By Todd G. Dickson
Las Cruces Bulletin
The City Council election just got more interesting with the return of two challengers in two races that had only incumbents previously certified.
On Tuesday, Oct. 8, State District Judge James T. Martin granted a writ of mandamus to Bev Courtney and David Roewe to be put on the ballot. Courtney is running for District 3, currently held by Olga Pedroza, and Roewe is running for District 5, currently held by Gill Sorg.
Courtney and Roewe were not certified by City Clerk Esther Martinez-Carrillo because she ruled that they didn’t have enough valid signatures in their petitions, leaving only the two incumbents seeking re-election.Comparing signatures to voter registrations for those district, Martinez-Carrillo ruled the two challengers did not have 25 valid signatures.
Courtney had turned in 40 signatures and Roewe had turned in 32, but at least 25 names have to exactly match the voting rolls, which Martinez-Carrillo had contended wasn’t done. Courtney and Roewe contested the ruling in District Court. According to the lawsuit, only two of Roewe’s signatures didn’t match the legal name and most of Courtney’s disqualified signatures were tossed out because the residents’ addresses didn’t match county voter records, even though they were still within her district.
Arriving to the Greater Las Cruces League of Women Voters candidate forum (see related story on page A27) just after the ruling, Roewe said the judge agreed that the city lacked an adequate appeals process for candidates not being certified to challenge the decision. Roewe and Courtney weren’t able to join in the forum, but the two said they were ready to start campaigning.
“Now, the real work begins,” Roewe said.
Based on the judge’s guidance, Martinez-Carrillo said Wednesday, Oct. 9, the two incumbents will get the first two ballot positions because they were already certified. With absentee balloting starting that day, Martinez-Carrillo said stickers with the challengers’ names would be added to those ballots and hand-counted on election day. Martinez-Carrillo said she contacted the company printing the ballots for machine voting to have the names added in time for early voting startingWednesday, Oct. 16.
The ballots also include candidates for Municipal Judge II, a position that has appointed Judge Keiran Ryan challenged by attorney Ben Longwill and City Council District 6 Candidates Ceil Levatino, Mark Cobb and Curtis Rosemond. District 6 incumbent Mayor Pro Tem Sharon Thomas is not seeking re-election.
Courtney, who is active in the tea party and an advocate of gun rights, had accused the city of making the election rules rigid in order to thwart “intruders” from seeking office.
Martin said he made the ruling because “time is so compressed it does not provide remedy at law,” which means their inclusion could still be open to legal challenge.
All are seeking four-year terms with councillorsmaking $29,556.80 a year and the judgeposition paying $95,444.51 a year.
The Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 5.
Challengers for City Council positions districts 3 and 5, Bev Courtney and David Roewe, arrive at the Greater Las Cruces League of Women Voters candidate forum Tuesday, Oct. 8, held in Las Cruces City Council Chambers. They had just won a court challenge that will result in putting their names on the ballot in the Nov. 5 election.
Las Cruces Bulletin photo by Todd Dickson