ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Democratic primary for state treasurer is down to a two-man race after a district judge on Monday disqualified former Bernalillo County Treasurer Patrick Padilla from the ballot for failing to collect enough petition signatures.
The challenge to Padilla’s nominating petition signatures was raised by treasurer candidate John Wertheim. Wertheim’s campaign claimed that Padilla was 93 valid signatures short of the 4,373 required for state Democratic candidates who failed to qualify for the ballot at the party’s pre-primary convention in March.
District Judge Shannon Bacon agreed and held that Padilla fell short of the required minimum number of petitions to have his name on the ballot. Without Padilla in the race, the Democratic nomination for treasurer now is between former state Sen. Tim Eichenberg of Albuquerque and Wertheim, of Santa Fe, a former chairman of the state Democratic Party.
“This was about keeping integrity in the election process. That was the exclusive reason I did this challenge,” Wertheim said after the District Court ruling to bump Padilla from the primary ballot.
Padilla said the court decision to disqualify him from the ballot was “unfair” because it was a matter of being fewer than 100 signatures short. In total, Padilla’s campaign had submitted 4,524 petitions with the Secretary of State’s Office.
“It’s sad,” Padilla said of being disqualified from the ballot. “I think the voters have a right to decide who they want.”
Padilla said he would consult with an attorney to determine whether to appeal the District Court ruling.
Wertheim presented to the court at least 244 invalid signatures. He said the challenged signatures disqualified by the court on Monday were just a sample of the invalid signatures his campaign had identified.
“It’s not just a technicality, especially for an office like state treasurer,” Wertheim said.
Padilla, who was not represented by an attorney during a hearing on the challenged petitions, repeatedly complained to the court Monday that he was not given sufficient notice of the hearing.
Padilla noted that the court summons provided to him on March 31 said he had 30 days to respond. However, state statute required the matter to be heard by a District Court no later than Monday because of a 10-day deadline on ballot petition challenges. Padilla said that shorter time frame prevented him from being able to hire an attorney and defend his petition signatures in time.
Wertheim’s attorney, Elizabeth Clifford, said the summons form sent to Padilla erroneously said he had 30 days to respond, but she said Padilla was on notice through other court documents provided to him that an expedited hearing would happen within 10 days of the initial court filing.
The court denied Padilla’s request for a delay. Bacon on Monday postponed the hearing by about four hours to give Padilla a final chance to hire an attorney if he chose but said the court action must go forward regardless because of the Monday deadline for a hearing.
The winner of the Democratic primary will face Republican Rick Lopez in the November general election.