SANTA FE – In the last six years, including in early 2017, House District 46 Democratic candidate Andrea Romero’s political party affiliation was changed twice from Democrat to no party or independent. The last time, her campaign manager says, was an error.
The issue of Romero’s party affiliation was brought up by her Democratic primary opponent, incumbent Carl Trujillo, in a Tuesday candidate forum.
He accused her of registering as a Democrat only in December to “just to get into this race” while he’s been a Democrat since age 13. She responded that her political affiliation “somehow” became listed as “decline to state” on voter registration records last year, and that she had corrected the error.
Her registration record at the Santa Fe County Clerk’s Office indicates that on March 14, 2017, Romero’s affiliation changed from Democrat — which it had been since 2014 — to “No Party/Ind.”
Romero’s campaign manager Neri Holguin said Wednesday that the switch was a mistake made while Romero was renewing her driver’s license at a state Motor Vehicle Division office.
Holguin and Romero noticed the mistake in October, said Holguin, and Romero re-registered as a Democrat in December.
A photo of Romero’s current driver’s license confirms it was issued the same day her voter registration was amended to independent. Residents renewing or changing their license are given the option to update or change their voter registration information.
Holguin initially referred to the situation as a possible “glitch” in MVD’s system, but later stated in an email, “Andrea must have hit the DTS (Decline to State) button by mistake without realizing it, because she doesn’t recall doing it and she had every intention in remaining a Democrat.”
Because Romero’s address didn’t change when she renewed her driver’s license, updating her voter registration wasn’t required. In the email, Holguin said the Secretary of State’s Office has since changed the MVD voter regisration system so it now “only prompts you to change your party if you are a new registrant, not a current registrant.”
“She wouldn’t have known that it had changed until she went to go vote, but that never happened,” said Holguin, since there have been no party primaries over the past year. Romero voted in the 2014 and 2016 Democratic primaries, Holguin said.
A candidate running in the 2018 primary elections had to be established with the appropriate political party by Jan. 29. Romero’s affiliation was changed back to Democrat on Dec. 11.
Though Romero said in Tuesday’s forum that she’s been registered as a Democrat “since I’ve registered,” Romero actually registered as an independent 2012, then changed back to Democrat in 2014, the same year she worked for the unsuccessful Democratic gubernatorial campaign of Alan Webber, now Santa Fe’s mayor. She also worked on Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign in 2008.
Romero said in an emailed statement that she has been a “lifelong believer in Democratic values.”
“After completing college in California and working in Mozambique and in DC, I re-registered as an Independent when I returned to New Mexico in September 2012,” the statement reads. She said she “first wanted to reorient myself to New Mexico politics, having been away for so long. ”
Secretary of State’s Office spokesperson Joey Keefe said that on Wednesday the office requested an audit log of Romero’s MVD visit in March 2017. “What seems to happen usually is that someone may accidentally make the change or not realize what they’re clicking on when they’re updating information,” he said.
He noted a case in which a magistrate judge candidate in Las Cruces, Samantha Madrid, was removed from the Democratic primary ballot earlier this year after she said her voter registration information was changed to independent while she was at MVD to replace a lost license. Madrid sued to get back on the ballot, and the state Supreme Court eventually ruled against her. Keefe said it was proven that Madrid did press the button to change her party affiliation, either accidentally or intentionally.