NM group files suit against Sec. of State and AG over referendum process

A group of New Mexicans filed a lawsuit Thursday afternoon against two state officials who rejected numerous attempts to start the process to overturn laws passed in this year’s legislative session.   

The lawsuit, filed by former Libertarian attorney general candidate Blair Dunn on behalf of a group called the New Mexico Patriot Advocacy Coalition, asks a state district court judge in Curry County to deem actions taken by the two elected officials as unconstitutional. The lawsuit claims New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, in consultation with state Attorney General Hector Balderas, violated the rights of New Mexicans by denying 10 attempts to overturn recently passed laws. The state constitution allows for a referendum process in which petition signatures are gathered to overturn laws, though the process is rarely used and has only been successful once in state history. 

Previous attempts by House Minority Leader Jim Townsend, R-Artesia, to overturn gun restriction laws were also rejected. Townsend’s three attempts were denied by Toulouse Oliver for what she called technical errors and on the grounds that the state’s process for referendums to reverse laws does not apply to laws “providing for the public peace, health and safety.” One of Townsend’s attempts to overturn a gun background check law is among the ten instances the coalition says Toulouse wrongfully denied. The other petition attempts, filed by the coalition, aimed to overturn laws ranging from the recent minimum wage increase, election changes and a law that shot down the ability for local governments to enact right-to-work laws.

Dems dominate statewide races

Democrats swept statewide races on Election Day, and will control not just the governor’s office and all of the executive agencies, but also independent state agencies that oversee everything from state funds to state lands. Democratic incumbent Tim Eichenberg easily won the race for State Treasurer over Republican Arthur Castillo and Democrat Brian Colón defeated Republican Wayne Johnson for State Auditor. In the three-way race for Attorney General, Democratic incumbent Hector Balderas beat Republican Michael Hendricks and Libertarian Blair Dunn. And another Democratic incumbent, Maggie Toulouse Oliver defeated Republican Gavin Clarkson and Libertarian Ginger Grider to hold on to the Secretary of State seat. The closest statewide race on Election Day was for State Land Commissioner.

NM Supreme Court strikes down straight-party voting

The New Mexico Supreme Court unanimously struck down a controversial proposal to add a straight-party option to November’s ballot. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver announced last month that she would reinstate an option on November’s ballot to allow people to vote for all candidates of a given party with one mark on the ballot. That decision was challenged by the Libertarian and Republican parties of New Mexico, along with a Utah-based political action committee, a non-profit advocate group for independent candidates and one Democratic write-in candidate. On Wednesday, Chief Justice Judith Nakamura called it a tough decision, but said only state lawmakers can add add straight-party voting to the ballot. “Until the legislature makes a decision one way or the other, the Secretary of State cannot,” Nakamura said.

The first campaign finance reports of general election are in for governor, other races

Campaign finance reports filed Monday showed positives for both gubernatorial candidates, with the Republican showing a lead with money left, but the Democrat raised, and spent, more money. Republican nominee Steve Pearce finished the campaign finance period—which lasted from July 1 to Sept. 3—with nearly $1.9 million cash-on-hand for the final two months of the race. This was well ahead of the $1.2 million cash-on-hand for his opponent, Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham. Lujan Grisham, however, raised $1.9 million in the period and spent almost $1.5 million.

Libertarians miss general election ballot for governor

New Mexicans likely won’t see a Libertarian candidate for governor on the ballot in November. While still unofficial, the results of a recount conducted Wednesday show the party’s primary candidates for those races lacked enough write-in votes to make it onto the general election ballot. Bob Walsh, a gubernatorial hopeful, and Robin Dunn, running for lieutenant governor, both entered the race on the Libertarian ticket after the filing deadline, forcing them to run as write-in candidates. Per state law, Walsh and Dunn each needed 230 votes in the primary election to be included as candidates in November. Walsh was short by 44 votes, and Dunn by 40, to make it onto the general election ballot.

Dem Guv candidates raise big money as primary nears

Two of the three candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for governor have over $1.5 million cash on hand for the final stretch before the primary election on June 5. Early voting has already started. State Sen. Joseph Cervantes has now loaned his own campaign over $2 million and raised only about $15,000 from others. He now has $1.65 million cash on hand. U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham raised over $410,000 and spent nearly $640,000 between April 3 and May 7.

Liberating New Mexico

Blair Dunn always knew he was a Libertarian, but instead registered as a Republican. Like Hermey the Elf in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Blair has found solace on his own island of misfits. Blair’s island is the Libertarian Party of New Mexico. At almost seven feet tall with his signature cowboy boots and bow tie, Dunn will never be mistaken for an elf. He’s easy to spot, even in the most crowded room.

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.