Lawsuit: AG violated open records law

An Alamogordo resident filed an open records lawsuit against the New Mexico Office of the Attorney General Friday, alleging the office illegally redacted portions of legal invoices related to a U.S. Supreme Court case. Open records activist Wendy Irby filed the suit after she received significantly-redacted billing records for a contract between the Attorney General’s office and an Albuquerque law firm well-known in the state legal world for government contracts. According to court records, Irby asked the AG’s office for billing information from Robles, Rael and Anaya P.C. related to Texas v. New Mexico and Colorado, a case about the states’ water use and sharing. The private law firm argued the case on behalf of the AG’s office. Irby’s lawsuit says Attorney General Hector Balderas and his records custodian violated the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA) by blacking out billing specifics from Robles Rael & Anaya.

Libertarian Party gets a boost in NM

Something major happened with the Libertarian Party of New Mexico yesterday—it officially became a major party. After Gov. Susana Martinez issued her biennial primary election proclamation late Monday, the New Mexico Secretary of State announced that New Mexico’s liberty and limited government-minded group will have equal standing with the Democratic and Republican parties for the first time in New Mexico history. Monday, the Libertarian Party of New Mexico, on a rooftop deck in Old Town Albuquerque, officially announced its slate of candidates for everything from Congress to State Land Commissioner. In most of those races, candidates will be facing off against uncontested Republicans and lots of Democrats. With election day about eight months off, the Libertarian Party of New Mexico has three statewide and three congressional hopefuls collecting signatures to qualify as official candidates.

Judge rules in favor of Quezada in election suit

A New Mexico state district judge Wednesday ruled in favor of a Bernalillo County commissioner, whose 2016 opponent challenged his candidacy. Albuquerque District Judge Clay Campbell ruled County Commissioner Steven Michael Quezada was indeed a valid candidate even though he did not personally sign his declaration of candidacy statement last year. “Mr. Quezada appears to have properly adopted as his signature his name as it appears above the word ‘Declarant’ on his Declaration of Candidacy,” Campbell wrote in his ruling. Last year, after Quezada won the general election, his opponent Patricia Paiz challenged the win by pointing out Quezada’s wife filled out his declaration. Paiz and her attorneys argued that this eliminated Quezada as a valid candidate.

Padilla’s hopes for spot on ABQ ballot end with Supreme Court rejection

Albuquerque resident Stella Padilla’s mayoral run is most likely over after the New Mexico Supreme Court denied her petition to overturn a state district court judge’s decision to dismiss her suit seeking to place her on the ballot. Padilla’s lawyer, Blair Dunn, told NM Political Report he may still take the issue to the state court of appeals, to “at least fix the law even though it won’t help Stella.”

For now though, Dunn said there is “no other real recourse” for his client. Dunn expressed his disappointment with the high court and their swift decision not to hear the case. Dunn filed the petition on Monday. By Tuesday afternoon, the Supreme Court denied it without explanation.

Mayoral hopeful turns to state high court after suit dismissed

An Albuquerque mayoral hopeful who sued the city and said she was wrongfully disqualified from the ballot is now taking her case to the New Mexico Supreme Court. Stella Padilla sued the city, specifically naming City Clerk Natalie Howard, in an attempt to get her name on the city ballot this October. This came after Howard ruled Padilla did not have enough signatures to make the mayoral ballot.[perfectpullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]The state’s best political coverage. [/perfectpullquote]Last week, district judge Nancy Franchini ruled Padilla could not sue to reinstate qualifying petition signatures. Franchini ruled to dismiss the lawsuit, agreeing with city attorneys that only petition signers could file such a suit.

ABQ city clerk lawsuit heats up, may go to fed court

An Albuquerque woman who says she was erroneously disqualified from the upcoming mayoral election is threatening a federal lawsuit, and has also asked city authorities to dismiss a protective order by the city against her. Albuquerque lawyer Blair Dunn filed a motion Wednesday evening to dismiss a protective order the city’s legal team filed on behalf of City Clerk Natalie Howard. The city filed the order after Howard alleged she was harassed by Vanessa Benavidez, the daughter of mayoral hopeful Stella Padilla. If approved by a judge, the city’s proposed order would prevent anyone associated with Padilla’s campaign from interacting with Howard.[perfectpullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]No ads. No clickbait.

City of ABQ files protection order against mayoral hopeful’s daughter

The theatrics continued with a lawsuit from Stella Padilla, who wants to run for mayor, alleging  Albuquerque’s city clerk failed to properly count petition signatures. The City of Albuquerque filed a protective order Monday against Stella Padilla’s daughter alleging the daughter twice harassed and tried to intimidate City Clerk Natalie Howard. Padilla originally sued  Howard in her official capacity as city clerk, alleging her office improperly vetted campaign petition signatures. An affidavit outlines two encounters Howard had with Padilla’s daughter, Vanessa Benavidez, over the past two months. [perfectpullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Support NM Political Report’s quality journalism.

Land Commissioner files defamation suit against candidate over ad

As promised, State Commissioner of Public Lands Aubrey Dunn filed a defamation lawsuit against land commissioner candidate Garrett VeneKlasen Monday evening. Dunn also filed a request for a temporary restraining order to stop VeneKlasen from running a campaign radio ad. The campaign ad features VeneKlasen raising questions about a ranch owned by Dunn and the commissioner’s involvement in allowing a major electrical transmission line to run through his property. Related story: Land commissioner files ‘cease and desist’ order against contender

Dunn maintains he only learned the line was set to run through his land after he purchased the ranch. Blair Dunn, who is acting as attorney for his father, said his father has not allowed access to his property and may get paid easement royalties.

Land Commissioner files ‘cease and desist’ order against contender

One week after announcing his candidacy for New Mexico State Land Commissioner, Garrett VeneKlasen received a “cease and desist order” from the current commissioner, Republican Aubrey Dunn. The order came from Dunn’s son, Blair, an attorney who ran unsuccessfully for the state Senate as a Republican last fall and helped run Gary Johnson’s last gubernatorial campaign. Blair Dunn sent the order to the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, of which VeneKlasen is the executive director, and eight media outlets including NM Political Report. The order called political statements made by VeneKlasen, a Democrat, untrue and misleading. It references a radio ad from VeneKlasen’s campaign accusing Aubrey Dunn of using the office for personal gain.

Ex-mayoral candidate asks judge to let her run while lawsuit is pending

Former Albuquerque mayoral candidate Stella Padilla Tuesday asked a district judge to allow her to run as an official candidate until her lawsuit against the city clerk over the candidate’s removal from the ballot is finished. Padilla’s lawyer, Blair Dunn, filed a temporary restraining order in district court that, if granted, would allow Padilla to run as a candidate. In his request, Dunn wrote that allowing Padilla to run as an official candidate would not harm the city. But, Blair wrote, Padilla would suffer irreparable harm if she is not allowed to run her campaign until after the court case is completed. “There is no monetary remedy that could be established to replace or compensate [Padilla] for the type of opportunity she will be deprived of seeking to participate in during the pendency of this lawsuit,” Dunn wrote.