Rep. Ray Begaye lost his way and the election
State Rep.-elect Sharon Clahchischilliage picked the right time to run against Ray Begaye.
Begaye, a Democrat from Shiprock, was seeking an eighth term in the House of Representatives when he self-destructed.
He had billed taxpayers twice for one trip. Then Begaye went on television, bumbling his way through an interview about his dual reimbursements. After this combination of deceit and blunders, Begaye lost the election to Republican Clahchischilliage.
State Sen. George Munoz, D-Gallup, said his own sidewalk poll told him Begaye was done long before the votes were counted. Munoz said he saw both candidates at a parade during the campaign. The crowd cheered Clahchischilliage. It met Begaye with stony silence.
The state attorney general did not charge Begaye with a crime for the travel scandal, though most people wonder how it is possible that double billing does not fall under the code of wrongdoing.
Perhaps Begaye's failures will serve as a cautionary tale to other legislators when they are submitting travel records.
In any case, Clahchischilliage, 63, will join the House as a notable exception to what happened in the general election. She was the only Republican seeking a House seat to defeat a sitting Democrat.
Many Republicans, including Gov. Susana Martinez, predicted their party would take control of the House for the first time since 1953.
Instead, Democrats added to their advantage, which will be either 39-31 or 38-32.
Begaye's scandal opened the way for Clahchischilliage to win, but the rest of the Democrats held their seats.
In all, either 20 or 21 freshmen will join the House of Representatives next year. Six of the newcomers ousted incumbents. Four of those were Democrats in the general election.
* Stephanie Garcia Richard defeated Republican Jim Hall of Los Alamos. Hall was an incumbent by appointment, having been picked by Martinez to fill a vacancy in 2011.
* Former state Rep. Nate Cote ousted Republican Rep. Rick Little for a Las Cruces-area seat. Even the most partisan of Democrats, Rep. Brian Egolf of Santa Fe, said he did not believe Cote could win, given the demographics of the district. But Little was sluggish. Cote wanted this election more.
* Phillip M. Archuleta of Las Cruces defeated Rep. Andy Nunez of Hatch. Nunez was the only independent in the Legislature.
* Elizabeth Thomson of Albuquerque bested Republican Rep. Conrad James. This was James' first contested race. He won election to the House without opposition two years ago.
Another freshman Democrat, Tomas E. Salazar, ousted seven-term Rep. Richard Vigil of Ribera in the primary last spring. Salazar won the general election without opposition.
One election involving a Republican incumbent is still undecided.
Rep. Terry McMillan of Las Cruces is tied with Democrat Joanne J. Ferrary. Each received 6,247 votes.
A recount -- or game of chance if the tie persists -- will decide the winner.
Two facts stand out about this election: Democrats gained two or three seats in the House, and Begaye got what he deserved from voters -- a stinging defeat.