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New Mexico: State Changes Law on Primary Ballot Access

The Legislature this week passed a bill that will once again allow aspiring candidates for state and federal office to petition onto the primary ballot. With Gov. Bill Richardson (D) promising to sign it, the bill will repeal a law enacted last year that forced all candidates who wanted to run in their party’s primaries to earn the support of at least 20 percent of delegates at a pre-primary nominating convention.

“To me, there was a potential problem,” said state Rep. Al Park (D), the House sponsor of the measure. “But really it was a bigger principle: It was about providing everyone the opportunity to run for public office.”

Several candidates are running for the state’s three open House seats this cycle.

Particularly in the 3rd district, there was the potential that so many Democrats would run for the Democratic-leaning seat that they would have chopped up the support of delegates participating in the March 15-16 pre- primary nominating convention, with none of them garnering the 20 percent support they need to earn a spot on the June 3 primary ballot.

If that had happened, the Democrats would have been left without a candidate on the primary ballot and therefore would not have been able to field a candidate in the general election.

When the bill is signed into law, any candidate who obtains the necessary delegate support at the pre-primary Democratic and Republican nominating conventions will not have to submit any petitions. But any candidate who fails to garner the required support of delegates at the conventions will have 10 days to petition onto the ballot.
— David M. Drucker

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