Portales residents elect first female mayor

Freedom New Mexico: Argen Duncan Mayor candidate Sharon King and city council candidate Oscar Robinson watch as vote tallies are written for display Tuesday night. Both candidates won their races.

By David Stevens: FNM Editor

Portales has its first female mayor.

Sharon King, executive director of the Roosevelt County Chamber of Commerce but a political newcomer, picked up 32 percent of the vote Tuesday, edging three competitors.

She said she had “no idea” why voters chose her over Steve Davis, Gary Watkins and Dennis Lopez, who have all held public office in the community and are well known.

“All of the candidates were so excellent,” she said, “I really didn’t expect to win. But I’m extremely excited and eager to get going.”

King scored 436 votes to 356 for Davis, 313 for Watkins and 278 for Lopez.

Officials said 24 percent of registered voters participated, compared to 9 percent in the 2008 municipal election.

King, who will be sworn in March 15, succeeds Orlando Ortega who announced last year he would not seek a third term as Portales mayor. She is the city’s fourth mayor in 32 years and its first female leader since the city incorporated in 1909, according to City Clerk Joan Martinez-Terry.

“The people chose,” said Davis, whose father, Donald Davis, was Portales’ mayor from 1994 to 2002.

“I felt like it would be close between all four of us. They’re all good friends of mine and they all had something to offer the community.”

Watkins, a city council member who will remain in that position, pledged his support.

“We’ll stand by her and get to work,” he said.

Lopez said he expected a different outcome.

“I have no idea what happened,” he said. “It just kind of blew my mind because we covered all our bases. I’m just disappointed more people didn’t come out to vote. I could have offered a lot to the community.”

King received a majority of votes in wards B, C and D. Lopez dominated voting in Ward A, receiving 54 percent of the votes cast, but was last in wards B, C and D.

King said her only other run for public office was two tries at the county fair board of directors — one win, one defeat.

Some had questioned whether her serving as mayor and Chamber of Commerce executive director would result in a conflict of interest. King said she consulted an attorney, who determined there is no legal conflict.

King has also pledged not to participate in discussions related to city funding provided the Chamber.