New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver announced Wednesday she is running for the U.S. Senate. The Democrat has already won statewide races for Secretary of State twice and if she wins in 2020 would become the first woman to represent New Mexico in the U.S. Senate in the state’s history. In a slickly-produced video, Toulouse Oliver emphasized her personal history, including attending college as a single mother and graduating with “a pile of student debt.” She says that as Secretary of State she “took on the Koch brothers and won,” on campaign finance reform. She also said that she supports Medicare-for-all and supports “a Washington that doesn’t separate families at the border.”
In a separate statement announcing her run, Toulouse Oliver also says she supports the Green New Deal. “We need more women in Washington,” Toulouse Oliver said.
The third time was not the charm. For the third time in just over a month, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver rejected a Republican petition for a referendum to overturn the law that would require background checks for nearly all gun purchases. Minority Leader Jim Townsend, R-Artesia, submitted the second amended petition on April 12. The petition fixed a technical problem related to the filing. But the Secretary of State found the larger issue is still that the law is not eligible for a referendum under the state constitution according to Toulouse Oliver.
For the second time, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver rejected a petition to take a gun background check law to the voters. House Republican leaders hoped to use a voter referendum to overturn a law passed this year, requiring background checks for most gun sales in the state of New Mexico. New Mexico generally does not allow for voter referendums. But the state constitution allows, under limited circumstances, for voters to attempt to overturn a newly passed law. Toulouse Oliver said the current proposal does not meet those limited circumstances. She cites the state constitution in saying to determine if the referendum qualifies, it must “[bear] a valid, reasonable relationship to the preservation of public peace, health or safety.”
Toulouose Oliver said she “underwent the process of carefully examining the legislative history, the contemporaneous declarations of the legislature and the conditions sought to be remedied by [the law].”
In March, Toulouse Oliver also listed a number of technical objections to the Republican call for a referendum.
The New Mexico Secretary of State rejected the effort by House Republicans to overturn a new law requiring background checks for nearly all gun purchases in New Mexico. The Republican House leader said they are prepared to take legal action over the decision. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver announced today that the petition submitted by Republicans doesn’t meet the state’s constitutional requirements to overturn a law. In a letter to House Minority Jim Townsend, who submitted the petition along with House Minority Whip Rod Montoya, Toulouse Oliver wrote that because Senate Bill 8, which was signed into law by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham earlier this month, relates to the public peace, health and safety, “it is not a law subject to referendum.”
While the state constitution allows for petitions to vote on overturning recently passed laws, it does not allow for the petitions to target laws related to the preservation of public peace, health or safety. In her letter, Toulouse Oliver quoted a press release from Lujan Grisham that says the law “improves public safety by expanding required background checks on firearm purchases to include private gun sales, closing loopholes for certain sales like those made online or at gun shows.”
Toulouse Oliver also outlined technical problems with the petition, from failing to suggest a popular name for the law they wish to overturn and failing to submit a petition in the form outlined by state law.
Following a contentious debate, the state House of Representatives late Tuesday voted to approve a bill that would automatically register eligible New Mexicans to vote when they conduct transactions with the Motor Vehicle Division. House Bill 84 includes a provision that allows those citizens to opt out of registering or updating their existing voter registration as they apply for a driver’s license or state identity card. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver spoke in favor of the legislation during a news conference at the Capitol earlier in the day, saying, “When more eligible voters vote, our democracy wins.” She said the bill, if it becomes law, has the potential to increase voter participation by 30 percent, or, according to a fiscal impact report, some 385,000 people. Rep. Debra Sariñana, D-Albuquerque, a co-sponsor of the bill, said the proposal “would make it more likely that anyone who wants to cast a vote can.”
One of my jobs as your Secretary of State is to act as the state’s chief elections officer. As such, I’m committed to modernizing our elections for the 21st Century and same-day voter registration is integral to that goal. My life in public service has been dedicated to expanding access to the ballot box and fulfilling the promise of our democracy by increasing participation in elections. Our representative form of government can only be of, by, and for the people if the people are actually participating in it. Though New Mexico is already a national model for safe and secure elections because of our paper ballots, post-election audits, and other best practices, there is much more we can do to make it easier, not harder, for eligible New Mexicans to vote.
Democrats swept statewide races on Election Day, and will control not just the governor’s office and all of the executive agencies, but also independent state agencies that oversee everything from state funds to state lands. Democratic incumbent Tim Eichenberg easily won the race for State Treasurer over Republican Arthur Castillo and Democrat Brian Colón defeated Republican Wayne Johnson for State Auditor. In the three-way race for Attorney General, Democratic incumbent Hector Balderas beat Republican Michael Hendricks and Libertarian Blair Dunn. And another Democratic incumbent, Maggie Toulouse Oliver defeated Republican Gavin Clarkson and Libertarian Ginger Grider to hold on to the Secretary of State seat. The closest statewide race on Election Day was for State Land Commissioner.
New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver said that “false claims of voter fraud” by President Donald Trump and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions “are yet another disgusting attempt at voters suppression.”
Toulouse Oliver encouraged New Mexicans to vote on Election Day despite the statements. “The President is only trying to degrade confidence in our elections and discourage eligible voters from casting their ballots,” Toulouse Oliver said. “There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud anywhere in New Mexico or the United States, and when it does occur it is prosecuted swiftly and vigorously. I encourage all eligible New Mexico voters to get to the polls today and make their voices heard.”
In a release, the Secretary of State linked to a Washington Post article from Monday night that said Trump and Sessions warned about voter fraud without providing any evidence. Trump made the claims about the alleged voter fraud ahead of a campaign rally in Cleveland on Monday.
The New Mexico Supreme Court unanimously struck down a controversial proposal to add a straight-party option to November’s ballot. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver announced last month that she would reinstate an option on November’s ballot to allow people to vote for all candidates of a given party with one mark on the ballot. That decision was challenged by the Libertarian and Republican parties of New Mexico, along with a Utah-based political action committee, a non-profit advocate group for independent candidates and one Democratic write-in candidate. On Wednesday, Chief Justice Judith Nakamura called it a tough decision, but said only state lawmakers can add add straight-party voting to the ballot. “Until the legislature makes a decision one way or the other, the Secretary of State cannot,” Nakamura said.
Campaign finance reports filed Monday showed positives for both gubernatorial candidates, with the Republican showing a lead with money left, but the Democrat raised, and spent, more money. Republican nominee Steve Pearce finished the campaign finance period—which lasted from July 1 to Sept. 3—with nearly $1.9 million cash-on-hand for the final two months of the race. This was well ahead of the $1.2 million cash-on-hand for his opponent, Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham. Lujan Grisham, however, raised $1.9 million in the period and spent almost $1.5 million.