Fernandez still in mayoral race

Case questioning candidate's residency tossed by judge


Taos town councilor and mayoral contender Darien Fernandez remains in the race.

A case questioning the legitimacy of his in-town listed residence ended when  First Judicial District Judge David Thomson denied a petition filed against Town Clerk Renee Lucero, the official with whom candidates file election forms. The petition, called a Writ of Mandamus, requires an official to "perform their duty" and "correct an abuse of discretion," by finding Fernandez did not live at the address he listed on his declaration of candidacy.

Plaintiff Michael Miro filed the petition Feb. 9 against the town, saying that Taos mayoral candidate Darien Fernandez did not reside at the Taos address – 326 Montoya Street – listed on his declaration of candidacy form. A hearing in the case was held in Eighth Judicial District Court in Taos, Wednesday (Feb. 28) with Fernandez' removal from the ballot at stake in the case. The address had been challenged by community members and family alike in Taos, who said that Fernandez did not reside at the address and had no right to list the house as his residency for the campaign.

But the judge denied the petition and Fernandez will not be decertified as a candidate in the race, according to the court order.

"Now that this distraction is over, I’m focused on winning the election this Tuesday (March 6)," Fernandez said in a campaign press release. "I’m knocking on doors, making phone calls, and working hard for every vote."

Fernandez' father, David Fernandez, owns the property along with five other family co-owners. The house has been in the Fernandez family for more than 50 years and, according to family members, the children of the six owners are allowed to use the house as they please.

Town clerks must verify that the candidate's voter registration and address match on their candidacy declaration along with several other factors. According to the court order by Thomson, Fernandez' credentials made the cut and he was able to be certified by Lucero for candidacy.

Taos Mayor Dan Barrone, who is running for a second term,  also faces a legal challenge to his residency. The case, filed by town councilor Judi Cantu, who is running for reelection, is scheduled for a hearing in district court in Las Vegas after the March 6 election. 

State law regarding residency requirements for candidates is vague, leaving it open to interpretation.