Byline: STEVE TERRELL
STATE SENATE RACE, DISTRICT 25
Petition: Seat currently held by John Grubesic
A court, not voters, could decide who will be the next state senator in District 25 in Santa Fe.
Former state Rep. Max Coll on Thursday filed a lawsuit attempting to remove the name of Letitia Montoya from the ballot in the Democratic primary for the open Senate seat, saying most of the signatures on Montoya's nominating petitions are not valid.
Montoya faces state Rep. Peter Wirth in the June 3 primary. If she's removed from the ballot -- barring any unexpected third-party or independent challenger -- Wirth virtually would be guaranteed a free ride to the Senate. No Republican is running in the race.
"I don't think there's a chance she'll stay on the ballot," said Coll, a longtime Wirth supporter who held the state House seat that Wirth now represents.
Montoya said Thursday that she and her immediate family personally collected the signatures, and she believes them to be valid. "He just wants a freebie; he doesn't want to have an opponent," Montoya said of Wirth.
Wirth couldn't be reached for comment Thursday.
Coll filed the suit in state District Court along with Loran Calles, who is listed as Wirth's treasurer on his campaign site.
While Wirth isn't mentioned in the suit, his wife, Carol Romero-Wirth, did much of the research for the challenge, comparing signatures on Montoya's petitions with names, addresses and party affiliations listed in District 25 voter rolls.
"If he wanted to challenge me, he should have done it himself and not have others do it," Montoya said.
Asked whether it would be better to let voters decide on whether Montoya or Wirth should go to the Senate, Coll said not challenging petitions full of invalid signatures would encourage others to get on the ballot without valid signatures. "Rules are rules," he said.
To get on the Democratic primary ballot, candidates in District 25 are required to submit at least 152 signatures of registered Democrats in the district.
Montoya submitted 273. But the lawsuit claims that 187 of those signatures are from people who don't live in the district and/or the addresses listed on Montoya's petitions. In addition, according to the suit, another 10 signatures are from people who aren't registered Democrats.
If these numbers are true, that would leave Montoya with only 76 signatures.
Montoya is the former chief financial officer of the Assure Financial Group. She said she's in the process of getting certified as teacher. She's become a perennial candidate in the Democratic primary. She's run for the state Senate twice before and secretary of state twice.
Wirth, a lawyer, has represented House District 47 since 2004, the year Coll retired.
Senate District 25 currently is represented by Sen. John Grubesic, a Democrat who isn't seeking re-election.