- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 29, 2016

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - One decisive signature on a New Mexico campaign petition is allowing a Republican war veteran to challenge incumbent state Rep. Matthew McQueen, D-Galisteo, in fall elections.

A district judge in Santa Fe on Tuesday validated just enough petition signatures for 28-year-old Jeremy Tremko of Moriarty to run unopposed for the Republican nomination to McQueen’s district, which stretches from the outskirts of Santa Fe south across portions of Bernalillo, Torrance and Valencia counties.

Republicans control the New Mexico House by a 37-33 seat advantage. That means just three legislative races could alter the balance of power.

Tremko needed at least 35 valid signatures by Republicans living within his district to qualify for the ballot, and turned in 68 signatures in all.

McQueen, an attorney elected in 2014, said he challenged 34 of Tremko’s signatures and won in 33 instances.

He urged a district court judge to strike two petition signatures by the same person, but Judge David Thomson ruled that one of those signatures counts - allowing Tremko to run for office.

McQueen said Tuesday that he has not decided whether to appeal the matter to the New Mexico Supreme Court.

Tremko said he is running for office to protect religious freedoms and constitutional gun rights. He receives disability insurance for leg and knee injuries sustained during nine years in the Army, including a 15-month combat tour in Iraq.

McQueen, 48, said he wants a greater focus by the Legislature on improving public education and the economy. He was elected in 2014 by 54 percent of the vote.

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