In a stunning blow to governance by partisan paternalism, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled on Friday, Sept. 19, that the Secretary of State does not have authority to remove advisory initiatives approved by county commissions from the general election ballot. This high court ruling means that citizens of Bernalillo County will get to vote on two nonbinding polling questions regarding decriminalization of small quantities of marijuana and raising sales tax one-eighth of a cent to fund mental health services.
In an oral presentation of the Court's ruling, Supreme Court Justice Barbara Vigil said New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran failed to perform a mandatory duty of her office by refusing to include county-approved initiatives on the general election ballot; the Court ordered her to do so.
If you haven't already, you'll hear more about Duran in the weeks to come. Her unsuccessful attempt to quash Bernalillo and Santa Fe County advisory initiatives via unilateral memorandum and petititions of both federal and state courts is only part of the coming Duran-centric news cycle. As the incumbent candidate for Secretary of State, Duran may already be familiar to you.
In the wake of the Court's decision, Duran issued a written statement: “We of course will comply with this order, but what it means is that Bernalillo County voters will be using a ballot printed in tiny 7-point font, just so people can be presented with a meaningless public opinion poll.” How can the opinion of voters—some of whom obviously voted for her—now seem meaningless to Duran?
Her campaign website, diannaduran.com, colorfully presents polarizing rhetoric. On a page titled "Dianna Duran v. Maggie Toulouse Oliver: The Striking—and very Alarming—Contrasts," Duran calls herself the "target" of "extreme far-left activists of the Democratic Party." She goes on to contrast herself with Toulouse Oliver using all-caps and underlined keywords like "DARK MONEY," "political consultant" and "left-wing activism and partisanship" in reference to Toulouse Oliver.
In contrast, Toulouse Oliver's minimalist campaign website, maggietoulouseoliver.com, focuses on endorsements, and finding criticism of Duran is more challenging. (On the landing page of Duran's website, an arrow guides you straight to the aforementioned "Contrasts" page.) After clicking through Toulouse Oliver's bio and thoughts on the job, the news section of her site reveals her official statement on the Supreme Court decision. And it is critical of Duran, but phrases like "overtly partisan and activist interference in the ballot creation process" and "blatant disrespect for the separation of powers in our government" pale in comparison to Duran's chart that lists Toulouse Oliver's background and experience as "Campaign Manager for Dark Money Orgs."
But don't take my word for it. Visit their respective websites, linked above, and form your own opinion. For even more insight into their educational, professional and political backgrounds, news, endorsements and campaign contribution disclosures, visit the Ballotpedia pages for Dianna Duran and Maggie Toulouse Oliver.
The Alibi encourages our readership to remain politically informed. To that end, please keep your eyes peeled for websclusive and print-edition political news and election coverage as the 2014 general election nears. And be sure to pick up a copy of the Alibi Election Guide, which hits stands on Thursday, Oct. 30. On a personal note, I've always appreciated the way Halloween and elections coincide. After all, there's really nothing scarier than citizen apathy, low voter turnout and resulting ineffective, subpar leadership and representation.