Doña Ana County district judge primary candidate Mick Gutierrez disqualified from ballot

Algernon D'Ammassa
Las Cruces Sun-News
The Doña Ana County District Court House is pictured in Las Cruces on Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022.

LAS CRUCES – Former prosecutor Mick I.R. Gutierrez has been knocked off the Democratic primary ballot for a seat on New Mexico's Third Judicial District Court. 

Gutierrez, who served as chief deputy district attorney in 2015 under former DA Mark D'Antonio, was one of four Democrats who submitted nominating petitions to run in the June 7 primary for district court judge. No Republicans or Libertarians sought the division 2 seat in their parties' primary elections. 

A couple of weeks later, on March 17, Gabriel Holguín — an elected City of Anthony trustee and a Democratic Party officer — contested the validity of 202 signatures Gutierrez submitted in support of his candidacy as well as the sufficiency of the entire nominating petition. 

Twelfth District Judge Ellen Jessen, hearing the matter after all current Third District judges recused themselves, agreed. In an order filed Friday, Jessen ruled that all 47 pages of nominating petitions Gutierrez filed failed to specify the office he was seeking per election code requirements. 

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Former Doña Ana County Chief Deputy District Attorney Mick I. R. Gutierrez, seen in a 2015 file photo.

The petitions Gutierrez submitted describe the office as "Third Judicial District Judge" instead of "District Court Judge Division 2." The court's Division 5 seat is also up for election. 

According to the court order, Gutierrez agreed to a declaration that the nominating petitions were invalid, while the Doña Ana County Clerk's Office agreed to disqualify him as a primary candidate.

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Gutierrez declined to comment when reached Monday night.

The order did not address Holguín's claim that over 200 signatures of the 486 submitted in Gutierrez's petitions were invalid, either because they had signed petitions for multiple candidates, they were not a registered voter living in Doña Ana County or did not include complete and legible information as required by the election code. 

Candidates for the position needed to submit 368 valid signatures, totaling at least 3 percent of the party's voters in the appropriate district or division. Holguín contended that Gutierrez did not meet that threshold, but the claim was not heard by the court since the petitions were declared invalid in their entirety.

Nominating petitions may be challenged in court by any registered voter. Holguín, an Anthony resident, was elected as a city trustee last year and also serves on the state Democratic Party's central committee and as a local ward chair.

Holguín did not directly answer how he came to research Gutierrez's signatures, or whether he also inspected petitions from other candidates. 

"District court judges play a crucial role in New Mexico," he wrote in a text message. "Most importantly, judges carry out laws that everyone follows. We need leaders on the bench that will … set an example for the people."

The Division 2 seat was vacated when Judge Marci Beyer retired at the end of December. Last month, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham appointed Las Cruces attorney Jessica Leigh Streeter to complete Beyer's term. 

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Streeter is among the remaining Democratic primary candidates for the seat, along with Robert Lara Jr. and Jeanne H. Quintero. 

Quintero, a former Doña Ana County Magistrate Judge, was initially selected by the court's nominating commission to finish Beyer's term, but Lujan Grisham requested a new slate of candidates to consider, which ultimately led to her selection of Streeter.

In Division 5, Judge Casey Fitch is unopposed in the Democratic primary for that seat. Fitch was appointed by Lujan Grisham last year to succeed Judge Lisa Schultz, who retired.

Algernon D'Ammassa can be reached at 575-541-5451, adammassa@lcsun-news.com or @AlgernonWrites on Twitter.