October 23, 2015

Politicos say it’s time to move forward after Duran resignation

The news that former New  Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran resigned came early Friday morning, mostly through social media. After NMpolitics.net confirmed that Duran indeed resigned, many involved in New Mexico politics weighed in.

Attorney Erlinda Johnson (l) and her client Dianna Duran (r) awaiting a judge's decision on her plea deal.

Attorney Erlinda Johnson (l) and her client Dianna Duran (r) awaiting a judge’s decision on her plea deal.

The director for Common Cause New Mexico, a non-partisan non-profit group that advocates for more campaign disclosures and clean elections, also said Duran’s resignation is a step towards regaining public trust.

“The 2016 elections are already upon us, and voters and candidates alike need to know that the office is functioning at the highest level possible,” Common Cause New Mexico’s director Viki Harrison said. “Our hope is that Governor Susana Martinez will quickly appoint a qualified person to serve the rest of Duran’s term so that the fundamental functions of our state’s democracy may be restored.”

The New Mexico Constitution requires an election for a new secretary during the next general election, which is next year. Until then, it is up to Martinez to appoint an interim secretary.

Attorney General

Duran’s resignation came hours before she was due in court for a hearing regarding her criminal case, where she eventually made a plea deal with the New Mexico Attorney General’s office.

Of the resignation, Attorney General Hector Balderas continued the narrative that it was good for New Mexicans and a move towards more trust for the elected position.

“I am hopeful that this resolution will begin to rebuild the public trust and compel the new leadership to improve oversight and compliance in our campaign finance system and electoral process,” Balderas said.

He added that both Duran’s resignation and guilty plea “will allow the State of New Mexico to move forward.”

Bernalillo County Clerk

Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver called Duran’s resignation “an important first step” in bringing trust back to the public office.

“Though I am frustrated that we have lost valuable time toward making necessary reforms to strengthen trust and integrity in the Secretary’s office, her resignation now provides the best opportunity for New Mexico to move forward with confidence that the people’s work can continue to be carried out at the high level we all expect of our public servants,” Toulouse Oliver said in a prepared statement.

Toulouse Oliver, a Democrat, ran unsuccessfully against Duran for Secretary of State last year. She and Duran had a somewhat contentious professional relationship over the years as they disagreed on issues such as voter ID laws.

Later in the day, Toulouse Oliver told supporters that she is “actively considering” a run for Secretary of State.

County clerks work closely with the Secretary of State on elections.

Toulouse Oliver went on to say that she would like to see swift action taken to appoint Duran’s replacement.

“Public corruption and abuse of power have no place in our democracy,” Toulouse Oliver said. “The hard work of implementing badly needed improvements to the systems that hold public officials, campaigns and political organizations accountable must begin immediately.”

Speaker of the House

Speaker of the House Don Tripp, R-Socorro, said the resignation is an opportunity for Gov. Susana Martinez to pick a replacement who New Mexicans trust. He added that the impeachment committee, which he appointed, will not continue their investigation.

“As was the case when Robert Vigil and Jerome Block, Jr. resigned while they were being investigated for possible impeachment,” Tripp said I believe her resignation has eliminated the need for the Special Investigative Committee to move forward with an investigation at this time.

New Mexico Political Report asked for comment from Gov. Susana Martinez, but did not receive a response at press time. We will add it when we receive it.

Political parties weigh in

Both the state Democratic and Republican Parties also weighed in on Duran’s resignation. Both chairwomen said that accountability and trust will be restored after the resignation.

“We will have a strong Democratic candidate that will take a hard look at the drop in voter participation in New Mexico as well as the other various issues facing the Secretary of State’s office,” New Mexico Democratic Chairwoman Deb Haaland wrote in a statement.

New Mexico Republican Chairwoman Debbie Maestas said she respected Duran’s decision to step down and stressed the importance of holding elected officials responsible for their actions.

“Voters rightfully demand that our elected officials be accountable to the law, and our party will continue to advocate for accountability in government,” Maestas said.

Deputy Secretary of State will serve as acting secretary until a replacement is picked.