- Associated Press - Thursday, August 13, 2015

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Albuquerque can bar its firefighters and other employees from running for elected office.

In a 49-page ruling, the state’s high court reversed a lower court’s ruling in the case of fire Capt. Emily Kane.

Kane, a Democrat, was elected to the Albuquerque-area House District 15 seat in 2012. She served for two years in the state House before losing her re-election bid last year.

The city had sought to discipline Kane before she won a lower-court ruling that said the prohibition was unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court ruled that Albuquerque’s prohibition served a “legitimate government purpose” - avoiding conflicts of interest and limiting the perception of partisan influence.

City attorneys argued that a 1989 amendment to the City Charter prohibited employees from holding an elected state office. A similar prohibition also was written into a city ordinance.

“Since 1975, we have held that provisions precluding government employees from seeking elective office are constitutionally permissible personnel rules regulating conflicts of interest,” Justice Edward L. Chavez wrote in Thursday’s opinion. “These personnel rules act as conditions of employment, and therefore do not constitute added qualifications for elective public office.”

Kane and her attorney, Michael Cadigan, argued that city government shouldn’t tell the public who could run for office. “We are disappointed but respect the court’s decision,” Cadigan told The Albuquerque Journal.

A firefighter for more than 20 years, Kane traded shifts with other firefighters or took a leave of absence to attend legislative sessions.

While there are other public employees - including teachers and a school superintendent - who serve in the Legislature, none of them work for the city of Albuquerque.

Kane initially sued when officials said there would be disciplinary action if she ran for the Legislature.

Her legal team argued that two other Albuquerque firefighters were previously able to hold elective positions. City lawyers said those cases were somehow unnoticed by administrators.

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