In a debate characterized by a negative tone not unlike the recent showdowns between presidential candidates, both candidates for New Mexico Secretary of State laid out their visions for the office. Democratic candidate and current Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver started by invoking the only reason the office is up for grabs this year in the first place. “We had a secretary of state who violated the very laws and ethics that she was charged with upholding,” Toulouse Oliver said. “I’m running to restore integrity, transparency and trust in the Secretary of State’s office.”
Former Secretary of State Dianna Duran, a Republican who beat Toulouse Oliver in the election for the office two years ago, last year pleaded guilty to using her campaign funds to fuel a gambling habit. Duran, a Republican, resigned from office, spent 30 days in jail and is currently on five years of probation.
Though this year’s general election is still six months away, several elections across the state will only be decided in primaries, which will be held June 7. For people not already registered to vote, today is the last day to do so, which they can do in person at their county clerk’s office or the Secretary of State’s Office. Absentee voting also begins today, as does voting in person at county clerks’ offices throughout the state. Because New Mexico is a closed primary state, today is the last day for the 19 percent of registered declined-to-state voters to update their registration to either Democrat or Republican if they want to vote in next month’s primaries. Anybody who changes their registration to Democrat or Republican online by 5pm today will be eligible to vote June 7.
A newly selected New Mexico Representative may be under legal scrutiny even before she is officially sworn in. After admitting to voting before she was a U.S. citizen, Idalia Lechuga-Tena’s voting history appears to be under review by prosecutors in Bernalillo County. Earlier this week the Bernalillo County Commission voted in favor of appointing Lechuga-Tena to the New Mexico House of Representatives. Lechuga-Tena will be the second person appointed to the seat since the last election. The Bernalillo County Commission chose Stephanie Maez to replace Mimi Stewart last year.
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.