| 26 February 2024, Monday |

New Mexico prepares for June presidential primary amid challenge to Trump candidacy

New Mexico’s major political parties are scheduled to certify presidential contenders to appear on the state’s June 4 primary ballot, amid uncertainty about whether Donald Trump can be barred from contention by any state under anti-insurrection provisions of the U.S. Constitution.
Party-certified presidential candidates will be vetted in February by the New Mexico secretary of state’s office to ensure they meet administrative requirements to run for the office. New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, a Democrat, said she won’t exclude candidates that meet administrative requirements — unless a court with jurisdiction intervenes.

The Colorado Supreme Court on Tuesday barred Trump from the state’s ballot under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which prohibits anyone from holding office who swore an oath to support the Constitution and then “engaged in insurrection” against it. It’s the first time in history the provision has been used to prohibit someone from running for the presidency, and the U.S. Supreme Court is likely to have the final say over whether the ruling will stand.

Little-known presidential candidate John Anthony Castro has challenged Trump’s eligibility to appear on the ballot in New Mexico and Arizona in federal court based on anti-insurrection provisions of the 14th Amendment. The Arizona lawsuit was dismissed earlier this month and a ruling is pending in New Mexico. Trump lost the New Mexico vote in 2016 and again in 2020 by a wider margin.

A county commissioner in southern New Mexico last year was removed and banished from public office by a state district court judge for engaging in insurrection at the Jan. 6, 2021, riots that disrupted Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s presidential victory.

Former Otero County commissioner Couy Griffin has appealed that ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court after the New Mexico Supreme Court declined to hear the case based on missed filing deadlines. It’s unclear whether the U.S. Supreme Court will take up Griffin’s case once it’s fully briefed next year.

The constitutional provision used to bar Griffin — and now Trump in Colorado — has only been used a handful of times. It originally was created to prevent former Confederates from returning to government positions.

“These are constitutional issues and it is not the secretary of state’s role to make this kind of a legal finding in New Mexico,” said Alex Curtas, a spokesperson to Secretary of State Toulouse Oliver. “As long as a candidate meets all the administrative requirements to be placed on the ballot in 2024, they would not be excluded from the ballot unless a court with jurisdiction made a legal finding and ordered that person to be excluded.”