By Robin Fornoff
CMI Projects Editor
The failed cosmetics plant that was supposed to bring hundreds of jobs to Clovis may instead wind up costing some city commissioners their jobs.
Beauty Health and Science Innovations dominates the conversation in the March 4 municipal election. Three City Commission seats are contested in one of the most intense elections in the city’s recent history.
Incumbent Municipal Judge Jan Garrett faces a challenge from former police chief and city manager Ray Mondragon in a campaign that has remained low key.
Challengers in the City Commission race are taking incumbents to task over their endorsement and the city’s loss of $1.8 million in the BHSI deal. One of the challengers also started a recall campaign against sitting Commissioner Robert Sandoval, who is not up for re-election, because of BHSI.
And in the one district race minus an incumbent, BHSI and the collapse of the city’s deal is a major focus.
Another issue cited by all candidates as a top priority is keeping the Ute Water Project moving forward to ensure a future water supply for the city and Cannon Air Force Base, a potent economic base for the city.
Up for grabs are City Commission seats in Districts 2, 3 and 4.
Seven candidates are campaigning for the three seats, including two incumbents.
There is also an under-current in this election revolving around a public political feud between Mayor David Lansford and former Mayor Gayla Brumfield, the woman he trounced in a landslide election two years ago. There are loyalists to each in all of the races.
In District 2, incumbent Len Vohs is perceived as a Brumfield loyalist and friend. Challenger Gary Elliott acknowledged he is a Lansford supporter and said, “A conservative change in the commission will support Mayor Lansford in current needs as well as the future needs of our city.”
While the District 2 and District 4 races have been cordial, the race in District 3 is perhaps the most contentious.
District 3 incumbent Fidel Madrid is also considered a Brumfield friend. He blames the local tea party, the High Plains Patriots, and its followers who support Lansford, for challenger Jose Griego’s entry into the race.
Griego maintains his loyalty is to neither Brumfield nor Lansford, but to people living in a largely Hispanic district long neglected by the city.
Griego, however, is leading the charge to recall Sandoval, another Brumfield friend, and has been helped in that effort by the Patriot’s President Carolyn Spence, an unabashed Lansford supporter.
The other District 3 challenger, Gloria Wicker, a former city commissioner and longtime community activist, said she owes political allegiance to no one.
“Anyone who knows me,” said Wicker, “knows I don’t take orders from anyone.”
District 4 features insurance broker Jennifer Williams and Taco Box restaurant owner Tom Martin. Williams campaigned for state Sen. Pat Woods in a primary election that split the Republican Party in eastern New Mexico.
Martin was Brumfield’s campaign treasurer both times she ran for mayor.
The District 4 seat is being vacated by Commissioner Dan Stoddard.
Incumbent Juan Garza is running unopposed in District 1.