October 23, 2015

Duran’s out—here’s what will happen next

Secretary of State Dianna Duran decided to do what many had been calling her to do for nearly two months: resign.
1This 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.

Currently, Deputy Secretary of State Mary Quintana is serving as active Secretary of State, but only until Gov. Susana Martinez chooses a new person for the position.

The process for doing so isn’t very clear, and the process will be closely watched following the scandal that enveloped Duran’s final weeks in office.

Former State Treasurer Robert Vigil, the last statewide official to resign while facing criminal charges, may be an example of how to proceed.

After Vigil resigned in 2005, then-Gov. Bill Richardson had to name a replacement. Richardson named a search committee of lawmakers and financial experts to give him names to choose from to fill the State Treasurer position.

Less than a week later, Richardson chose Doug Brown. Brown agreed not to run for reelection in 2006 (which was the regular election for the position).

Whoever Martinez chooses will only serve until the next general election, as per the state constitution. This would be in 2016, instead of the regular 2018 election for the position.

This person can run for election at that time.

The governor will issue a primary election proclamation which would include the Secretary of State position. Unusual in that this is off-cycle for statewide positions, but other than that it would be business as usual.

New Mexico Political Report previously looked at rumored names for a Duran replacement. State Rep. Kelly Fajardo of Belen, Los Alamos County Clerk Sharon Stover, Valencia County Clerk Peggy Carabajal and former Albuquerque City Clerk Amy Bailey could all be names Gov. Susana Martinez would choose. Another name that has popped up is former Bureau of Elections Director Bobbi Shearer.

As for who Democrats will put forward in 2016, the odds-on favorite is Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver. The timing would work out; Toulouse Oliver has experience from a statewide campaign and she cannot run for another term as county clerk.

Toulouse Oliver said Friday afternoon that she is looking into a run.

“Since last night’s announcement many constituents, friends and supporters have asked if I will run for this office,” Toulouse Oliver wrote in an email to supporters. “I am actively considering a run, and will make any decision based on how best I can continue to serve the people of New Mexico.”

She is also well-liked among members of the Democratic Party of New Mexico.

Getting a new person to run the office will be important. The Secretary of State works closely with county clerks to run elections and 2016 is a year with the president on the ballot, which means more attention, more voters and more potential problems.

Update: Added that Toulouse Oliver is considering another run.