A Las Cruces City Council candidate wants Gov. Susana Martinez to erase his felony conviction so he’s eligible to take office if he wins — but he doesn’t meet Martinez’s requirements to be considered for a pardon.
In the District 4 City Council race, voters can cast their ballots for Gilbert Vasquez instead of Jack Eakman or Richard Hall. But without a pardon, Vasquez won’t be allowed to take office next month even if he wins the race on Tuesday.
That’s because people convicted of felonies can’t hold office in New Mexico without a gubernatorial pardon.
Martinez makes clear the conditions under which she will consider a pardon on her office’s website. Those convicted of a third-degree felony must have been arrest-free for 15 years after completing probation and/or parole.
“There will not be any exceptions made to the governor’s guidelines,” the website states.
Vasquez, 58, was arrested in 1984 on a charge of aggravated battery with a firearm, a third-degree felony, and later convicted. He’s seeking pardon for that conviction and a second for possession of stolen property stemming from a 1983 arrest. It’s not clear if the second is a misdemeanor or felony conviction.
Vasquez hasn’t met the governor’s arrest-free requirement.
Las Cruces Police Department officers arrested Vasquez 10 times between 1991 and 2008, according to a police record Vasquez provided the governor along with his pardon application. Charges that led to those arrests ranged from contempt of court to negligent child abuse.
Vasquez was most recently booked into the Doña Ana County Detention Center three times in 2008 and 2009, county records indicate. Those arrests relate to the negligent child abuse charge — a third-degree felony — and a separate misdemeanor charge of possession of drug paraphernalia.
Seeking an exception
Vasquez is aware he doesn’t meet the governor’s arrest-free criteria, he told NMPolitics.net. He’s hoping the governor will make an exception to a policy that states there will be no exceptions.
Vasquez says he has been clean and sober for seven years. He called that “a miracle.” He has a steady job at a hardware store, is married, and is raising his son.
Martinez wasn’t sympathetic when another candidate with a felony conviction won election to the Middle Rio Grande Conservation District board earlier this year.
Matthew Aragon of Los Lunas was convicted in 1997 of shooting at a moving vehicle. The Albuquerque Journal, citing a police report, wrote that Aragon “fired a rifle at a car occupied by men who were taking a beer keg from his property.”
Martinez denied Aragon’s pardon application. The runner-up in the election took office. In that case, Martinez’s office said she “doesn’t appreciate being asked to provide special consideration for a political purpose.” All pardon applicants must go through a process that includes “an extensive review of an applicant’s criminal history and other factors,” Martinez’s office said.
‘A lot of leeway’
Vasquez’s review process isn’t off to a positive start. His pardon application was missing required details about his criminal history, so the Governor’s Office sent it back and asked for more information.
As for the arrests, governors have sole discretion in pardon decisions. Martinez is allowed to make an exception to her own policy for Vasquez, even if her website states she won’t.
Vasquez pointed to Attorney General Hector Balderas’ recent plea bargain with former Secretary of State Dianna Duran, who stole money from her campaign to keep her personal bank account in the black. That deal, which still needs final approval from a judge, would let Duran avoid jail time.
“I do know the governor and attorney general have a lot of leeway,” Vasquez said.