Rep. Sandra Jeff, a maverick Democrat from the Navajo Nation, was tossed off the June 3 primary election ballot Monday for failing to submit enough valid voter signatures.
Gallup District Judge Louis DePauli ruled that 23 of the 91 signatures submitted by Jeff were invalid, either because they were duplicates or belonged to voters who were not eligible to sign her petitions. Jeff had been required to turn in at least 78 valid signatures.
Demis Foster, executive director of Conservation Voters New Mexico, an environmental group that bankrolled the court challenge against Jeff, said the judge spent nearly two full days scrutinizing whether voter signatures were valid.
“She didn’t do what she needed to do to be on the ballot,” Foster said of Jeff.
The saga over Jeff’s candidacy might not be over yet, however, as an attorney for the three-term lawmaker indicated during Monday’s court hearing that she intends to appeal the judge’s decision to the New Mexico Supreme Court.
Secretary of State Dianna Duran’s office was barred by the Supreme Court from sending out primary ballots to overseas voters – including deployed military members – in Jeff’s House district until the judge issued a ruling. It was unclear Monday whether those ballots would be sent out immediately, given the possibility of an appeal.
Jeff did not immediately return calls seeking comment Monday. She has previously blasted those seeking to have her removed from the ballot as “racist” and “out-of-touch,” though the plaintiff in the case, McKinley County resident Larry King, is also Navajo.
The court challenge against Jeff has been motivated partly by disagreements over environmental issues, specifically uranium mining on the Navajo Nation.
Meanwhile, Monday’s ruling leaves two Democratic candidates on the primary ballot – Charles Long of Crownpoint and Doreen Johnson of Church Rock. No Republicans filed to run in the district, which leans Democratic.
The ruling could also have political implications in the House of Representatives as Jeff has bucked Democratic Party leadership on several high-profile bills in recent years. She voted against a Democratic-backed budget plan this year and missed a vote on a proposal to increase the state’s minimum wage.
Entering this year’s election cycle, Democrats hold a 37-33 edge over Republicans in the House.