SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – The Republican Party’s candidate for New Mexico Attorney General, Jeremy Gay is facing a new legal challenge, seeking to remove his name from the November ballot. The lawsuit claims Gay’s candidacy is at odds with residency rules outlined in the New Mexico Constitution, and that New Mexico voters “run the risk of electing an unqualified candidate” to the AG’s Office.
Gay’s campaign dismissed the allegations in a statement Thursday. His campaign manager called the lawsuit, in part, “a disgusting attack on a veteran for his service,” laying blame on Gay’s opponent, Raúl Torrez.
The lawsuit was filed in Santa Fe District Court Wednesday afternoon. A registered voter in Bernalillo County, James M. Collie is listed as the petitioner.
Through an attorney, the petitioner claims Gay has “not resided in New Mexico continuously for five years preceding his election,” arguing that Gay “did not establish a continued physical presence in the state of New Mexico until his move to Gallup” in May 2019. Attorneys for Collie are in part using military records to try to make their case.
According to the New Mexico Constitution, the position of attorney general is considered an “executive officer.” Article V, section 3 of the state constitution outlines required qualifications for executive officers, including U.S. citizenship, age and a clause related to residency within New Mexico.
The constitution states “no person shall be eligible to any” executive office “unless he shall have resided continuously in New Mexico for five years next preceding his election.” In the case of this year’s election, the lawsuit claims an attorney general candidate “must have resided continuously in New Mexico from November 8, 2017 through Election Day 2022.
Military records filed with the lawsuit indicate Gay entered into JAG Corps in Quantico, Virginia on or around January 15, 2015. According to documents filed with the lawsuit, Gay was stationed in Twentynine Palms, California until May 2019.
The lawsuit also indicates that Gay was registered to vote in Florida from 2008 through 2018. Records from the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office indicate Gay registered to vote in New Mexico “on our about January 9, 2020,” according to the lawsuit.
“Nothing in Mr. Gay’s record suggests that prior to his move to Gallup, New Mexico in 2019, he had establish any semblance of a residency in New Mexico,” the lawsuit states. “Nor is there any evidence that he was part of the New Mexico community or had knowledge of issues affecting the State of New Mexico.”
In response to the lawsuit Tuesday, Gay’s campaign argued that he meets the state’s five-year residency requirement. In a statement, campaign manager Noelle Gemmer said “Jeremy and his family have called New Mexico home since 2014.”
“Jeremy and his family have called New Mexico home since 2014, and his wife was born and raised in Gallup, NM. Jeremy and his family temporarily left NM on active duty orders with the U.S Marines and returned as soon as he entered the Reserve Forces. This is a disgusting attack on a veteran for his service and a desperate attempt by the Raúl Torrez campaign to deny voters options at the ballot box. It’s nothing more than another attempt to distract from Torrez’s failed record as prosecutor where he declined to prosecute over 50% of violent felony cases and dismissed 40% of the cases that made it to court.”Noelle Gemmer, Jeremy Gay’s Campaign Manager
So far, no court date has been set in the case. It’s also unclear when an initial court date could be set.
A first time candidate, Gay is facing Democratic challenger Raúl Torrez. Torrez is currently the Bernalillo County District Attorney. Gay does not currently hold elected office.
The Democratic Party of New Mexico called attention to the lawsuit in a press release Thursday, in part calling Gay a candidate “who does not even meet the bare minimum to be the state’s top attorney.” The Republican Party of New Mexico responded to the lawsuit, calling it, in part, “a disgraceful way the progressive left is trying to disenfranchise voters.”
Raúl Torrez’s campaign provided the following statement in response to the lawsuit:
“Raúl is continuing to maintain his active campaign schedule, speaking with voters across the state about his plans for the Attorney General’s office. The Torrez Campaign will be following the case as it makes its way through the process.”Taylor Bui, Raúl Torrez’s Campaign Manager