Candidate’s criminal record may spark controversy over legal issues

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Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – A Republican legislative applicant from Albuquerque could be blocked from taking place of work – if he’s elected in November – thanks to past felony burglary and larceny convictions.

But the concern could conclude up enjoying out in court docket as a current federal ruling located the New Mexico legislation that, in most instances, bars men and women with felony convictions from holding elected business office might violate the state Structure.

Solomon Pena, who is the GOP nominee for the Dwelling District 14 seat in the South Valley, served nearly 7 many years in jail just after being convicted in 2008 of stealing huge amounts of goods from various massive box retail retailers in a reported “smash and grab” scheme.

He declined to respond to Journal thoughts about his criminal file this 7 days, saying he was way too active knocking on district residents’ doorways to talk.

“I stand with Donald J. Trump,” Pena claimed in a subsequent textual content message. “I really do not want something to do with you.”

Rep. Miguel P. Garcia, D-Albuquerque, a longtime legislator who is the incumbent in Household District 14, stated some aged citizens have expressed problem to him about Pena’s marketing campaign style, which include frequently urging voters to adjust their celebration affiliation from Democrat to Republican.

Garcia also claimed he’s employed one more legislator, Sen. Jacob Candelaria, an Albuquerque independent and legal professional, to represent him in a courtroom challenge aimed at getting Pena disqualified from the Nov. 8 typical election ballot.

In a Friday job interview, Candelaria claimed that, although state legislation is not very clear on no matter if convicted felons can run for office environment, he believes Pena fully commited perjury by submitting a declaration of candidacy stating he was qualified to maintain the legislative seat.

“We’re going to bring a circumstance and permit the courtroom figure it out,” Candelaria reported. “He proceeds to believe the legislation does not utilize to him.”

Candelaria also mentioned he supports former convicts staying fully reintegrated into modern society, but claimed there is a obvious legal approach for this kind of people today to run for elected business that Pena does not surface to have adopted.

Nonetheless, a Home GOP spokesman accused Candelaria, a previous Democrat who altered his bash affiliation to unbiased previous yr, of hypocrisy for striving to derail Pena’s candidacy.

“As somebody who was lifted in the South Valley, I am disappointed to see so-identified as civil legal rights activists try to use the example of this young Hispanic male, who turned his existence all-around, for their political movida,” stated Matt Garcia-Sierra, communications director for the Dwelling GOP leadership.

No pardon, no position

Less than New Mexico law, men and women with felony convictions are not eligible to hold elected office environment except they have finished all the phrases of their sentence and have received a pardon from the governor, said Alex Curtas, a spokesman for the Secretary of State’s Office environment.

“A particular person with a felony conviction can qualify to run for place of work and be put on the ballot, but they would not be ready to keep that place of work, if elected, except if they gained a pardon from the governor,” Curtas included.

Nora Meyers Sackett, a spokeswoman for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, said this 7 days Pena had not utilized for, nor been given, a pardon considering the fact that the Democratic governor took business office in 2019.

Irrespective of that, Pena’s candidacy could be bolstered by the U.S. District Court docket ruling in January that found the prohibition on convicted felons holding business at the time they’ve accomplished the phrases of their sentence would likely be rejected by the point out Supreme Court.

That ruling, which associated a different plaintiff, pointed out the Constitution will allow all legal people who are qualified electors to hold community office environment, if not or else constrained by the Structure.

But the New Mexico Supreme Courtroom has not ruled right on the situation because a 2010 constitutional modification transformed the definition of qualified voter and it is unclear if the state’s greatest court docket would concur with the federal court’s interpretation.

Legislators search for clarity

Pena, 39, was incarcerated from Might 2009 right until March 2016 at different prisons in New Mexico, a state Corrections Office spokeswoman mentioned Friday. He accomplished his 5 decades of probation in March 2021 and subsequently experienced his voting rights restored, according to court docket information.

Several photographs of Pena at Trump marketing campaign rallies seem on his marketing campaign web-site, together with a checklist of political stances that incorporate “support for our local police” and claims that the 2020 election was rigged.

The internet site does not point out Pena’s legal file he was convicted by a jury of felony larceny and theft for thieving from at minimum four diverse Albuquerque suppliers. He was reportedly section of a theft crew that made use of stolen automobiles to smash into shops and acquire higher-conclude electronics.

All 70 New Mexico condition House seats are up for election this yr, with Republicans hoping to decide on up a number of seats in the chamber.

At present, Democrats outnumber Republicans in the Home by a 44-25 margin – there is also a single unbiased member – but Republicans have recruited candidates to run in 50 districts all-around the condition.

Meanwhile, Candelaria also explained he plans to refer the scenario to Legal professional Typical Hector Balderas’ business for possible assessment.

He also explained legislators may well, in the long term, will need to make it clear that people with felony convictions who have not gained a pardon cannot legally operate for an elected business office they can’t occupy.

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