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Court sides with Quezada on election challenge

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Nearly a year after Steven Michael Quezada prevailed in the race for Bernalillo County’s District 2 commission seat, a judge has thrown out the election challenge filed by his Republican opponent.

Patricia Paiz and Steven Michael Quezada

Applause erupted in the courtroom after District Judge Clay Campbell announced his ruling. County Manager Julie Morgas Baca and County Attorney Ken Martinez attended the hearing and congratulated Quezada.

“I think it’s a victory for everybody, for the voters,” Quezada said outside the courtroom.

“We’re satisfied that we’ve always done the right thing,” the “Breaking Bad” actor later added. He said he planned to focus on bringing millions of dollars into the South Valley and the Southwest Mesa to fix things.

Quezada, a Democrat, defeated Republican Patricia Paiz, a former police officer, in last November’s general election.

Paiz filed a lawsuit in December claiming Quezada had violated campaign laws with improperly signed election materials. Specifically, Paiz claimed Quezada’s wife filled out his election documents and that Quezada did not sign a document known as the Declaration of Candidacy.

Attorney Colin Hunter, who represented Paiz, argued during Thursday’s hearing that two attorney general opinions favored Paiz’s position that Quezada was required to sign the Declaration of Candidacy.

But Judge Campbell disagreed and granted Quezada’s motion for summary judgment as a matter of law. He found that Quezada wasn’t required to place his signature on the declaration of candidacy. Campbell went on to say that Quezada fulfilled the requirements because he was present when the documents were turned in, he showed his identification and he validated all of his information on the declaration.

During the hearing, Attorney Robert Avila, who represented Quezada, argued that the case needed to be resolved because of the uncertainty the lawsuit was creating over Quezada’s legitimacy as a commissioner.

“What the bottom line is, your honor, is people’s right to vote,” he told the court. “Their votes need to be counted. And the vast majority of his district – 62 percent – voted for Mr. Quezada.”