Jerome Block Jr., a candidate for the state Public Regulation Commission, maintains that local band Wyld Country performed at his rally in May.
Not so, says a band member.
According to a campaign finance report, the Block campaign paid the local band $2,500. Campaign officials have since said they hired the group to entertain at a rally on May 3 at a nearby ranch.
Joe “JoJo” Aragon, a band member, said Monday that his band didn’t perform and never received the money.
He suggested that fellow band member Paul Maez, the San Miguel County clerk, may have made a verbal arrangement with Block, but Maez never told other band members about it.
Aragon said he takes care of bookings and that he would know if the band performed for Block.
“There was no performance,” he said.
According to Block’s campaign finance report, Maez, the county’s chief election official, took $300 for “campaign coordination.” Maez hasn’t answered repeated phone calls from the Optic, the Santa Fe Reporter and the Albuquerque Journal about his relationship with Block.
Common Cause of New Mexico, a watchdog group, has criticized the Maez-Block relationship as a “serious conflict of interest.” And Santa Fe County Clerk Valerie Espinoza has said she wouldn’t accept money from a candidate running for election.
Block beat five others in the Democratic primary in June, and he is facing Green candidate Rick Lass, whom he refuses to debate. There is no Republican candidate for northern New Mexico’s representative on the PRC, which regulates utilities and insurance.
The Block campaign has maintained that it held a rally at the ranch of Amadeo Tenorio on May 3. But it hasn’t been able to find anyone who will come forth to say the event happened.
Tenorio himself said he was gone that weekend and that he doesn’t know if the band performed or who attended. But he said that when he returned, trash cans were full, which he said indicated something occurred.
Asked who helped the Block campaign gain access to the ranch, Tenorio said, “It’s an open gate. They know where it’s at. That’s all I know.”
In response to Aragon’s statements, campaign manager Jonathan Valdez wrote in an e-mail, “For the last time, yes we did have a rally, and yes the band did perform. We will contact Paul to find out who Mr. Aragon is and why he would give you that information.”
In a later e-mail, Valdez said, “I am not saying that Mr. Aragon is lying. I understand Wyld Country is reorganizing, and it is quite possible the band played without him.”
Aragon is still listed on the band’s MySpace site, and the group has scheduled appearances through December.
Last week, Valdez stated in an e-mail that people are often sensitive during primary elections about expressing their support for any particular candidate, “therefore we cannot mention any names” of those who attended the rally.
In Monday’s e-mail, Valdez stated that his campaign tried to get people who attended to contact the Optic, “but nobody wanted to talk to you. Now I can understand why!”
In an e-mail last week, Valdez wrote that the campaign had planned to have Wyld Country perform again, but changed its mind because of recent negative publicity surrounding the Maez-Block relationship.
PRC campaigns are publicly funded so as the keep out the influence of regulated industries.
Block has had a difficult summer. A couple of months ago, the Santa Fe Reporter found that Block misrepresented his arrest record in a questionnaire from the Albuquerque Journal.
He stated that he was arrested for drunken driving but was found not guilty. Actually, the case was dismissed after prosecutors didn’t meet a six-month deadline.
Block also didn’t list his charges of disorderly conduct and unlawful riding with a drunken driver in other incidents.
Block’s father and grandfather served on the PRC’s predecessor, the State Corporation Commission.