High court won’t hear Gonzales financing case

Sheriff Manuel Gonzales (Mike Sandoval/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

The New Mexico Supreme Court has rejected Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales’ petition to intervene in his fight with the Albuquerque city clerk over whether Gonzales should get about $600,000 in taxpayer money to run his mayoral campaign.

The high court on Wednesday formally denied a petition Gonzales filed last week asking it to order either a state judge or City Clerk Ethan Watson to certify Gonzales for the public campaign financing.

Watson initially denied Gonzales the public money on July 9, citing evidence he said showed Gonzales and his campaign violated rules during the campaign financing qualifying process.

That decision has triggered a series of appeals, hearings and court filings, including the request last week for the Supreme Court to step in.

Since Watson’s initial decision, Gonzales’ campaign has admitted to submitting forged paperwork to the clerk, and the city’s Board of Ethics and Campaign Practices fined Gonzales $500 – the maximum penalty – after finding that he violated city code while attempting to qualify for the money.

Gonzales’ attorneys have argued that the sheriff still did enough to earn public financing and that Watson is not an impartial decision-maker because his term as clerk is tied to incumbent Mayor Tim Keller’s time in office.

Keller is running for reelection against Gonzales and radio host Eddy Aragon.

Despite the Supreme Court’s rejection of Gonzales’ petition, his fight continues in the court system.

Gonzales has asked 1st Judicial District Judge Bryan Biedscheid to rehear his appeal of Watson’s decision. Biedscheid had last month ruled that Watson denied Gonzales due process before making his July decision, sending the matter back to Watson to reconsider.

In response to Biedscheid’s order, Watson conducted a hearing last week, allowing Gonzales to address the evidence. Watson then decided, once again, that Gonzales would not get the money.

Gonzales filed a motion last week asking Biedscheid to rehear the case. A hearing is set for Sept. 14.

“We look forward to presenting our case to the district judge on Tuesday and are confident the judge will agree that voters should be able to decide this election after hearing from both candidates, rather than only one, and grant our public funding,” Shannan Calland, Gonzales’ campaign manager.

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