May 13, 2016

Candidates in House race changed addresses at a convenient time

Matthew Reichbach

A look into one New Mexico House race shows that the candidates updated their voter registration days before an appointment to the state House late last year.

Photo via Flickr by Erik (HASH) Hersman

Photo via Flickr by Erik (HASH) Hersman

All three candidates currently running for state House District 21 previously applied to be appointed in the district. And all three changed their voter registration information days before Bernalillo County commissioners voted on the appointment. The appointment was necessary after Stephanie Maez resigned.

All three candidates are Democrats; there are no Republican candidates seeking the position.

Idalia Lechuga-Tena was ultimately appointed as state representative by the commissioners. Lechuga-Tena changed her official address each time the House District 21 spot was up for appointment—twice in the last two years. Lechuga-Tena changed her registration to reflect her new address five days before the Bernalillo County commission met to appoint her.

She previously told NM Political Report that she moved into the district to qualify for the position. Legislators must live in the district they represent. In a recent interview she said district lines shouldn’t matter when representing constituents.

“I don’t believe a district divides a community,” Lechuga-Tena said, echoing something she previously told other media outlets.

Lechuga-Tena now owns a house in the district. She previously listed a short-term rental property as her address.

One of the applicants to fill last year’s opening for HD21, Debra Sariñana, also changed her registration just days before the County Commission made the decision to appoint Lechuga-Tena.

Sariñana, a high school teacher, was unavailable for comment, but her campaign manager said Sariñana updated her registration information to reflect a move she made years before. The move was within the district.

“When she applied for the HD21 appointment, she wanted to be as accurate as possible and updated her voter registration card to reflect where she lives,” Sariñana’s campaign manager Neri Olguin said.

Amanda KinKaid, who also applied for the vacant opening last November, changed her voter registration information four days before the Bernalillo County Commission vote. KinKaid told NM Political Report that she moved into the district out of concern for its constituents.

“I felt like that area of town is so in need of so much help,” KinKaid said. “I wanted to be part of it so I moved there.”

The Albuquerque Journal reported that KinKaid was disqualified because she was registered to vote in Rio Rancho.

While KinKaid changed the address on her registration, she listed an address not in HD21 as her mailing address. KinKaid said that was her short-term housing before her house was available.

All three candidates said they currently reside within the district.