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SANTA FE (AP) — Kenneth A. Gomez of Bloomfield, a write-in candidate for governor, will be allowed in New Mexico’s general election even though he doesn’t have a running mate, the secretary of state’s office said Monday.
The ruling will give New Mexicans another option — possibly for protest votes — in what’s shaping up as a close race between Democrat Diane Denish and Republican Susana Martinez.
In 1990, two write-in tickets for governor received nearly 1,000 votes.
The decision by Secretary of State Mary Herrera is drawing criticism from county elections officials, who contend that state law doesn’t allow individual write-in candidates for governor in the general election — only gubernatorial tickets.
In 1998, the state Supreme Court rejected a bid by a Taos man to run individually as a Green Party write-in candidate, but the justices did not issue an opinion explaining their decision.
Deputy Secretary of State Don Francisco Trujillo said Gomez will be allowed as a write-in candidate for governor in November.
“Neither the New Mexico Constitution nor state statute prohibit the secretary of state from allowing a write-in candidate for governor without a named lieutenant governor candidate,” Trujillo said.
A space to write in a candidate is provided on New Mexico’s paper ballots only when a candidate has filed as a declared write-in with the secretary of state’s office. Only write-in votes for that person will be counted, although any name can be written in on the ballot.
Critics of Herrera’s decision point to a provision in the state constitution that says the governor and lieutenant governor “shall be elected jointly by the casting by each voter of a single vote applicable to both offices.”
Denise Lamb, who runs the elections bureau in Santa Fe County and is a former state elections director, said, “The constitution clearly states that one vote is cast for both candidates and ‘both’ means two.”
Herrera’s Republican challenger in the general election, Dianna Duran, said the decision by the secretary of state “puts all 33 county clerks in an impossible position.”
“Herrera is requiring clerks to issue write-in ballots that cannot legally be counted. Anyone who casts a write-in vote for governor will immediately be disenfranchised in the election for governor,” said Duran, a state senator from Tularosa and a former Otero County clerk.
Gomez, 63, is making his first bid for office and said he can’t afford advertising in his campaign. He is a farmer and sells health food out of his home. He once owned a music store and taught school.
Gomez said he’s registered as a Republican and believes in “all the tea party ideals.” He said he became a candidate because he doesn’t think the governor and other elected officials are legally in office because they haven’t followed requirements for posting surety bonds.