October 19, 2017

Judge rules in favor of Quezada in election suit

Bernalillo County Commissioner and actor Steven Michael Quezada.

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.

Quezada said he was always confident Campbell would rule in his favor.

“It was just a distraction,” Quezada said. “But I didn’t really let it distract me.”

Paiz’s attorney Blair Dunn said he will ask Campbell to take another look at the case, which Quezada said doesn’t surprise him.

“It’s just a way for [the Paiz] family to buy their way into office and let’s be realistic, they’ll never win an election in that district,” Quezada said.

Dunn rejected the claim and said he and his co-counsel are representing Paiz for free.

At issue is not whether Quezada completed his own form, but whether a candidate must personally fill out the declaration form. Dunn, disagreeing with Quezada’s lawyer and Campbell, said the only alternative to an in-person signature would be a swearing-in process, which did not happen.

“Nobody had [Quezada] hold up his hand and have him swear that he was telling the truth,” Dunn said.

Campbell also addressed the issue of being sworn in.

“If one concludes that the form is actually an affidavit that must be signed, then one must also conclude that all declarants, including Ms. Paiz herself, were required to be ‘first duly sworn’ in order to be a candidate,” Campbell wrote.

In his original complaint, Dunn argued that since Quezada was never a valid candidate he therefore could not receive the most votes. Since Paiz received the second most votes, Dunn said, she should hold the County Commission spot.

Quezada said he doesn’t expect to have to appear in court again as the ruling is “pretty tight” in his opinion, but that he will continue to fight any appeals Paiz may file.

“I’ll show up as many times as they want me to,” Quezada said.