By David Arkin: CNJ CORRESPONDENT
Gay Kernan’s hard work is done.
The Hobbs school teacher defeated William Palmer, a Lovington oil man, on Tuesday in the state’s primary by a 60-40 percent margin to seal the Senate District 42 seat. It was Kernan’s first election victory. She was appointed to her current seat by former Gov. Gary Johnson two years ago.
Because there is no Democrat running for her seat, she won’t have to campaign in the fall.
“I’m just really relieved that this is over,” Kernan said. “This was a really good race.”
More than three hours after polls closed on Tuesday — with just half the precincts reported — only a handful of votes separated Kernan and Palmer, signaling that the election would be as close as many expected.
As the later precincts trickled in, Kernan quickly pulled in front.
“I thought we had a great shot going into this,” Palmer said on Wednesday afternoon. “I think I was a little surprised at the margin. I thought we would be neck and neck.”
Statewide, Kernan picked up 1,651 votes to Palmer’s 1,094.
But in Curry County, Palmer received more support as he got 55 percent, or 260 votes, compared to Kernan’s 45 percent (215 votes).
Palmer said he thinks he knows what turned the tide in the campaign.
“I shouldn’t be surprised with the results,” he said. “We had a game plan going into the campaign in terms of where we needed to go and how much money we needed to raise and we accomplished those goals with four or fives days to go before the election. And then we stopped campaigning and that’s when Kernan pulled in a lot of support and money.”
But Kernan said she didn’t do anything differently the last few days of the election.
“We stayed focused the entire time,” she said. “We worked really hard. And I knew that Will did too.”
As for Palmer’s political future, the 41-year-old said he’s not sure what’s next.
“All I know is that I’m going on a vacation on Friday,” he said. “This was a tough race, but I’m glad I did it.”
Palmer said he already has been approached about a few other projects, but declined to comment on the specifics.