Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jeff Apodaca is trying to knock one of his rivals off the ballot, alleging in court that state Sen. Joseph Cervantes failed to submit enough petition signatures to continue his campaign.
Cervantes is short roughly 1,400 signatures of the requirement for 5,014, Apodaca alleges in his six-page complaint.
But Cervantes, a lawyer from Las Cruces, said he expects to withstand the legal challenge.
“We believe this lawsuit is without merit and a distraction from the issues that matter most,” he said in a written statement. “Our campaign is moving full steam ahead and we expect to win this challenge.”
If the suit succeeds, it would leave Apodaca in a two-person race with U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham for the Democratic nomination.
The lawsuits says more than one-fourth of the signatures Cervantes turned in aren’t valid – either because they’re duplicates, from people who aren’t registered to vote as Democrats or otherwise fall short of the required standards.
Apodaca is asking a state district judge to hold a hearing quickly and order Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver to keep Cervantes’ name off the June 5 primary ballot.
“Since we started this campaign, we’ve always been about following the law,” Apodaca campaign manager Chris Khoury said in a statement released by the campaign.
Apodaca is a former television executive from Albuquerque.
Lujan Grisham, a U.S. representative and former Bernalillo County commissioner from Albuquerque, has raised the most money in the race, according to campaign reports filed in October.
Apodaca’s lawsuit was filed by Albuquerque attorney Catherine Baker Stetson late Friday, the deadline to challenge signatures.
Lujan Grisham and Apodaca secured spots on the ballot by winning support from enough delegates at the state Democratic Party pre-primary convention last month. Cervantes didn’t reach the 20 percent threshold to make the ballot, meaning he had to submit additional petition signatures to make it.
Whoever wins the Democratic nomination will take on U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, a Hobbs Republican, in the fall general election. The Libertarian Party has a write-in candidate.