Why is Lea County the conservative bastion of New Mexico?
Print This Post
“That’s the smell of money, son,” an engineer told me last week after I mentioned the pungent scent of gas that filled my nostrils as I drove through the town of Maljamar, smack dab in the middle of New Mexico’s Oil Patch.
The next day was I was Hobbs, the center of gravity in Lea County, covering Mitt Romney’s campaign stop. The Republican presidential candidate picked an appropriate spot to unveil his plan to make the US and North America energy independent in less than eight years.
And it was no coincidence that Barack Obama stopped here in March — not in Albuquerque or Santa Fe or Las Cruces — when he made his first (and so far only) stop in New Mexico so far this election cycle to talk about his campaign’s energy plans.
Business is booming in the Oil Patch as extractive energy companies and their offshoots are going practically around the clock. It was 10:30 at night when I drove across Route 529 in the southeast corner of the state and a steady stream of production trucks chugged their way through the heat (despite the late hour, it was 82 degrees outside), barrelling down a road lit only by the eternal flames of natural gas torches at individual rig sites.
Lea County is a political anomaly in New Mexico. In a state where Democrats have a 48-32 edge in percentage of registered voters, Republicans in Lea County make up the majority (50.3 percent) while Democrats lag far behind (31.5 percent).
While covering the Romney event, we picked up our trusty Flip Camera and asked Democrats and Republicans in the area why.
And since this is the Internet, we let them expound on their explanations. Here they are, in their own words.
The video runs a little over four minutes: