Oye, you’ve heard about the State Auditor of New Mexico, right?
No, amigos, it’s not una banda or anything like that, although the office may itself have musical overtones—since it’s basic premise to to find and then elucidate meaningful discourse about the state as data source and dataset.
That’s right, the auditor makes numbers out of government activity through a transparent process that measures and then yields lucid, telling results about the efficacy, nay the very nature of any number of government programs, offices and other state-funded errata. The auditor looks for irregularities that may signal corruption or malfeasance. Ensuring that government is accountable to citizens is job one.
So if part of the plan is to elect progressives to posts up and down the ballot, then here is a contest in the 2018 midterm elections that, while often overlooked, provides a nuts and bolts version of progressivism as an active fiduciary force. It’s an essential ingredient in a New Mexico Democratic ticket that is increasingly pinning its hopes for future veracity on a combination of veterans and young people dedicated to progress, Nuevo Mexicano style.
In that spirit then, into that campaign, rides Brian Colón, an influential longtime Democratic party operative and administrator who’s run a variety of campaigns. Though so far unsuccessful has gained much popularity among locals who admire his spunk and knowing Hispanidad. And Colón has an advantage this year: He’s part of a formidable, organized and valiant team of progressive New Mexicans looking to the polls to provide a path away from the maelstrom swirling in Trump’s D.C.
Weekly Alibi broke bread with Colón to discuss the importance of the office, his candidacy and the state of politics in the year 2018. Between tasty bites of lonche from Java Joe’s menu, this is what was said around the table.
Weekly Alibi: Brian why is the position of state auditor so important in New Mexico; more importantly why is it crucial that a Democrat, in this case you, be elected to discharge duties that will help steer the state toward progressive political actions?
Colón: The office of auditor is one of the most important offices in state government. Fighting waste fraud and abuse as well as protecting New Mexico’s taxpayers, that’s the function of the office. If government waste occurs, if there’s fraud, [similar] abuse, then that’s the office charged with identifying those entities. It’s a sword and shield in New Mexico to protect its citizens from bad actors. Those bad actors could be knowingly bad or just incompetently bad. The exciting thing to me about this office is the fact that 13 years ago, New Mexicans had never heard of this office. But the good news is that, 12 years ago, we elected an attorney, Hector Balderas, to the position. He understood that the office had subpoena power and used that constitutional power to aggressively fight waste, fraud and abuse.
Hmm … I forgot that Balderas changed the nature of that office. Before him, the only other state auditor that comes to mind is Miguel Otero III, but that was back in the ’20s and he was from a wealthy, powerful family. So over time, the nature of the office has really changed, que no?
Absolutely and that’s one of the things that drew me to this office. Hector was really an individual who used his power with prosecutorial authority. That was followed by another great individual, another progressive Democrat, Tim Keller. Now he’s the mayor of this city. Tim was more of a public policy and finance expert. But for me, I’ve been deeply involved in all three worlds. Whether it’s public finance or law, that’s who I am.
And your credentials, sir?
[Laughs]. Well, I have a finance degree from New Mexico State. My law degree is from UNM. I’ve been practicing law in this state for 17 years. I’ve been part of the public policy discussion here for two decades now. I feel like all roads have led me to this office. It puts me in a strong position to conceiveably be able to work with someone I really admire, Hector Balderas. He’s the Attorney General now! We have two individuals who understand each other’s work. The stars are really aligned, as they say, for having good government in New Mexico. We’re here to restore the people’s trust. It’s been broken.
Fair enough. Before our lonche, I took some time to read through the state Democratic platform and also surfed your website in order to grok some of your policy positions. How are you going to enact that platform and its ideals—especially with regards to renewable energy and education? In other words, how is the Democratic vision going to take shape in the auditor’s office?
That’s a good question. I will say that the vast majority of the work and the focus of the office of the state auditor—if under my oversight—is going to be fighting corruption, waste, fraud and abuse. When Tim was elected, he created a new division in the office, the government accountability office. We’ll do a little of that work, gathering data and releasing transparency reports that will allow legislators and other policy makers to make important decisions. Really, my job would be to produce data, those reports, to make public policy decisions. In regards to a progressive agenda, when we can gather data in that regard that shows forward movement, then I want to be able to make that information available to legislators, to our governor.
More generally, why is that progressive agenda important to New Mexico?
Look, I’ve got a 21-year-old son. He’s a proud graduate of Albuquerque High, now he’s in his third year of studying biomedical engineering at George Washington University. I want him to come home some day. But if this isn’t a progressive state, if this is not a state building jobs on renewable energy, creating a sustainable economy, I won’t get to see my grandchildren often. He’s not coming home.
And you believe you can contribute to enacting that agenda?
Absolutely. I really believe in providing service to the state of New Mexico and its citizens. There’s also a gratitude perspective, I want to give back. But I also have a personal interest in this. I want my son to be able to return to New Mexico, like so many other parents whose children have left for better educational and economic opportunities.
Beyond personal concerns, how does the prophesied blue wave figure into how you are managing campaign operations?
I haven’t seen this kind of enthusiasm since President Obama won the first time. When I was chair of the Democratic Party, you know we had turnout in the primary and then in the general too—we had the best success we’ve had. It was the first time in New Mexico’s history that all five of our federal delegates were Democrats. All three congressional districts and the two senatorial posts, both Democrat. It was a happy successful time afterwards for New Mexicans, but it happened because citizens were engaged and they voted. When Democrats vote, we get democratic values in office.
So yeah, how is the election going in Donkeyland?
It’s going phenomenal. Early voting is being tracked statewide, including all 33 counties, blue and red counties. The overall average is that 1.7 Democrats are voting for every 1 Republican. So, in real numbers that means for every 4 Republicans that make it to the polls, 7 Democrats are showing up. Down in Cruces, everyone is very energized because of the Xochitl Torres phenomenon.
Whoa, I’m hearing that the race is deadheat!
It is a deadheat; there’s ridiculous [Republican] negative campaigning going on because of that. But I tell you what; it’s turned out the vote. In Doña Ana County it’s a turnout of about 2 to 1, Democrats to Republicans who have already voted. We’ve all heard of the so-called enthusiasm gap. That gap really exists between Democrats and Republicans. Democrats are enthused—right now—to get to the polls. They’re not waiting.
Brian, why is it important to vote Democratic this year?
I gotta tell you, as I’ve been on the road—and I’ve logged 6,000 miles on the roads of New Mexico since January—I see men like you and me. Middle-aged, Hispanic. They are tired of the negative leadership and they aren’t going to keep voting against their own interests at the ballot box. I hear them saying, “I’m going with the straight Democratic ticket. That’s how I am voting.” I feel like I’m hearing that more often than not, in both the cities and in the rural areas where our folks came from, too.