The New Mexico law that allows public financing for certain candidates will remain alive during the final four days of the primary election campaign.
State District Judge Barbara Vigil ruled this afternoon that the secretary of state must release $30,533 in public campaign money to one candidate.
The recipient of the cash is Cynthia Hall, (right) a Democrat seeking to represent the Albuquerque area on the Public Regulation Commission.
But in all likelihood Vigil’s ruling also will mean more public financing for a total of five other candidates for the PRC and state Court of Appeals.
Duran said she was withholding the money because the U.S. Supreme Court had found an Arizona law for public financing of candidates to be unconstitutional.
Hall’s lawyers said the laws are dissimilar, and that the New Mexico provision for public financing of candidates had never been struck down by any court.
New Mexico legislators nine years ago approved a law allowing candidates for the PRC to receive public funding, thereby eliminating contributions from attorneys or utility owners who may later appear before the regulatory agency. They expanded the law in 2007 to cover candidates for the appeals court and New Mexico Supreme Court.
But Duran said this week she would withhold money from publicly financed candidates because of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Arizona case.
Anna Martinez, an attorney for Hall, argued that Arizona’s law was broader than New Mexico’s in that it applied to all candidates, not just those seeking office as high-level judges or utility regulators.
Vigil, after deliberating less than 10 minutes, ruled that Duran had no basis to stop the funding candidates who had qualified for public money under the New Mexico statute.
Though Vigil’s ruling was specific only to Hall’s case, she said would hold emergency hearings on Friday if Duran declined to release money to the other five publicly financed candidates in the primary.
One is Victor S. Lopez, a Democrat running for the state Court of Appeals. He would receive almost $22,000 on top of $85,000 he obtained earlier this year.
His opponent, M. Monica Zamora, has raised about $107,000 privately, much of it from attorneys and law firms.
Hall, she said the money she is receiving will give her a chance to advertise her candidacy during the final four days of the primary campaign.
She is running against Al Park and Karen L. Montoya for the District 1 PRC seat. Montoya also is in line for public financing.
Park, a sitting state representative, has amassed a private campaign fund of almost $151,000.
Three candidates for the Santa Fe-area PRC seat, District 3, could receive more than $1,000 each because of Vigil’s ruling.
They are Democrats Valerie Espinoza, Brad Gallegos and Virginia Vigil. They are competing in the primary against Danny Maki, whose total fundraising is more than $45,000.