September 8, 2022

AG candidate Jeremy Gay’s residency qualifications challenged in court filing

Joe Gratz

Flickr/cc

With about two months left before New Mexico’s general election, a candidate for state attorney general is facing a legal challenge to his candidacy qualifications. On Wednesday, a Bernalillo County resident filed a request asking a Santa Fe state district court judge to order attorney general candidate Jeremy Gay off the ballot. 

James Collie, who served a short stint as a Bernalillo County commissioner, filed a petition with the court alleging that Gay has not lived in New Mexico long enough to qualify as a candidate. 

Collie’s attorney, Ryan Harrigan, wrote in the court filing that voting records from both Florida and New Mexico, as well as Gay’s military records, show that Gay was not a resident of of New Mexico until 2019, about two years shy of what’s required by the New Mexico Constitution to run for public office. 

“Nothing in Mr. Gay’s record suggests that prior to his move to Gallup, New Mexico in 2019, he had established any semblance of a residency in New Mexico,” Harrigan wrote. “Nor is there any evidence that he was part of the New Mexico community or had knowledge of issues affecting the State of New Mexico.”

Among the exhibits Harrigan filed were records that show Gay was registered to vote in Florida from 2008 through 2018 and military records that show Gay was stationed in California as a JAG officer from about 2015 through 2019, just before he was admitted to the New Mexico State Bar. According to Gay’s LinkedIn profile, he attended a boarding school in Pennsylvania and attended college and law school in Florida. 

But Gay’s campaign manager, Noelle Gemmer, dismissed the court filing as a baseless attack on a U.S. military veteran. 

“Jeremy and his family have called New Mexico home since 2014, and his wife was born and raised in Gallup, NM. Jeremy and his family temporarily left NM on active duty orders with the U.S Marines and returned as soon as he entered the Reserve Forces,” Gemmer wrote in a statement. “This is a disgusting attack on a veteran for his service and a desperate attempt by the Raúl Torrez campaign to deny voters options at the ballot box. It’s nothing more than another attempt to distract from Torrez’s failed record as prosecutor where he declined to prosecute over 50% of violent felony cases and dismissed 40% of the cases that made it to court.”

There’s no explicit connection between Collie, who filed the petition, and Raúl Torrez, Gay’s opponent. 

New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, who is running for re-election, is named in the petition as a respondent because she has a ministerial duty to oversee state elections and decide who qualifies to be on the ballot. 

Alex Curtas, Toulouse Oliver’s spokesperson, said his office had not received a copy of the petition, but that the decision to remove Gay from the ballot is ultimately the court’s decision. “Mr. Gay did submit all the required forms during Candidate Qualification Day,” Curtas said. “It does have a section on there that says you attest to being eligible to hold the office for which you’re running. But, of course, it’s going to be the court that makes a decision on this matter.