The New Mexico Secretary of State’s head lawyer left her post last month to practice law in the private sector and at least one advocacy group is unsure about the lack of a replacement. Former Legal Counsel for the Secretary of State Amy Bailey’s last day was June 17. “I have only wonderful things to say about the Secretary and the office as a whole,” Bailey said. “Leaving was bittersweet, but was a life choice for me.”
A spokesman for the office said Bailey’s position will not be filled until a new Secretary is elected in November’s general election. “Secretary Winter has decided to let the next Secretary of State fill this position,” Chief of Staff Ken Ortiz said in a statement.
While former state Rep. Sandra Jeff avoided ballot disqualification after a recent scuffle with the Secretary of State, several questions remain about possible discrepancies in previous campaign reports. The biggest question is the sudden disappearance of more than $27,000 in debt from her failed 2014 campaign for reelection to the state House of Representatives. In July 2014, Jeff reported a loan contribution of $26,720.82 from Gallagher & Kennedy, a law firm with offices in Santa Fe and Phoenix. A note next to the contribution reads, “Campaign Debt for legal fees incurred.”
Jeff continued to report this debt, plus an extra $1,200 that she loaned to herself, for the next six campaign reporting periods, marking a period of nearly two years. But on March 15 of this year, Jeff amended seven old campaign reports from the 2014 election cycle.
Friday marked the final day to challenge filing documents for candidates around the state ahead of the June primaries. In all, the reasons for ten disqualifications for candidates range from simply not getting enough signatures to breaking campaign finance rules. Amy Bailey, legal counsel for the Secretary of State’s office, told NM Political Report that her office went through any evidence brought to them before each candidate was qualified. “The candidates that brought us what they purported to be evidence we checked,” Bailey said. “We didn’t go through and check all the petitions.”
Prospective candidates who found themselves disqualified still have a chance to challenge the disqualification, but they must file a challenge it in district court.
The Secretary of State disqualified former State Rep. Sandra Jeff from the ballot for the Democratic primary in Senate District 22. A spokesman for the Secretary of State’s office confirmed via email Wednesday afternoon that Jeff was disqualified from the ballot “due to noncompliance with the Campaign Reporting Act.”
Amy Bailey, the general counsel of the department, later added more information. “I need to review the file for specifics, but the noncompliance is associated with reports which were due in past filing periods and the fines associated with those past issues,” Bailey said in an email. Jeff said in a phone interview on Wednesday that she was aware and was deciding whether or not to contest the disqualification. She described herself as undecided on whether or not to continue her run for State Senate.
A measure to give New Mexico an independent ethics commission passed its second test unanimously Tuesday afternoon, but not without long debate. The bill, carried by Rep Jim Dines, R-Albuquerque, establishes a body of nine people charged with weighing ethics complaints submitted to them against state government officials, employees and government contractors. Dines, a retired lawyer who in his second year as a legislator, said he supported such a commission long before he became a lawmaker. But he added that his short experience in the Roundhouse also helped shape his bill. “What I’ve learned is, I really think we need this for ourselves,” Dines told committee.
According to a memo from her attorney regarding sentencing in a high profile case, former Secretary of State Dianna Duran does not deserve to spend any time in jail. The memo from attorney Erlinda Johnson says Duran is seeking treatment for gambling and that Duran is unlikely to commit any more crimes. The Albuquerque Journal was the first to report on the memo, as well as information from the Public Employees Retirement Association that Duran recently received her first pension check of $4,857.56. Judge Glenn Ellington will review the plea deal and ultimately decide on Duran’s punishment. He said that if there was jail time, he would allow Duran to withdraw her guilty pleas.
While it’s highly unlikely that Gov. Susana Martinez will choose Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver to be the next Secretary of State in New Mexico, a former Secretary of State is likely even more of a longshot—but she applied for the position anyway. The Albuquerque Journal reported that former Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil (known as Vigil-Giron when she was Secretary of State) applied to replace Dianna Duran. Other names included former State Reps. Sandra Jeff and Janice Arnold-Jones as well as former Albuquerque City Clerk and current Secretary of State employee Amy Bailey. Oliver publicly announced her application for the position late last month.
Secretary of State Dianna Duran decided to do what many had been calling her to do for nearly two months: resign. This means some big, potentially unprecedented, changes are coming. Duran could be the first Secretary of State in history to leave in the middle of a term. Related Story: Dianna Duran pleaded guilty to six charges as part of plea deal. So here is what happens next, at least when it comes to the position of Secretary of State.
With calls for Secretary of State Dianna Duran to resign growing by the day, the talk is already starting to shift to who will next fill one of the most important elected statewide offices. Duran is facing 64 counts of criminal charges filed last week by Attorney General Hector Balderas for using campaign money for personal use. On Wednesday night, Speaker of the House Don Tripp, R-Socorro, said the State House members will explore impeachment proceedings even as many high-profile state Republicans, including Gov. Susana Martinez, are seemingly distancing themselves from Duran. New Mexico’s two largest newspapers also urged Duran to resign in editorials this week. As New Mexico Political Report previously reported, if Duran resigns or is impeached by the state Legislature, Martinez will have to appoint someone to fill the role.