Felon wins election, may not be able to hold office

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – The law says a convicted felon cannot hold a public office, but it doesn’t say he can’t run for one.

That is what happened with one New Mexico man.

He ran and won an election for a position that he might not even be able to hold.

That man, who was just voted in on Tuesday, is asking Gov. Susanna Martinez to restore his right to hold public office.

However, if that doesn’t work, it could call for hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay for another election to replace him.

The election was for a seat on the board of the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District. Water is the focus of the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District. Board members decide how it is used, for instance, to manage irrigation systems for farmers.

Results after an election on Tuesday to place new people on that board show Matthew Aragon of Los Lunas won the Valencia County seat.

The only problem?

MRGDC said that while Aragon was qualified to run for public office, he is not qualified to hold that public office.

“Mr. Aragon is a convicted felon,” said Tom Thorpe, public information officer for MRGDC.

Aragon was convicted of shooting at a car in 1997.

He told KRQE that it happened at his Los Lunas home when he was 18 years old.

He said four men were trying to steal from the garage and he shot at the tire of their getaway car to stop them.

Aragon said the men weren’t charged with breaking and entering or trespassing, but he had to serve six months in jail.

His right to vote and own a gun have since been restored, but he is still waiting on the governor to see if she will grant him the right to hold office.

“If she signs off on that and reinstates his ability to hold public office, he is a director on our board,” Thorpe said. “He has until Monday at 1:30 p.m. to have that paperwork signed and to us.”

If not, the board could appoint someone to the position or there may be another election, something that could cost up to $350,000.

“It could be quite expensive and something that we have not budgeted for,” Thorpe said.

Aragon’s attorney told KRQE that they plan to go to the Office of the Governor this week to again ask for approval so he can be sworn in on Monday.

Meanwhile, the board will meet privately on Friday to discuss alternatives.

Aragon’s attorney said Aragon also asked former Gov. Bill Richardson to reinstate his right to hold public office.

Richardson’s administration denied that request.

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