By David Arkin
Republicans are No. 1 in Curry County.
For the first time in the county’s 95-year history, there are more registered Republicans than Democrats, according to the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Web site.
As of Wednesday afternoon, 8,547 people or 45 percent of voters in the county, were registered Republican while 8,277 — 43.6 percent — were registered Democrat.
The change of control came as a surprise to the county’s Democratic chairwoman Sandra Martin.
Recently she received a report that had Democrats leading Republicans in the county by 20 to 30 registered voters.
“It’s normally not this close,” Martin said. “This change tells me that people are getting out and getting registered.”
Curry County Clerk Mario Trujillo said a lot of people aren’t necessarily registering to vote in his office, but rather changing parties.
“It’s been kind of neck-and-neck lately with Democrats and Republicans,” he said. “I have been in this office since 1995 and the Democrats have always been ahead. But ever since I have been here you have seen a gradual increase of Republicans. They just kept on getting closer and closer and now they’ve gone beyond the Democrats by about 200.”
The state GOP Party is facing an uphill battle with the resignation on Wednesday of its party leader Ramsay Gorham. But news of the change in Curry County was welcomed by Mike Laurance, the state’s Republican Party grassroots director.
“This is good news,” Laurance said. “But this is not surprising. This is a great example of the grassroots work that’s being done. All the credit goes to the county chairman and the county party for the work they have done.”
Brett Johnson, Curry County Republican Party chairman, said he has seen signs of more conservative voting in the county.
“I think Curry County has always voted very conservatively,” he said. “The people, because of how their parents voted, have voted the same way. But now I think people are finally registering to vote with how they believe.”
Heated Republican races probably play a role in why more Republicans are registered, Johnson said.
Races such as the 9th Judicial District Attorney position, which pits Brett Carter and Matt Chandler for the Republican nod on June 1, might be helping the GOP get more people registered.
“It’s nice to have more Republicans in the county,” Johnson said. “What’s crucial though is how people vote.”
The fact that a change in party control is happening during an election year makes the development even more significant.
“I don’t know why it’s splitting,” Martin said. “It’s just like any other state, people are jumping the wagon. I have always felt that if you are born a Democrat, you stay a Democrat.”
Martin said she recognized just how important it will be to have the majority of registered voters in her party once November rolls around.
“It will be very interesting to see how this works out,” she said.
Of the state’s 33 counties, nine are now ruled by Republican voters.
• • •
Here is a look at the number of registered voters in Curry County as of Wednesday.
• Republicans: 8,547
• Democrats: 8,277
• No party: 2,109
• Other party: 49