Complaint: Republican candidate for state AG hasn’t lived in NM long enough to run for office

By: - September 8, 2022 1:28 pm

A screenshot of an April 2022 campaign ad for Jeremy Gay. (Courtesy of Jeremy Gay for Attorney General)

A former Bernalillo County official alleged on Wednesday that the Republican candidate for New Mexico attorney general has not lived in New Mexico for long enough to be qualified to run for the office.

Jeremy Michael Gay, of Gallup, is running against Democrat and Second Judicial District Attorney Raúl Torrez to become the state’s highest-ranking prosecutor.

In a civil complaint filed in First Judicial District Court, retired pastor James Collie alleges that Gay “fails to meet the New Mexico constitutional requirement of having resided continuously in New Mexico for five years preceding his election.”

“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,” Collie’s attorney Ryan 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.”

Collie is asking the court to order Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver to deem Gay unqualified to be a candidate for attorney general and ensure that his name does not appear on the ballot in November.

According to the complaint, to be eligible to run for attorney general, Gay must have lived in New Mexico since Nov. 8, 2017, but he “did not establish a continued physical presence in the state of New Mexico” until he moved to Gallup in May 2019.

Collie attached a Florida Elections Division voter registration that appears to show that Gay was registered to vote in Florida from 2008 to 2018.

The complaint also contains a Marine Corps release certificate that indicates Gay joined the Judge Advocates General Corps and was stationed in Twentynine Palms, Calif., until he left the Corps in May 2019.

It also cites a New Mexico business filing showing Gay joined the Advocate Law Center in Gallup in September 2019, and Gay’s voter registration dated Jan. 9, 2020.

Representatives for both campaigns were not immediately available for comment. We will update this story if we hear back.

The Democratic Party of New Mexico issued a statement Thursday morning calling for Gay to be removed from the ballot.

“Republicans are trying to run a candidate who does not even meet the bare minimum to be the state’s top attorney,” said state party Chair Jessica Velasquez. “The New Mexico GOP’s candidate for attorney general isn’t constitutionally qualified for the office, has minimal prosecutorial experience and little connection to our state.”

Update: Sept. 8, 2022 at 4:03 p.m.:

Gay campaign’s statement

Campaign Manager Noelle Gemmer said Gay and his family have “called New Mexico home since 2014,” and his wife was born in Gallup.

“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 said. “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.”

Ballots supposed to be printed Friday

Whether Gay’s active duty orders affect his residency will have to be decided by the courts, Secretary of State’s Office spokesperson Alex Curtas said. Whatever the judge decides, N.M. election administrators will follow that order, he said.

The complaint came just two days before the Secretary of State was set to print the ballots on Friday, Sept. 9, Curtas said. The timing of the printing is required by state law, Curtas said, and it is unclear if they would have to reprint the ballots in the event a judge grants Collie’s request and orders Toulouse Oliver to take Gay off the ballot.

“That’s the uncharted territory,” Curtas said. “A court has never ordered us to change these statutory deadlines. We’ve been very firm for a long time that this is the day the ballot gets set.”

This week, state election officials have been working with county governments to “lock the ballot” into its final version, he said.

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Austin Fisher
Austin Fisher

Austin Fisher is a journalist based in Santa Fe. He has worked for newspapers in New Mexico and his home state of Kansas, including the Topeka Capital-Journal, the Garden City Telegram, the Rio Grande SUN and the Santa Fe Reporter. Since starting a full-time career in reporting in 2015, he’s aimed to use journalism to lift up voices that typically go unheard in public debates around economic inequality, policing and environmental racism.