Seventh Judicial District Judge Shannon Murdock granted the motion to dismiss two petitions made by mayoral candidate, Jim Burleson, to invalidate the mayoral candidacy of Juan JC Trujillo and Socorro School Board candidacy of Carmen Marquez in two district court hearings Sept. 29.
Judge Murdock said she dismissed the petitions based on the evidence that Trujillo and Marquez are living at the residences they filed under in Socorro. She added that having two residences in New Mexico was legally okay for candidates. She agreed with the respondent’s lawyer and the general counsel for the secretary of state that the county clerk should have been included, and not meeting deadlines in the complaints was a problem.
The motion to intervene was made by Peter Auh, general counsel of the secretary of state, which proposed the secretary of state is required to be served with all matters filed in court that have to do with the election code, challenging the petition or candidacy. Murdock granted that motion in both hearings.
Mary Torres, who represented both respondents, told the court in Trujillo’s defense that the petition by Burleson had no basis. “He is wrong on the facts and wrong on the law, he is completely incorrect in his assertion in proper residency of Mr. Trujillo,” Torres said.
She told the court that Mr. Trujillo has a ranch in Luis Lopez where he cares for his animals and has his kids take the bus there so they can attend to those animals. She submitted documents into evidence that he paid the mortgage and utilities on his residence in town for the last ten years.
“Respondent Trujillo is fortunate enough to live in a multi-generation home, belonging to his great-grandfather, he proudly shares that home with mother and his children, the home is in his name,” Torres said.
Torres argued that the action should have been brought to proper filing officer, the county clerk.
Auh agreed with Torres, saying the county clerk is a necessary party of the petition. He argued that the deadlines, Sept. 12 and Sept. 23, which are set to submit questions to ballots and printers, have already passed.
“We are concerned that any last-minute changes to the ballot that may arise as result of these petitions are going to cause a not insignificant amount of logistic issues for the secretary of state,” Auh said.
Burleson said that he didn’t believe the county clerk was in the wrong, but that law assumes candidates are all telling the truth. He defended that he didn’t subpoena the clerk because she did what she was supposed to do, and she was not the one in question.
“It is the responsibility of the voter to challenge any claims that they see as unjust, untrue if there are facts that prove their case, that it is to go before the district court,” said Burleson.
He argued that the legislator already knew there would be opportunities for challenges to come up and was prepared for such events. “I think that it is more important to have accurate ballots than to have early ballots,” Burleson said.
In the hearing for the petition against Marquez, the state secretary’s motion to intervene was again granted and argument about the election code and deadline was made again.
Torres, representing Marquez, told the court that the respondent moved in with her mother-in-law, State Representative Tara Jaramillo, at her residence in Socorro during COVID to help take care of her grandfather. According to Torres, although no bills or utilities were under her name, she submitted into evidence that Marquez’s husband had to live there as a condition of his employment. She added that the family used the Water Canyon residence only for their animals and to visit.
Burleson said there were seven registered voters at the five-bedroom residence and claimed that Marquez changed her child’s address information at the school on September 11, to the Socorro address.
“There is insurmountable proof that she filed for candidacy erroneously at best and fraudulently at worst,” said Burleson.
In response to the dismissal of the petitions, Burleson said he was adamantly opposed to the decision. “I feel like there is no remedy to address voter fraud in a system where we are not even allowed to hear the case,” Burleson said.