Democrat Stephen Fischmann is the unofficial winner in the Public Regulation Commission’s southwest District 5.
Final results are still pending from the 120 precincts in Doña Ana County, where 8,000 absentee ballots were still being counted Wednesday afternoon, according to the county clerk’s office. But with final results in from all other counties, Fischmann was leading Republican Ben L. Hall by about 6,000 votes, or nearly 53 percent of the ballots districtwide.
In Doña Ana County, Fischmann led with nearly 60 percent of votes already counted, making it extremely difficult for Hall to flip the final outcome, said Brian Sanderoff, president of Research and Polling Inc. in Albuquerque.
“We can safely say he (Fischmann) is the winner,” Sanderoff said. “He’s a Doña Ana County hometown former state legislator. I expect the margin between him and Hall to still widen a little more.”
Fischmann’s victory could have a significant impact on the five-member commission come January. Conservation Voters New Mexico and other environmental and consumer advocacy groups strongly backed him in both the primary in June, and in the campaign for Tuesday’s election.
The group said Fischmann’s victory could put control of the commission into the hands of a progressive regulatory bloc through alignment with Democratic commissioners Valerie Espinoza and Cynthia Hall, possibly leading to more renewable energy development in New Mexico.
Fischmann said he hoped to modernize the electric grid, significantly diversifying state energy sources beyond centralized fossil fuel plants.
“I think there will be a lot of agreement among Espinoza, Hall and I that will enable us to make progress on commission decisions to catch up with 21st century technology,” Fischmann told the Journal.
Still, the other two commissioners were cautious about a voting bloc.
“We need to do what’s in the best interests of the public while being fair and neutral to balance both utility and consumer interests,” Espinoza said. “I’m pretty independent. I can work with any incoming commissioners, but I’m not making any commitment to any kind of bloc or vote.”
Hall said the current commission has already made significant strides in developing renewable energy in New Mexico, which she expects to continue come January.
Two other commissioners will also join the PRC next year. They include Republican Jefferson Byrd, who won in eastern district 2 on Tuesday to replace current Republican Commissioner Pat Lyons, and Democrat Theresa Becenti-Aguilar, who will replace Democrat Lynda Lovejoy in northwest District 4.