Jeff Lee sat patiently. Reading a magazine. Waiting for his moment to sign-up.
Even though Hobbs City Hall and the city clerk’s office opened at 8 a.m., Tuesday, the declaration of candidacy for the March 3 Municipal Election didn’t start until 9 a.m. There are five Hobbs municipal races taking place: Mayor, Hobbs Commission Districts 1, 2, and 3 and Hobbs Municipal Judge.
Lee, who arrived at City Hall about 10 minutes before 9 a.m. was the first of 9 candidates to file Tuesday. He and Mayor Sam Cobb were the only two residents to sign into the race.
There wasn’t much of a rush for sign-ins. The next candidate to do so was Municipal Judge Bobby Arther at 10 a.m. Arther was nominated by the Hobbs City Commission in September following the retirement of former municipal judge Ben Harrison. Two other residents also applied for the judge race, Kelly Wilson Jr. and Manuel Tersero.
All Commission incumbents filed their paperwork. District 2 Commissioner Chris Mills, who is actually out of the country, had fellow District 5 Commissioner Dwayne Penick file for him. District 3 Commissioner Patricia Taylor filed and will face challenger Larron Fields. District 1 Commissioner Marshall Newman also filed his paperwork in the early afternoon.
“There wasn’t much surprise in terms of candidates,” Hobbs City Clerk Jan Fletcher said. “Pretty much everyone who filed were residents who previously came by the clerk’s office to pick up a declaration for candidacy packet.”
With Tuesday complete, that leaves Mills and Newman without a current opponent, but that could change on Tuesday, Jan. 14
“We still have write-in candidate day on January 14,” Fletcher said. “So there is still a chance for residents to run for office.”
January 14 is also the deadline candidates can withdraw from their respective races.
Between now and Friday the candidate forms will be inspected and certified by clerk’s office officials. Then the candidates will be contacted with the determination if they qualify or not to run for office.
“We call them to make sure if they meet the criteria to be a candidate,” Fletcher said. “The drawing for ballot position will also take place on Friday by the Secretary of State and then we will notify the candidates of their ballot position.”
Along with Hobbs the communities of Lovington and Jal also held their respective candidate filing declarations.
Twelve people want to fill seven community leadership positions in Lovington and Jal. Barring any write-in candidates who must file next week, only one contested race resulted from the filings in Lovington. Filings in Jal resulted in six individuals seeking one of three, four-year term seats and two seeking a two-year term seat.
Jal Mayor Stephen Aldridge, whose position is not on the ballot this election, expressed his pleasure at the number of persons filing their candidacy.
“I’m always glad to see a number of people sign up for any position,” Aldridge said.
With three of Lovington’s five city commission positions up for election, all four-year terms, only residents in Districts 1, 2 and 4 will cast ballots in March. Qualified candidates must be residents of the district in which they run.
Incumbents David Trujillo of District 1 and Scott Gandy of District 4 will run unopposed. In District 2, Scott Boldt and Cesar Coronel will battle for the seat currently held by Arthur Sanchez. Sanchez was not available for comment.
Four of Jal’s six city council seats are up for election, with three designated as four-year terms and one as a two-year term. All positions are elected at large, meaning voters throughout the city will be able to cast ballots.
Filing to fill four-year term seats were Cloyd Donald Smith, Brian Randall Gregg, Amelia Trevino, John Edwin Earp, Randy P. Chavez and Phillip G. Little. Current council members Melody Beckham and Mike Orr did not file for re-election. Of the candidates who filed for four-year terms, the top three vote-getters on Election Day will fill those seats.
A two-year term councilor seat in Jal is held by Rene Cervantes who was appointed to fill a vacancy last year after previous councilor Joe Cole resigned to take a supervisory position with the city. By state law, an appointed councilor must stand for a public vote during the next election. Stacey Ward filed her candidacy to compete with Cervantes for the seat in this election.
To qualify to run for the office, candidates must be registered voters residing in the district or city they hope to represent. Qualifications of each person filing must be determined before being placed on the ballot.
Early and absentee voting begins on Feb. 4. Early voting ends on Feb. 29. Online and email voter registration closes also on Feb. 4, but qualified electors may register in person until Feb. 29, when early voting ends.
After the municipal elections, the Lea County Commission is charged by state law to certify a canvas of the votes. Certification is scheduled for a special meeting of the commission on March 12.