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.
A Republican announced this week she will run for New Mexico Secretary of State. The Albuquerque Journal reported Wednesday that Albuquerque attorney JoHanna Cox plans to run for the position as a Republican. According to the Journal, Cox decided to run for Secretary of State to reform election policies and procedures. Cox, an attorney, has held leadership positions in both the Valencia and Santa Fe County district attorney’s offices, before opening her own private practice. Cox’s announcement comes days after former Democratic State Representative Sandra Jeff announced her intention to run for Secretary of State as a member of the Libertarian Party.
Former State Representative and former State Senate candidate Sandra Jeff can now add one more “former” before her name: former Democrat. Jeff updated her voter registration to the Libertarian Party Thursday afternoon at the Bernalillo County Clerk’s Office with the intention of running for Secretary of State. “I want to stop corruption, and I feel that I have every right to work with the constituents within the state of New Mexico to bring forth a new horizon because that is what is needed in this state in order for us to move forward,” Jeff told NM Political Report. Jeff represented House District 5, which includes a large portion of the Navajo Nation in New Mexico, for two terms before she was kicked off the ballot during her run for a third term because she did not collect enough valid signatures. As a Representative, she sometimes voted against fellow Democrats on key issues, most notably when she skipped a vote to raise the minimum wage in 2014, even after then-Vice President Joe Biden called her personally and asked her to vote in favor of it.
The New York Times reported a former state representative in New Mexico told a female lobbyist he would vote for a bill a client supported if she had sex with him, then kissed her. That was part of a story the newspaper wrote about lobbyists facing sexual harassment in state capitals around the nation. The allegation brought up by Vanessa Alarid, still a prominent lobbyist, accused former State Rep. Thomas A. Garcia of making the proposition and the unwanted kiss. Garcia was a member of the Legislature for three terms, from 2006 to 2012. The Democrat denied the allegation.
While Democrats and Republicans in New Mexico began casting ballots weeks ago with early and absentee voting, today is election day where tens of thousands more are expected to cast their ballots. While much of the attention will be focused on Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders duking it out in the presidential primary, there will be a number of down-ballot races with big implications going forward. We took a look at the thirteen races you need to watch tonight when polls close at 7:00 p.m.
Senate District 17
Democratic incumbent Sen. Mimi Stewart’s runs to retain the senate seat in SD17. In 2014, the Bernalillo County Commission appointed her to fill the vacancy left by Tim Keller when he became State Auditor. Former State Senator Shannon Robinson, who held the SD17 spot for 20 years before losing to Keller in 2008, will face Stewart and try to reclaim his old Senate seat.
A new progressive group is stepping into two legislative races in districts with large Native American populations. The Working Families Party announced support for two incumbents: Representative Wonda Johnson and Senator Benny Shendo. Both Democrats are facing a challenge in Tuesday’s primary against more conservative opponents. The organization is airing radio ads supporting the candidates. Former State Rep. Stephanie Maez told NM Political Report the Working Families Party chose to support Johnson and Shendo because of their past support for “progressive policy positions.”
She also said that the organization would add more endorsements for the general election.
While former state Rep. Sandra Jeff avoided ballot disqualification after a recent scuffle with the Secretary of State, several questions remain about possible discrepancies in previous campaign reports. The biggest question is the sudden disappearance of more than $27,000 in debt from her failed 2014 campaign for reelection to the state House of Representatives. In July 2014, Jeff reported a loan contribution of $26,720.82 from Gallagher & Kennedy, a law firm with offices in Santa Fe and Phoenix. A note next to the contribution reads, “Campaign Debt for legal fees incurred.”
Jeff continued to report this debt, plus an extra $1,200 that she loaned to herself, for the next six campaign reporting periods, marking a period of nearly two years. But on March 15 of this year, Jeff amended seven old campaign reports from the 2014 election cycle.
Former state Rep. Sandra Jeff will make it on the ballot for state Senate this upcoming primary election in June after all. Jeff came to an agreement with the Secretary of State’s Office on Monday—nearly three weeks after that office disqualified her from the ballot for not paying a fine for filing a late campaign finance report from an earlier campaign. Jeff, a Democrat, is challenging Sen. Benny Shendo, D-Jemez Pueblo, for the party nomination this year. Her attorney Zach Cook told NM Political Report that she agreed to pay “a nominal amount” of roughly $100 to the Secretary of State’s Office to get on the ballot. Part of the deal involves Jeff not having to concede that the fine was legitimate.
A former state Representative is challenging her disqualification from the ballot for a state Senate primary. Sandra Jeff will move forward with her attempt to challenge Sen. Benny Shendo of Jemez Pueblo in the Democratic primary for Senate District 22. Jeff is a former state representative who lost her position after failing to make the primary ballot for reelection to her state House seat in 2014. Two weeks ago, Jeff told NM Political Report she wasn’t sure if she wanted to challenge the disqualification. Jeff said she would consider running for Navajo Nation President or challenging U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan in the Democratic primary.
Friday marked the final day to challenge filing documents for candidates around the state ahead of the June primaries. In all, the reasons for ten disqualifications for candidates range from simply not getting enough signatures to breaking campaign finance rules. Amy Bailey, legal counsel for the Secretary of State’s office, told NM Political Report that her office went through any evidence brought to them before each candidate was qualified. “The candidates that brought us what they purported to be evidence we checked,” Bailey said. “We didn’t go through and check all the petitions.”
Prospective candidates who found themselves disqualified still have a chance to challenge the disqualification, but they must file a challenge it in district court.