Chandler and Lescombes are running for Luna County Commissioner
DEMING — The two candidates seeking an open seat on the Luna County Board of Commissioners are both well known to the community despite being first-time candidates.
Republican Colette Chandler and Libertarian Rebecca Lescombes are running for District 2’s open seat on the three-member council, as Republican Linda Smrkovsky completes her two-term, four-year term limit.
No Democrats ran for the seat, but Republican Commissioner Barbara Reedy in District 1 faces Democratic challenger Ray Trejo.
Both candidates talk about economic development for a county with low nonfarm employment rates that regularly sees double-digit unemployment and in recent years has also seen a decline in population. They both expressed their determination to bring more transparency to county government.
Lescombes is the owner of Lescombes Family Vineyards and the 2017 founder of the Luna County Libertarian Party chapter. New Mexico has been a three-party state since 2016, when Gary Johnson’s presidential race as a libertarian garnered more than 9% of the vote in New Mexico.
Lescombes, who had backed Johnson, described herself as a “disgruntled Republican” at the party’s 2017 launch event. At the time, stressing the need to recruit local candidates, she said she would consider itself a future race.
If she wins, Lescombes would be the eighth Libertarian currently elected in New Mexico, according to a list on the state party website, and arguably the most important. Current Libertarian elected officials serve on the Water and Soil Conservation and Higher Education Advisory Councils, as well as a seat on the Logan Municipal Schools Board of Education.
Colette Chandler and her husband, Scott Chandler, are well-known local ranchers who once operated the Tierra Blanca Ranch for troubled youth, both Republicans who fell out with former Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration during a Highly publicized ranch raid in 2013 and later settled two state lawsuits over the case. Since then, Scott Chandler has run for state legislature and is running for Luna County Magistrate Judge this year.
Colette Chandler, meanwhile, kicked off her own local election run with a lopsided primary victory over Premal Patel in June. She cited public hearings before the commissioners on a solar power farm project that she said persuaded her that the community did not have enough voice in the county chambers.
“The rules are such that only the people directly affected are informed,” she said, continuing: “They have to advertise it and they have to let people know that they want to put renewable energy sources where people could see them all the time.”
Chandler’s campaign was cut short by a near-fatal accident in June while riding at the ranch. She spent two months in hospital, initially in critical condition, but was discharged from hospital on her own in August and has continued her physiotherapy and occupational therapy ever since. Her voice, slightly pinched since being on a ventilator, is recovering and she has resumed her campaign, addressing voters at recent public events.
“I want us to be the hub of the southwest,” Chandler said in an interview. “We have great access to Interstate 10, the railroad and the Port of Entry (Columbus).” The main concerns she expressed were about public safety in Deming’s businesses and the county’s shrinking population as children raised here seek opportunities and raise families elsewhere. She is committed to holding regular public office hours to facilitate communications with the public and to connecting with her counterparts in other counties to glean successful economic development strategies.
“We are a small community with private business owners who want to make a living,” she said. “I know what it’s like to have those kinds of struggles and sometimes you have to be really creative.”
At a Deming candidates’ forum on Oct. 4, Lescombes said she wants to develop a “new vision” of what’s possible in Luna County.
She promised a department-level scrutiny of how public funds are handled by the county and to push for state relief for properties that default on paying their taxes. She also highlighted the need for a local center for behavioral health services and addiction treatment.
“A libertarian is a fiscally conservative and socially liberal part of the American political system,” she said of her orientation.
“Too often we focus on what’s wrong,” she said. She then ticked off a list of strengths, including Luna County’s state parks, mild weather, low cost of living, open spaces and outdoor recreation, and its proximity to a busy commercial port. with Mexico. She envisioned a serious dedication to economic development that includes services for a growing retiree population and a recreational destination for non-residents.
“What we need to focus on is what we have, and what we have are things that everyone loves,” she said.
Early voting for the November 8 elections opened on Tuesday October 11.
Voters can request and complete ballots at the Luna County Clerk’s Office at 700 S. Silver Ave. from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Early Voting will also be available at the Mimbres Valley Learning Center starting October 22, until Early Voting ends November 5. Mail-in ballots can be requested until November 3. Election day is November 8.