Primary results for Sierra County a given, except for Smith v. Martinez-Parra contest

by Kathleen Sloan | June 3, 2020
4 min read
Known as the most powerful person in the New Mexico legislature and head of the make-or-break gate-keeping Finance Committee, John Arthur Smith’s ascendancy is probably over. 

He has been State Senator for District 35 for 32 years—since 1989—but a more liberal Democrat and newbie has probably won the June 2 Democratic Primary. 

Although a large number of mail-in-ballot votes delays firm counts in some counties—including Dona Ana County, which is part of Smith’s district—special-education teacher Neomi Martinez-Parra had a 10-percent lead mid-day June 3.

It was the only contested party seat in Sierra-County-related races, other candidates winning on auto-pilot. 

New Mexico is a three-party state, which includes Republican, Democrat and Libertarian parities. 

State Senate District 35 includes Hidalgo, Luna, Dona Ana and Sierra counties. Cities in the district include Truth or Consequences, Elephant Butte, parts of Las Cruces, Deming and Lordsburg. 

Smith is from Deming and Martinez-Parra is from Lordsburg. 

Unverified election results show 5,000 Democrats voted in the primary, 54.52 percent or 2,726 for Martinez-Parra and 45.48 percent or 2,274 for Smith, with District 35 having a total population of about 50,000. 

In Sierra County Martinez-Parra gained a wider margin over Smith. Nearly 60 percent or 730 Democrats voted for Martinez-Parra and nearly 40 percent or 482 Democrats voted for Smith. 

Also running for State Senate District 35 is Crystal Diamond, a Republican, who had no Republican rival. 

She is already an elected official—a school board member—for the Truth or Consequences Municipal School District. 

Sierra County Republican votes for Diamond totaled 1,610, about 400 more than total county-Democrat votes, but this is known as a red county in a blue state. 

Things look tougher for a Republican at the districtwide level. Districtwide, 3,835 Republicans voted for Diamond, 1,165 fewer than the 5,000 Democrats who voted districtwide in the Smith v. Martinez-Parra race. 

Incumbent Rebecca Dow, the State Representative for District 38 and a Republican, had no fellow-Republican rival. 

District 38 includes Grant, Hildago and Sierra counties. The cities in the district include parts of Silver City and all of Truth or Consequences and Elephant Butte, with a total population of about 29,000.  

Districtwide 3,452 Republicans voted for Dow, 1,602 from Sierra County. 

Karen Whitlock—a write-in candidate for the Democrats—is running against Dow. She garnered 218 votes, all from Sierra County. 

William Kinney, a Libertarian, is also running against Dow. Districtwide 16 Libertarians voted for Kinney, 3 from Sierra County. 

The District Attorney seat for the 7th Judicial District was uncontested and incumbent Republican Clint Wellborn will retain his seat. 

The 7th Judicial District includes Socorro, Sierra, Torrance and Catron counties. 

Wellborn received 5,185 Republican votes districtwide, 1,658 from Sierra County. 

The Sierra County Clerk seat was also uncontested and incumbent Republican Shelly Trujillo received 1,676 votes from Sierra County Republicans. She will have completed her first four-year term in January 2021, but has been in the County Clerk’s office in some capacity for nine years. 

The Sierra County Treasurer’s seat is contested by Democrat Sandra Whitehead and Republican Candace Chavez. 

Whitehead received 1,065 votes from Sierra County Democrats and Chavez received 1,668 votes from county Republicans, a 600-vote difference that does not bode well for Whitehead in the November election. 

William H. Hopkins, a Republican, is running unopposed for Sierra County Commissioner, District 3, which is Frances Luna’s seat, who has reached her term limit. He received 1,699 votes from Sierra County Republicans. 

All of the uncontested candidates have one remaining barrier. On June 25, Independent candidates may sign up to be on the ballot in November. 

The COVID-19 pandemic changed the mail-in-ballot, at-the-polls and early-voting numbers. 

County Clerk Shelly Trujillo said Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver sent applications to each voter in the state registered as a Libertarian, Democrat or Republican—unless the voter had already requested an application—sending them out around the first week of May. 

In Sierra County 2,189 people sent in applications and received mail-in ballots, with 1903 returning those ballots. Therefore 286 people did not return their mail-in ballots. 

Trujillo said the normal number of mail-in ballots is 400 to 600. 

On June 2, Trujillo said 669 people voted at the polls, the usual number being 1,500 to 2,000. 

There were 635 people who “early-voted at our office,” Trujillo said, which is normally about 2,000 to 3,000. 

In Sierra County there are 7,840 registered voters, Trujillo said. Of those 2,501 are Democrats, 67 are Libertarians and 3,474 are Republicans. 

In the June 2 primary, a total of 3,207 people voted, Trujillo said. 

Kathleen Sloan is the Sun’s founder and chief reporter. She can be reached at or 575-297-4146.
Share this:

Understanding New Mexico's proposed new social studies standards for K-12 students

“The primary purpose of social studies is to help young people develop the ability to make informed and reasoned decisions for the public good as citizens of a culturally diverse, democratic society in an interdependent world.”
—National Council for the Social Studies 

Reader Michael L. Hayes of Las Cruces commented: What impresses me is that both the proposed standards and some of the criticisms of them are equally grotesque. I make this bold statement on the basis of my experience as a peripatetic high school and college English teacher for 45 years in many states with many students differing in race, religion, gender and socioeconomic background, and as a civic activist (PTA) in public education (My career, however, was as an independent consultant mainly in defense, energy and the environment.)

The proposed social studies standards are conceptually and instructionally flawed. For starters, a “performance standard” is not a standard at all; it is a task. Asking someone to explain something is not unlike asking someone to water the lawn. Nothing measures the performance, but without a measure, there is no standard. The teacher’s subjective judgment will be all that matters, and almost anything will count as satisfying a “performance standard,” even just trying. Students will be left to wonder “what is on the teacher’s mind?” or “have I sucked up enough.”

Four other quick criticisms of the performance standards. One, they are nearly unintelligible because they are written in jargon. PED’s use of jargon in a document intended for the public is worrisome. Bureaucrats often use jargon to confuse or conceal something uninformed, wrong or unworthy. As a result, most parents, some school board members and more than a few teachers do not understand them.

Two, the performance standards are so vague that they fail to define the education which teachers are supposed to teach, students are supposed to learn, and parents are supposed to understand. PED does not define words like “explain” or “describe” so that teachers can apply “standards” consistently and fairly. The standards do not indicate what teachers are supposed to know in order to teach or specify what students are supposed to learn. Supervisors cannot know whether teachers are teaching social studies well or poorly. The standards are so vague that the public, especially parents or guardians, cannot know the content of public education.

Three, many performance standards are simply unrealistic, especially at grade level. Under “Ethnic, Cultural and Identity Performance Standards”; then under “Diversity and Identity”; then under “Kindergarten,” one such standard is: “Identify how their family does things both the same as and different from how other people do things.” Do six-year-olds know how other people do things? Do they know whether these things are relevant to diversity and identity? Or another standard: “Describe their family history, culture, and past to current contributions of people in their main identity groups.” (A proficient writer would have hyphenated the compound adjective to avoid confusing the reader.) Do six-year-olds know so much about these things in relation to their “identity group”? Since teachers obviously do not teach them about these other people and have not taught them about these groups, why are these and similar items in the curriculum; or do teachers assign them to go home and collect this information?

Point four follows from “three”; some information relevant to some performance measures requires a disclosure of personal or family matters. The younger the students, the easier it is for teachers to invade their privacy and not only their privacy, but also the privacy of their parents or guardians, or neighbors, who may never be aware of these disclosures or not become aware of them until afterward. PED has no right to design a curriculum which requires teachers to ask students for information about themselves, parents or guardians, or neighbors, or puts teachers on the spot if the disclosures reveal criminal conduct. (Bill says Jeff’s father plays games in bed with his daughter. Lila says Angelo’s mother gives herself shots in the arm.) Since teacher-student communications have no legal protection to ensure privacy, those disclosures may become public accidentally or deliberately. The effect of these proposal standards is to turn New Mexico schools and teachers into investigative agents of the state and students into little informants or spies.

This PED proposal for social studies standards is a travesty of education despite its appeals to purportedly enlightened principles. It constitutes a clear and present danger to individual liberty and civil liberties. It should be repudiated; its development, investigated; its PED perpetrators, dismissed. No state curriculum should encourage or require the disclosure of private personal information.

I am equally outraged by the comments of some of T or C’s school board members: Christine LaFont and Julianne Stroup, two white Christian women, who belong to one of the larger minorities in America and assume white and Christian privileges. In different terms but for essentially the same reason, both oppose an education which includes lessons about historical events and trends, and social movements and developments, of other minorities. They object to the proposal for the new social studies standards because of its emphasis on individual and group identities not white or Christian. I am not going to reply with specific objections; they are too numerous and too pointed.

Ms. LaFont urges: “It’s better to address what’s similar with all Americans. It’s not good to differentiate.” Ms. Stroup adds: “Our country is not a racist country. We have to teach to respect each other. We have civil rights laws that protect everyone from discrimination. We need to teach civics, love and respect. We need to teach how to be color blind.”

Their desires for unity and homogeneity, and for mutual respect, are a contradiction and an impossibility. Aside from a shared citizenship, which implies acceptance of the Constitution, the rule of law and equality under the law, little else defines Americans. We are additionally defined by our race, religion, national origin, etc. So mutual respect requires individuals to respect others different from themselves. Disrespect desires blacks, Jews or Palestinians to assimilate or to suppress or conceal racial, religious or national origin aspects of their identity. The only people who want erasure of nonwhite, non-Christian, non-American origin aspects of identity are bigots. Ms. LaFont and Ms. Stroud want standards which, by stressing similarities and eliding differences, desire the erasure of such aspects. What they want will result in a social studies curriculum that enables white, Christian, native-born children to grow up to be bigots and all others to be their victims. This would be the academic equivalent of ethnic cleansing.


This postmortem of a case involving a 75-year-old women who went missing from her home in Hillsboro last September sheds light on the bounds of law enforcement’s capacity to respond, especially in large rural jurisdictions such as Sierra County, and underscores the critical role the public, as well as concerned family and friends, can play in assisting a missing person’s search.

Reader Jane Debrott of Hillsboro commented: Thank you for your article on the tragic loss of Betsey. I am a resident of Hillsboro, a friend of Rick and Betsey, and a member of H.E.L.P. The thing that most distresses me now, is the emphasis on Rick’s mis-naming of the color of their car. I fear that this fact will cause Rick to feel that if he had only gotten the facts right, Betsey may have been rescued before it was too late. The incident was a series of unavoidable events, out of everyone’s control, and we will never know what place the correct color of her car may have had in the outcome. It breaks my heart to think that Rick has had one more thing added to his “what ifs” concerning this incident.

Diana Tittle responded: Dear Jane, the Sun undertook this investigation at the request of a Hillsboro resident concerned about the town’s inability to mount a prompt, coordinated response to the disappearance of a neighbor. From the beginning, I shared your concern about how our findings might affect Betsy’s family and friends. After I completed my research and began writing, I weighed each detail I eventually chose to include against my desire to cause no pain and the public’s right to know about the strengths and limitations of law enforcement’s response and the public’s need to know about how to be of meaningful assistance.

There was information I withheld about the state police investigation and the recovery. But I decided to include the issue of the car’s color because the individuals who spotted Betsy’s car emphasized how its color had been key to their identification of it as the vehicle described in Betsy’s Silver Alert. Because the misinformation was corrected within a couple of hours, I also included in this story the following editorial comment meant to put the error in perspective: “The fact that law enforcement throughout the state was on the lookout in the crucial early hours after Betsy’s disappearance for an elderly woman driving a “light blue” instead of a “silver” Accord would, in retrospect, likely not have changed the outcome of the search” [emphasis added].

I would also point to the story’s overarching conclusion about the inadvisability of assigning blame for what happened: “In this case, a perfect storm of unfortunate circumstances, many of them beyond human control, hindered the search that it would fall to Hamilton’s department to lead.”

It is my hope that any pain caused by my reporting will eventually be outweighed by its contribution to a better community understanding of what it will take in the future to mount a successful missing person’s search in rural Sierra County.

Scroll to Top