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Loser of House Race Says Winner Ineligible

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SANTA FE — A Republican candidate who lost a state House election in Albuquerque has complained to the secretary of state that the Democratic winner doesn’t live in the district, triggering an investigation.

Secretary of State Dianna Duran’s office sent a letter Wednesday to Patricia Roybal Caballero asking her to respond to claims from Jose Orozco that she violated election laws.

Caballero was told to respond in writing within 15 days.

She could not be reached for comment Thursday; she did not reply to email or phone messages left by the Journal.

Caballero won the Nov. 6 election in heavily Democratic House District 13, with 4,298 votes to Orozco’s 1,708, according to unofficial results posted by the secretary of state.

Orozco alleged in a letter to Duran’s office that Caballero does not live at the address in District 13 that is listed on her Feb. 20, 2012, voter registration, but rather lives at another address, which is in District 14.

Orozco claims Caballero violated election laws by having a false address on her voter registration, her declaration of candidacy and the nominating petitions she circulated.

If an investigation turns up apparent violations of the law, the complaint could be turned over to the Attorney General’s Office or a district attorney, according to the letter to Caballero from Duran’s chief of staff, Ken Ortiz.

Paul Kienzle, who has represented Republican Party interests and is helping Orozco, said the complaint “certainly could end up in an election contest, and a determination as to who received the majority of legal votes.”

Orozco said he didn’t find out about the alleged residency problem with Caballero until about a week before the election, and he hasn’t been able to find any evidence that she lives at the District 13 address.

Caballero’s candidacy was certified by the Bernalillo County Clerk’s office. Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver said that as the filing officer, she can check that paperwork is in order, that the candidate was registered to vote in the district by the required date and that there are the required number of signatures on nominating petitions — but not delve into whether a candidate lives where she says she lives.

Typically, residency issues are raised during challenges immediately after candidates file for office.

“There’s a very heavy burden of proof on the challenger to show that the person does not reside in the district,” Toulouse Oliver said.
— This article appeared on page C2 of the Albuquerque Journal

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