Erica Landry Offered to Drop Out of Race Against Rep. Stapleton Williams
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The GOP candidate to replace Sheryl Stapleton Williams as the State Representative for House District 19 offered to withdraw from the race when she realized that over half the names on her nominating petition were collected from voters who had been recently gerrymandered out of the district.
“I self-reported,” Erica Landry told New Mexico Watchdog. “I wrote the Secretary of State and the Bernalillo County Clerk offering to resign” from the eleciton.
A New Mexico Watchdog analysis of Landry’s nominating petition found that two-thirds of the 28 signatures were from voters in Precinct 278, which lies outside House District 19. That precinct was moved into House District 10 as a result of the redistricting based on the 2010 census. That redistricting was finalized this year following costly litigation.
Landry said the list of qualified voters she was provided to collect nominating signatures had not caught up with the redistricting.
Landry is critical of the gerrymander. “It makes no sense for the people in that precinct,” she said. Precinct 278 was put into House District 10, she alleges, at the request of the incumbent Democrat to take Republican votes out of House District 19. She also points out that Kirtland Air Force Base separates Precinct 278 from the rest of District 10′s population centers, whereas the precinct is a logical part of the House District 19 neighborhoods along Gibson Boulevard SE.
You can see the boundaries of House District 19 and Precinct 278 at this link.
Landry says she personally collected the nominating signatures and her name was placed on the primary ballot before she realized the error. When early primary voters in Precinct 278 notified Landry that her name was not on their ballots, she investigated and discovered what had happened.
On June 5, the day of the primary election, she wrote the Secretary of State asking for guidance. She sent a copy of her letter to the Bernalillo County Clerk.
[I]t is my duty to inform you that the majority of the signatures collected on the submitted petitions to qualify as a New Mexico State Representative were collected from precinct #278. While I understand that the petitions were vetted during the verification period, I am the person responsible for collecting signatures from precinct #278. Ignorance about the law is not an excuse, but I must also report that I was unaware that this precinct is no longer in District 19.
Finally, I do not believe that it is appropriate for me to continue my quest for State House of Representatives. District 19 has been my home for 20 years, and while I am disappointed with the current legislator and state educator, who has skirted New Mexico law by holding office while accepting per diem and salary plus overtime, I cannot pursue this effort knowing that I have violated the rules for collecting signatures.
Please advise what the process is to withdraw from the candidacy process.
The next day, after winning the GOP primary (Landry was unopposed) she received a Certificate of Nomination accompanied by a letter from Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver stating: “In accordance with the Election Laws of the State of New Mexico, the county canvassing board shall issue to those candidates entitled by law, a certificate of nomination.”
According to a June 5 e-mail from Bobbi Shearer, the Secretary of States’ Director of the Bureau of Elections, it was too late from Landry to withdraw from the primary election. Shearer notified Landry that if she wanted to withdraw she would have to do so no later than 63 days before the General Election.
Bernalillo County Clerk Oliver acknowledged knowing of the problems with Landry’s nominating petition. She says she does not have the power to initiate a challenge to the petition signatures. Such a challenge could have been filed by Landry’s Democratic opponent. Oliver recalled the discussing the matter with Rep. Williams about the problems with Landry’s nominating petition. Oliver said Williams “was interested in the process” for challenging Landry’s signatures, but never followed through by initiating the challenge.
Rep. Williams did not respond to an e-mail inquiry requesting comment.
Landry insists, “I did not keep this a secret from anyone.”
Landry also sought guidance from the Steve Cush, Executive Director of the Bernalillo County GOP. She says he urged her not to withdraw because her error “had been in good faith” and other candidates this year had also been caught unawares of changes in their district boundaries.
Landry did not withdraw from the race. and has been actively working door-to-door in the district.
Hess Yntema, who is running as an independent for the House District 19 seat, said he became aware of the issue only recently. “I have no problem with Erica Landry being in the race,” he said. “I welcome her. As a general rule, the ballot should be more easily accessible.”
He complains that he had to gather about ten times more signatures on his nominating petition than Landry because state law requires independents to collect signatures equal in number to three percent of all the votes cast in the most recent gubernatorial election cast in the district, whereas Democratic and Republican candidates need only collect signatures equal in number to three percent of their own party’s voters who participated in the most recent gubernatorial election. Landry had to collect about two dozen GOP signatures. Yntema needed more than two hundred. Yntema says that regardless of the outcome of this election he will work to make the nominating process more equitable for minor party and independent candidates.
For more on the race in House District 19 and the competing candidates, please see this report by Rob Nikolewski of Capitol Report/New Mexico Watchdog.