Republican AG candidate, NM secretary of state have days to prepare for hearing

By: - September 12, 2022 4:30 am

The First Judicial District Court in downtown Santa Fe. (Photo by Austin Fisher / Source NM)

The Republican candidate for New Mexico attorney general and the state’s top election official have less than a week to prepare for a hearing on whether the GOP contender really does qualify to be on the ballot.

First Judicial District Court Judge T. Glenn Ellington on Friday ordered candidate Jeremy Michael Gay and Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver to turn in written arguments in response to a petition filed two days earlier alleging that Gay has not lived in New Mexico for long enough to be in the running.

Oct. 11 is the first day that absentee ballots can be mailed to voters and the first day of early voting, according to the Secretary of State’s website.

“Thus, time is of the essence in hearing the issues raised in this petition,” Ellington wrote.

Ellington ordered Gay and Toulouse Oliver to get their arguments turned in by the end of Sept. 15. Those arguments, along with any witnesses they may choose to call, will guide an in-person hearing the next afternoon in Ellington’s courtroom in Santa Fe.

Also on Friday, election administrators finalized the ballots and sent them to the printer, Secretary of State’s Office spokesperson Alex Curtas confirmed. However, he said they probably have not begun to actually be printed yet, though they will either be in process or completed by the time the hearing is held.

Gay is running in the 2022 general election against Democrat and Second Judicial District Attorney Raúl Torrez.

The petition calling into question Gay’s qualifications was filed by James Collie, a retired pastor who was appointed by Democrat Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in 2020 to finish out a year-long term on the Bernalillo County Board of Commissioners.

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

“Jeremy and his family temporarily left N.M. on active duty orders with the U.S Marines and returned as soon as he entered the Reserve Forces,” Gemmer said.

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

Gemmer also called the petition “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.” She did not respond to a follow-up question about what exactly is the connection between Collie’s petition and the Torrez campaign.

Collie’s petition “raises serious questions about Jeremy Gay and his qualifications to run for Attorney General, especially if he doesn’t meet the basic constitutional eligibility requirements,” said Taylor Bui, Torrez’s campaign manager.

Bui also did not immediately respond to a followup question about Gemmer’s allegation that Torrez has something to do with Collie’s petition.

“Raúl is continuing to maintain his active campaign schedule, speaking with voters across the state about his plans for the Attorney General’s Office,” Bui said. “The Torrez campaign will be following the case as it makes its way through the process.”

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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.