By David Arkin, CNJ Correspondent
A Hobbs school teacher who also manages her own business hopes her political career is just getting started.
Gay Kernan, who has served for the last two years as a state senator for District 42, which spans from Hobbs to Clovis — is seeking another term in Santa Fe.
She will face fellow Republican William Palmer of Lovington in the primary election slated for June 1.
Kernan was appointed to the Senate in 2002 by former Republican Gov. Gary Johnson after longtime Sen. Shirley Bailey left the political arena.
Since being appointed Kernan has served two regular sessions and one special session.
After her first session she was honored by the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce as the “Rookie Legislator of the Year.”
Kernan now hopes that her short political experience will be enough to lead to her first election victory.
She said that with less than two months to go before voters go to the polls to decide who should get the Republican nod for District 42, she’s awfully busy getting her message out to voters.
“One thing that I have discovered with the campaign is that it goes by very quickly,” Kernan said. “There is a lot of work that goes into this.”
What’s keeping Kernan so busy is her constant door-to-door campaigning.
“This campaign is rewarding in the sense that I’ve been going door-to-door meeting with my constituents,” she said. “I’m getting to find out what’s on their minds.”
Kernan, who has lived in Hobbs for 35 years, said she’s discovering that many New Mexicans are backing her.
“I have discovered I have a lot of support from people,” she said. “My experience to this point has been very favorable.”
While Kernan’s political career during the last few years has become a big part of her life, it’s just a small part of who she is.
She has served as a teacher for 18 years, working in the Hobbs Municipal School District as well as districts in Texas and Louisiana.
Needless to say, Kernan is a big advocate of state funding for school districts statewide.
During the last legislative session, where at least half the state’s budget went to education, Kernan said during countless interviews that she was watching what was happening with education dollars and was interested to see what would happen with the state’s education reform plan.
But Kernan’s background goes further than just the education arena. She was responsible for operating her family’s oil and gas properties until they were sold to an Artesia energy company.
She currently manages a small business — Rental Self-Service Storage, a 400-unit facility in Hobbs.
With a background in business, economic development in eastern New Mexico is also important to her.
“In this particular area we are always concerned about economic development,” she said. “In Hobbs we are experiencing a bit of a boom. In Portales and Clovis certainly things are looking good with the cheese plant.”
Kernan comes from a longtime Lea County Republican family. Her father ran for a state representative post in 1964 and served as Lea County GOP chairman in the 1950s and 1960s.
Her brother is chief of staff for Sen. Trent Lott, R-Mississippi.
Who: Gay Kernan
In Santa Fe: Has served as a state senator since 2002
In the classroom: Has taught school-age children for 18 years.
Other involvement: Served as co-chair of the 1988 United Way of Lea County campaign and as a Red Cross safety instructor and board member. She also co-chaired the Lea County Prayer Breakfast. She is a lay leader at First United Methodist Church in Hobbs.
Awards: Rotary International “Paul Harris Fellow,” Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce “Rookie Legislature Of the Year,” Hobbs Jaycees “Outstanding Young Woman,” Hobbs Jaycees “Family of the Year.”