Libertartian candidate files suit against NM Secretary of State Toulouse Oliver

A New Mexico Libertarian candidate for the state court of appeals is suing New Mexico’s secretary of state in federal court, claiming his and Libertarian voters’ civil rights were violated in the process of tabulating votes from the state’s primary election. 

That candidate, Stephen Curtis, is representing himself as well as the state’s Libertarian Party, the party’s state chairman and a registered Libertarian voter, who is also running for a state House position. 

The lawsuit against New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver claims that Curtis, who was a write-in candidate, received “well above the 230-vote threshold” to move on to the state’s general election. Even though Curtis did not face a primary opponent, state law requires write-in candidates to receive a certain number of votes to be placed on the general election ballot. 

The lawsuit names Curtis, the state Libertarian Party, Libertarian Party Chairman Chris Lucini as well as Ranota Banks, a Libertarian voter and Libertarian candidate for House District 15, as plaintiffs. The suit asks a federal judge to stop enforcement of a state provision requiring payment for a recount and to force a recount. 

“[Toulouse Oliver] abused the authority of her office and, while acting under color of law and with knowledge of Plaintiffs’ established rights, used her office to violate Plaintiffs’ Constitutional rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws,” Curtis wrote. 

The suit argues that in one county alone, Curtis received enough votes to qualify him for the general election. 

“There is significant and substantial evidence that write-in votes for Mr. Curtis were not correctly tallied,” Curtis wrote. “For example, a Bernalillo County website reflects that 270 write-in votes were case [sic] in the Libertarian Party Primary for Court of Appeals.”

The suit also challenges a state provision that requires candidates who request a recount to cover the cost though cash or a bond. In Curtis’ case, he said he was asked to pay more than $3 million to conduct a recount. 

“The burden in question to post a multi-million-dollar bond or cash, to obtain a recount to vindicate the candidate’s and voters’ interests, particularly with substantial evidence of error, imposes a severe burden on the Plaintiffs’ associational interests, and the rights of voters to cast ballots,” Curtis wrote. 

The suit also accuses Toulouse Oliver and her office of deliberately ignoring voting total inconsistencies and voting machine errors, therefore violating the rights of voters. 

“[Toulouse Oliver’s] actions have deprived the voters for Mr. Curtis of their right to vote, despite knowledge of voting machine errors that were not counting votes, and in violation of equal protection of law,” Curtis wrote. 

Curtis was 26 votes short of moving on to the general election, according to Curtis’s suit. 

There are two candidates currently qualified for the respective court of appeals spot in the general election: Republican Gertrude Lee and incumbent Democratic candidate Shammara Henderson, who was appointed this year to fill the vacancy of retired judge Moncia Zamora.

Santa Fe, Taos counties need more time to count votes amid flood of absentee ballots

Most of the state completed their tallies of ballots, including absentee ballots, but election officials in Taos County and Santa Fe County received permission from district courts to extend the time needed to finish tallying absentee ballots. The two counties, like many others, received an unprecedented number of absentee ballots for a primary election, and numbers that even dwarfed high-turnout general elections in the past. It isn’t clear how many votes were cast by absentee ballots, but as of 5 p.m. on Election Day, county clerks had received more than 246,000 absentee ballots. In the 2016 primary, county clerks statewide received 23,066. Santa Fe County on its own received more than the statewide total in the 2016 primary.

Progressive Democrats defeat incumbents, with some races still pending

Tuesday night proved to be a night of historic upsets against state Senators who have long held onto their seats. Much of the action was on the Democratic side, though it appears two Republican incumbents also lost their primaries. State Sen. John Arthur Smith, after 32 years in the state Senate and the most powerful legislator as chair of the Senate Finance Committee, is extremely likely to lose to grassroots challenger Neomi Martinez-Parra. Smith represents SD 35. He more than doubled Martinez-Parra in donations.

Leger Fernandez wins CD3 Democratic primary

Democrat Teresa Leger Fernandez won the seven-way Democratic primary on Tuesday. 

As of 2 a.m., Leger Fernandez had 41.89 percent of the vote, while her closest competitor, former CIA officer Valerie Plame, had 22.95 percent of the vote. 

The Associated Press projected Leger Fernandez as the winner shortly before 11 p.m.

“This is a win for communities, families and workers all across our district, and I am grateful for the trust that voters have placed in our campaign’s vision for Northern New Mexico. Even in a time when we must continue to stay physically distant and so much tries to divide us, this campaign has always been about interconnectedness and coming together,” Leger Fernandez said in a statement. Related: Herrell wins GOP primary, will face Torres Small again for CD2 seat in general election

Leger Fernandez is an attorney and activist from Santa Fe who emphasized her roots in the district during her campaign. Fernandez received the support of a number of national organizations, including EMILY’s List and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. She was often overshadowed on a national scale by Plame, whose ads showcasing her driving skills helped get her national attention and fundraising support.

Herrell wins GOP primary, will face Torres Small again for CD2 seat in general election

A three-way race in the Republican primary for the state’s 2nd Congressional District ended with former state representative Yvette Herrell winning the Republican nod. 

The Associated Press called the race for Herrell at about 9:30 p.m. Tuesday evening. Herrell had garnered 45.58 percent of the vote at the time.  

The primary campaign was dominated by attacks between Herrell and oil and gas lobbyist Claire Chase. Chase came under fire in the early days of the campaign for social media posts made in 2015 and 2016 that were critical of President Donald Trump. Chase has since praised Trump for his “fearless leadership.” 

Related: Progressive Democrats defeat incumbents, with some races still pending

Chase took more vots in Chaves and Eddy counties, but fell behind Herrell in Doña Ana County and Lea County. Chase garnered 31.62 percent of the vote as of 2 a.m. Wednesday to Herrell’s 44.77 percent.

Ronchetti wins Republican primary for U.S. Senate

Former television news meteorologist Mark Ronchetti won the state’s Republican primary election for U.S. Senate, taking more than half the votes in a three-way race through partial results on Tuesday night. The results reported from the Secretary of State’s office as of 2:00 a.m. on Wednesday showed Ronchetti won 55.57 percent of the votes. 

One of his opponents, anti-abortion activist Elisa Martinez got 26.62 percent of the votes and Ronchetti’s other opponent, former Trump official Gavin Clarkson got 17.8 percent of the votes. Ronchetti will now face Democratic U.S. Rep Ben Ray Luján and Libertarian Bob Walsh in the November general election. Neither had competition in their parties’ primaries. The seat is currently held by Sen. Tom Udall, who announced he would not run for another term.

GOP candidates question opponents’ loyalty to Trump

Former T.V. meteorologist and Republican primary candidate for U.S. Senate Mark Ronchetti found himself in hot water with his opponents this week. Already a target for some local conservatives, Ronchetti now has to explain comments he made during a presentation on climate change at the University of New Mexico last year that seemed to be a criticism of President Donald Trump. “I’m a Christain conservative, who used to be a Republican, until the orange one,” Ronchetti said, invoking laughter from the crowd. “I’m afraid that has taken a part of my soul and that’s not coming back.”

Ronchetti did not respond to a request for an interview, but his campaign manager told the Albuquerque Journal that the comments were in jest and that he does indeed support the president. But his opponents, namely the one who said he found the video clip, are not buying it. 

Gavin Clarkson, a former Trump appointee and one of Ronchetti’s opponents, said he thinks “Support for Trump is a baseline qualification for the GOP.”

“If you’re going to say, ‘I support the president,’ prove it,” Clarkson told NM Political Report. 

Clarkson said he found the video while searching online to back up his claim that Ronchetti’s previous public views on climate change differ from Trump’s. 

“He spent the next 45 minutes to an hour talking about policies that this president doesn’t support,” Clarkson added. 

But this week’s claims that Ronchetti wavers in his support for the White House are not the first for him or for other GOP candidates in the state.