March 8, 2016

She’s back! Sandra Jeff to challenge Shendo in primary

Andy Lyman

Sandra Jeff

Former State Rep. Sandra Jeff is back for another run at the state legislature.

Former State Rep. Sandra Jeff

Andy Lyman

Former State Rep. Sandra Jeff

This time, she is setting her sights on a Senate seat. She is running in the Democratic primary against Sen. Benny Shendo in Senate District 22.

Jeff told NM Political Report that she felt “very confident” after she finished the filing process on Tuesday afternoon.

She said Shendo has a bad habit of not returning to his district and talking with his constituents.

“Their senator in there now hasn’t come back to his constituents,” Jeff said, referring to Shendo.

She said some of her former constituents have reached out to her and voiced their concerns.

“These politicians that want to run for office they promise the people ‘I’ll be back,’ but they never come back,” Jeff said.

The controversial former legislator lost her seat in 2014 after she failed to file enough valid signatures to land on the Democratic primary ballot. Conservation Voters New Mexico spearheaded the effort to vet the signatures and remove Jeff from the ballot at the time.

Jeff told NM Political Report that she learned from the petition snafu, but it also pushed her to run again.

“I can honestly say it basically motivated me and made me more determined,” Jeff said. “I think I needed that two years off, I needed that break.”

Doreen W. Johnson ended up winning the primary; there was no Republican who filed. Jeff then attempted a write-in campaign but easily lost to Johnson in the general electoin.

Johnson filed to run for reelection in House District 5 on Tuesday; she will face Kevin M. Mitchell in the Democratic primary. As of yet, no Republican has filed.

Jeff was known for bucking her party on some key votes in the House. For example, she voted along with Republicans against the budget in 2014. Her vote proved key, as the bill deadlocked and so remained in the chamber. After changes, she later voted in favor of the legislation.

But in 2014, she also skipped out on a vote on increasing the minimum wage, even after a phone call from Vice President Joe Biden urging her to vote for the increase. Jeff denied speaking to Biden until White House officials confirmed that Biden did, indeed, speak to Jeff.

She later said that she agreed with raising the minimum wage, but not through a constitutional amendment.

Jeff faced an ethics complaint over a campaign finance report she filed when running as a write-in candidate and another over travel reimbursements to her campaign—the latter from the Democratic Party of New Mexico.

After losing her place on the ballot, Jeff said that it was “karma” that House Democrats lost the chamber to Republicans in 2014.

“Thanks to you, you failed and only ripped apart the Democratic party,” Jeff wrote on Facebook at the time. “I enjoyed the fact that it backfired on you and other special interest groups, Democratic majority and one certain Navajo elected official who only hurt our people’s cause because you all know, we all needed to work across the aisle for the betterment of our state and country.”

Jeff was in the House from 2009 to 2014. Shendo has been in the Senate since 2013.

Update: Added that Kevin Mitchell filed to run in the House District 5 primary.

Update 2: Added quotes from Sandra Jeff.