Republicans sweep council race

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By Jennifer Garcia

Republicans won big last night across the nation, as well as in Los Alamos County. With four seats up for grabs and seven candidates, the winners were anyone’s guess, but by the end of election night, the voters were heard loud and clear.
Three of the winners have served on council before. Frances Berting, Jim Hall and Geoff Rodgers are no strangers to Los Alamos County government. Local businessman Ron Selvage is a newcomer to council, but has been active in several community issues.
Hall led the race with a total of 4,952 votes; Berting received 4,368; Rodgers had 4,454 and Selvage clinched the GOP slate with 4,750.
Meanwhile, Democrats Kenneth Johnson, Betty Ann Gunther and Deborah Gill each got more than 3,000 votes. Johnson had 4,027 votes, Gill pulled 3,939, and Gunther had 3,222 votes.
The race for magistrate judge was also a close one, with Democrat incumbent Pat Casados beating Republican Gary Ahlers by 617 votes.
Berting said that basically, the councilors-elect are what she called a “retread.”
“We have Jim Hall, with whom I’ve served and Geoff Rodgers with whom I’ve served,” she said. “Ron Selvage is a good complement. We have an excellent quorum coming in.”
Berting also said that she believes the new councilors will be able to get things done.
“I think we have an excellent group. I thank everyone for their support and I look forward to the next four years.”
Hall was pleased with the election results, as well and said that he thought all the candidates who ran were qualified.
“I’d have been proud to serve with any of the candidates. I think Los Alamos is very fortunate to have the kind of people with the civic spirit we have, that will run for office and go through all the work, just in order to serve the community,” he said.
Though it’s been less than 24 hours since the election, Rodgers is already thinking about his job as a councilor.
“The top priority for the incoming council is to ensure a level of confidence in the county government with the public,” he said. “As we go forward, we need people to feel they were heard and respected during the process, as we make some of the big decisions.”
Rodgers said he believes that the voters are actually the winners because they had “good candidates to choose from.”
“All seven (candidates) brought very valuable experience and ideas to the table,” he said.
Though they lost the election, the Democrats seemed to have had a pleasant experience in running for council.
Gunther said the race wasn’t very good for the Democrats, but felt that a Republican wave is sweeping the nation right now.
“I think there’s a giant move afoot to shrink government for whatever reason,” Gunther said. She also said that she entered the race late and was always sort of “Johnny Come Lately,” but she threw her hat in the ring to help Democrats out, by fielding a full slate of candidates from which voters could choose.
“I wouldn’t rule out doing it (running) again,” she said. “I thought the people were all nice and pleasant. I thought the whole thing was a rather enjoyable experience.”
Johnson said he wants to congratulate the four candidates who were elected and wish them good luck.
“I’d like to thank them for making it a civil race in the sense that there was no mud slinging. It was very professional. I’d like to thank the public for all the support during my candidacy,” he said.
Gill’s comments following the election were short, but to the point. She said, “My goal in running for council was to help grow Los Alamos County into a new direction that benefited all members of the community. We’ll see what direction the county takes with this new council.”
Casados was stationed at the Justice Center as results came in Tuesday night, anxiously awaiting the outcome. She and her family and friends checked the new numbers as each precinct came in. After she was declared the winner, she said, “It’s been a very exciting evening … I’m happy to be judge for the next four years.” This will be the third term for Casados as magistrate judge.
Ahlers and Selvage did not return calls for comment.

Jennifer Garcia can be reached at lacommunity