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Republican drops out of race for lieutenant governor, cites residency rules

SANTA FE – New Mexico lieutenant governor candidate Kelly Zunie abruptly dropped out of the race Friday, saying she might not meet constitutional residency requirements.

Zunie, who was the only GOP lieutenant governor candidate, worked for two-plus years as the Cabinet secretary of the Department of Indian Affairs until stepping down this summer.

Kelly Zunie

She acknowledged in a statement released by the state Republican Party that she might not meet the requirement that anyone running for lieutenant governor – or various other statewide offices – must live in New Mexico continuously for at least five years proceeding Election Day.

Zunie, a member of Zuni Pueblo, is a New Mexico native but lived and worked in Utah for years before returning to her home state in July 2014. That would mean she would have lived in New Mexico for four years and four months at the time of the November 2018 general election.

“I was born and raised in New Mexico,” Zunie said. “I have lived here most of my life, and I have always considered New Mexico my residence. When I filed my candidacy, I assumed those circumstances qualified me to run for office. Recently, I have learned that other requirements might apply.”

She also said she had been urged to file a court challenge against the five-year residency requirement but decided against doing so.

Zunie’s statement about withdrawing from the race for the state’s second-highest elected office did not address recent financial problems that include $15,000 in unpaid Utah state tax liens in 2016 alone, according to legal records.

She told the Journal last month that the issue stemmed from confusion over filing taxes jointly with her husband, who still lives in Utah.

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