The losing candidate in one Valencia County Commission race is questioning whether his opponent actually lives in the district he’s supposed to represent.
LeRoy Baca, a Democrat, lost the Valencia County Commission District 4 seat to Republican Joseph Bizzell last month.
In a Nov. 16 Facebook post, Baca accused Bizzell of not living in District 4. He wrote he’d been told his opponent didn’t live in the district but initially didn’t take it seriously.
“I didn’t think anyone would go that low and lie to the people of Valencia County,” Baca wrote. “I didn’t pay much attention until finally the third call convinced me to look into it.”
Baca alleges that Bizzell actually lives on Sichler Road, in a home on the southern most end of commission District 1, while being registered to vote at an address on Jeannie Drive in District 4.
“After looking at (county property records), (Bizzell) owns the property on Sichler and his father owns the other two properties on Jeannie,” Baca wrote.
Bizzell said while he owns the house on Sichler, he spends most of his time at the Jeannie address, which is owned by his parents, Bennie and Gloria Bizzell. He told the News-Bulletin he owns the mobile home on one of the pieces of property, which is where his lives.
“My residence is on Jeannie. I spend three-quarters of my time there,” Bizzell said.
He said his wife and daughter travel frequently for their daughter’s competitive cheerleading and pageant
shows, and they stay at other properties they own around the state.
“My wife and daughter travel frequently and stay in Anthony. My mother is very sick, so I spend most of my time at Jeannie,” he said. “We didn’t have a lot growing up and now I own my own business and have become successful, it’s my turn to take care of (my parents).”
Bizzell said he does spend time at the house on Sichler when his family is in town.
Because of his unusual living situation, Bizzell said he contacted the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office before filing to become a county commission candidate.
“They asked me where my voter registration was, which is at 1719 Jeannie, and if I spent more than 51 percent of my time there, which I do,” he said. “They said I was good.”
Baca said he’s made complaints about Bizzell’s residency to the state attorney general’s office, as well as the district attorney and state’s bureau of elections.
“He ran for the (Public Regulations Commission) in 2018 at the Sichler address, then used the Jeannie address to run for commission,” Baca said.
According to public voter registration documents for Bizzell provided to the News-Bulletin by Baca, Bizzell was registered to vote at the Sichler Road address in October 2016, then changed to the Jeannie Drive residence in May 2019.
“The law says you have to reside where you want to run,” Baca said. “If someone relinquishes a position the governor appoints. This case is different. I ran against my opponent.”
Baca said he has not received a response to his complaints.
Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.