SOS reverses courses, will issue matching funds
Updated, 7:45 p.m.
The federal judge rejected the request to stop the distribution of matching funds since they had already been distributed, so the publicly financed candidates now have the money to spend by Tuesday. The judge ordered an accelerated schedule for addressing the GOP lawsuit seeking to invalidate the matching-funds law so that the issue will be resolved soon and there will be some certainty for candidates in the general election about funding.
But a federal judge will consider this afternoon whether to rule the state’s matching-fund law unconstitutional, so the issue isn’t settled.
Secretary of State Dianna Duran is reversing courses and releasing matching funds to publicly financed candidates today.
Chief of Staff Kenneth Ortiz confirmed in an e-mail that the funds are being made available to all publicly financed candidates in PRC and Court of Appeals races today.
But the drama surrounding the funds may not be over. An out-of-state federal judge who is newly appointed to oversee the GOP lawsuit trying to invalidate the state’s matching funds law will hold an emergency hearing today at 4 p.m. in Albuquerque.
Duran’s reversal came after a state judge on Thursday ordered her to issue the matching funds state law says Democratic PRC District 1 candidate Cynthia B. Hall is due – $61,066. The judge didn’t order Duran to release funds to other candidates, but Ortiz said the secretary of state will do that anyway.
The matching funds are an issue because, as NMPolitics.net reported Thursday, a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling struck down a similar matching-funds law in Arizona in 2011. Duran’s decision to withhold the funds came early this week and followed two federal court hearings in the case brought by the Bernalillo County GOP and others challenging the constitutionality of New Mexico’s matching funds provision.
The federal judge denied a request from the plaintiffs – and Hall opponent Al Park, a privately financed candidate who filed a motion to intervene last week – to issue a temporary restraining order requiring Duran to withhold the funds.
Despite the denial of the request from the plaintiffs, Duran initially decided to withhold the funds anyway, saying the attorney general advised that the New Mexico law was probably unconstitutional but Duran should issue the matching funds anyway unless a court ordered otherwise.
Before reversing courses, Duran rejected that advice, saying she is “faced with two conflicting legal directives” – a state law requiring the disbursement of funds and a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that says such disbursements would violate the constitutional rights of non-publicly financed candidates and their donors.
In the meantime, the federal judge who rejected the GOP request to stop issuance of the matching funds recused herself from the case, leading to the newly appointed judge’s hearing this afternoon.
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