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Candidate rejected over altered information

SANTA FE – Did an “ñ” help keep a congressional candidate off the ballot?

Angel Peña thinks so.

Dan McKayPeña, a Democratic candidate in the 2nd Congressional District, is challenging a decision to disqualify him from the ballot for failing to turn in enough petition signatures.

State election officials say they had to reject some of his petition pages because, in some cases, words with an “ñ” had been crossed out and written in by hand – apparently because they weren’t printed correctly.

But state law requires the Secretary of State’s Office to invalidate petitions “if any of the required information is altered,” said Joey Keefe, a spokesman for the office.

There were other problems, too, including petition headers that were partly obscured by text – apparently because the paper had been recycled – and one in which an address didn’t match, Keefe said.

Peña, for his part, said in a written statement that his case involves a “technicality inherent with many Hispanic names, including county names, and how they sometimes print out on forms.”

His campaign is asking a court to overturn the secretary of state’s decision, a campaign spokeswoman said.

Peña said it’s important to pursue the case not just for the sake of his own campaign, but to help future candidates who might run into a similar problem.

Keefe said the state’s information guide for candidates warns against scratching out or altering the information in the header of a petition page. Eleven pages were invalidated, leaving Peña without the required 623 signatures to make the ballot, Keefe said.

Two other Democratic candidates have already qualified for the ballot: Mad Hildebrandt, an adjunct college instructor from Socorro; and Xochitl Torres Small, a water attorney from Las Cruces.

hats in the ring: At least three candidates have emerged to replace Republican Rep. Jim Smith, R-Tijeras, who will retire this year rather than seek re-election.

The East Mountains district covers Tijeras and Placitas, stretching into parts of three counties – Bernalillo, Sandoval and Santa Fe.

Smith has already endorsed Republican Merritt Hamilton Allen, a Navy veteran who runs a strategic communications firm. Allen is the daughter of former state Rep. Dianne Hamilton.

Also seeking the Republican nomination is Dr. Gregg Schmedes, an assistant professor of surgery at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine. He has been endorsed by former U.S. Rep. Bill Redmond, a Republican from Los Alamos.

On the Democratic side, Jessica Velasquez, an educator and a business owner, has entered the race.

Dan McKay,