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Politics Notebook: Judge to hear ex-legislator’s appeal over Senate race

SANTA FE – A judge in Santa Fe is scheduled to hear an appeal next week from former state Rep. Sandra Jeff, a Crownpoint Democrat who says Secretary of State Brad Winter wrongly disqualified her from running for a Senate seat this year.

Rep. Sandra Jeff, D-Crownpoint

JEFF: Seeks to challenge Sen. Benny Shendo

Jeff, who broke ranks with Democratic leaders on some major issues during her colorful six-year tenure, has had a two-year hiatus from the Legislature. She was kicked off the 2014 ballot for not having enough valid voters’ signatures when she tried to run for re-election to her House seat.

This year, she wants to challenge Sen. Benny Shendo, D-Jemez Pueblo, in Senate District 22.

But Winter’s office ruled that Jeff hadn’t resolved the matter of penalties she owed for a late filing of a campaign finance report last year.

Her appeal, filed in state District Court – with Republican House member Zach Cook as her lawyer – claims she has gotten a raw deal from the secretary of state.

Jeff says that, after she was notified last year that she owed a penalty, she asked for arbitration, but none was scheduled. In January, Jeff says, Winter’s office proposed a settlement under which she would pay $1,000, close out her campaign account and agree to go to training on the Campaign Finance Reporting Act if she ever were to run again.

Jeff called the proposed agreement “oppressive” and outside the secretary of state’s authority, and says her due process rights were violated. She also claims she tried to pay the fine when she filed for the Senate seat, but her payment was rejected.

Jeff, who is Navajo, says Winter has acted illegally “to prevent a Native American from being a candidate” in the June 7 primary.

State District Judge Sarah Singleton has scheduled a hearing for Tuesday.

SETTLED: The dust appears to have settled in Albuquerque’s Senate District 13, where Democratic Sen. Bill O’Neill no longer has a primary challenger, but will face Republican Blair Dunn in the general election.

Democrat Laura E. Lucero Y Ruiz Gutierrez – who a lawsuit contended should have filed under her previous name, Laura Bruening – withdrew from the race before the matter went to court.

Dunn, who’s the son of Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn, was the target of a challenge to the signatures on his nominating petitions, but that challenge was dropped after it became clear he had a sufficient number.

CHALLENGE FAILS: In Gallup, former Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly survived a challenge to his nominating petitions filed by the wife of one of the other three Democratic candidates in House District 69.

A state district judge ruled this week that Shelly hadn’t been properly served, as required by law, and dismissed the lawsuit. The seat is held by Rep. Ken Martinez, D-Grants, who isn’t running again.

Deborah Baker: dbaker@abqjournal.com.

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