate Hall, is a former PRC commissioner who lost his seat in 2014 to Jones.

Separately, Republican rancher and environmental engineer Jefferson Byrd and Democratic Attorney Kevin Sanders are facing off for the eastern District 2 seat, which current Republic Commissioner Pat Lyons is vacating because of term limits. Neither Byrd nor Sanders have previously held public office.