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.
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.
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.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. Now Padilla and her lawyer, Blair Dunn, are appealing the ruling to the state’s high 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.Now, Dunn said he is prepared to file a federal lawsuit against the city for violating Padilla and Benavidez’s right to free speech. In the latest filing, Dunn wrote that protective orders are only supposed to be used in the discovery process and banning anyone from interacting with a public official is a free speech violation.
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. In the affidavit, which lists Benavidez’s last name as Padilla, Howard wrote that Benavidez arrived at the city clerk’s office to serve Howard with a copy of the original complaint.
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.
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.
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.
An incoming Bernalillo County Commissioner and Breaking Bad actor is being accused of fraudulently declaring himself a candidate. Patricia Paiz, who lost the general election for Bernalillo county commission in district 2, filed a complaint in district court Tuesday claiming her opponent, Steven Michael Quezada, should have never been a candidate. Paiz’s lawyers, A. Blair Dunn and Colin Hunter, filed the complaint that says Quezada’s wife Cherise filled out her husband’s candidacy declaration form, therefore making all votes for Quezada illegal. “Contestant Patricia B. Paiz is the successful candidate having received a majority of the legal votes in the November 8, 2016 election,” the complaint reads. One of the exhibits Dunn and Hunter attached is an affidavit from “certified questioned document examiner” Karen Fisher-Weinberg, stating the form is in question.
New Mexico could see a Libertarian primary election on the same day as the Democratic and Republican primaries in 2018. That will depend on the outcome of this year’s presidential election and if the state’s Libertarian Party can boost its membership numbers. Currently the Libertarian Party is considered a minor party in New Mexico, along with the Green and Constitutional parties. But if at least 5 percent of voters in New Mexico vote for the party’s presidential nominee, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party will be on its way to be considered a “major party” in the state and qualify for its own primary election. Johnson is currently polling in the 5 to 10 percent range nationally, but in New Mexico he is polling as high as 24 percent.