Republican state Rep. Dianne Hamilton of Silver City is in danger of getting kicked off the ballot for the 2012 election.
But didn’t the state Supreme Court rule Tuesday (April 10) that some 10 candidates for statewide races who fouled up their nominating petitions will essentially get a pass and remain on the ballot? Yes, but on Wednesday (April 11), the high court listened to an attorney for potential Democratic Party rival Terry Fortenberry argue that Hamilton not only neglected to state what district she represents in some of her nominating petitions but also left off her address and the county she’s running in.
“It’s not punishing [Rep. Hamilton],” Fortenberry’s attorney Lee Hunt told the justices, “it’s following the rules that are in place.”
Hamilton’s attorney, Darrell Allen, admitted that a number of the petitions were faulty but countered that the statute concering petitions “is ambiguous as a whole,” that Hamilton “substantially complied” with the law and there was “no showing of fraud or bad faith on the part of Rep. Hamilton.”
Hamilton is a 7-term legislator who represents District 38 and needed to collect 70 valid signatures to get placed on the statewide ballot.
She collected 154 signatures on 12 nominating petitions. Fortenberry’s attorney argued that five of the petitions should be tossed, leaving Hamilton with 85 signatures. Of those, Fortenberry’s lawyer says 22 are not registered as Republicans or reside in the district, leaving Hamilton with 63 valid signatures — seven short.
But Hamilton’s attorney pointed out that District Court Judge Henry Quintero ruled just last week that Hamilton should remain on the ballot and urged the high court to uphold that ruling.
The justices asked Hamilton’s attorney some pointed questions. “So we should just allow petitions that don’t have the basic information,” asked Chief Justice Petra Maes while Justice Edward Chavez told Allen, “there have to be consequences when the legislature has made laws.”
After going to recess, the justices sent a message to those in the court that they “will take the case under advisement” and directed counsel to file any stipulations of record by noon Friday.
Afterwards we talked to Fortenberry, who served as mayor Silver City from 2000-2006, and to Merritt Allen, Hamilton’s daughter and spokesperson:
Earlier in Wednesday afternoon, the high court placed Jennifer Romero, a candidate for Bernalillo County District Attorney, back on the ballot. Last week, district court Judge Alan Malott agreed with a complaint filed by current DA Kari Brandenburg and booted Romero off the ballot after a number of questions were raised about nominating petitions and signatures submitted by Romero that left her one valid signature short. But the justices reversed the decision Wednesday and allowed Romero to face Brandenburg in the Democratic primary.
So if the justices knock Hamilton off the ballot, the Republican from Silver City will be the only candidate who will have been rejected this week by the state high court.
Getting Hamilton off the ballot will be a big victory for Democrats, who hold a slim 36-33 lead in the state House of Representatives. There is no other Republican running in District 38 and Hamilton would then have to resort to winning election as a write-in candidate — a pretty high hurdle to clear.
Fortenberry is facing fellow Democrat Guadalupe Cano in the June 5 primary.