[Image courtesy of KOAT]
[UPDATED 1230pm to reflect confirmation of resignation, plea deal]
In a sudden turn, New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran resigned overnight as part of a plea deal, creating a vacancy that will have to be filled at least temporarily before the 2016 election and will likely lead to a special election next fall. The Santa Fe New Mexican has more:
New Mexico’s embattled Secretary of State Dianna Duran, who in late August was indicted on dozens of criminal charges, has resigned, a top staffer in her office says.
The news of Republican Duran’s sudden departure came in an email from the state Democratic Party, which included a copy of an email sent after 11 p.m. Thursday Oct. 22 by Interim Elections Director Keri Fresquez announcing that a scheduled meeting about changes in campaign finance rules had been canclled because Duran had resigned.
Duran also has a court appearance scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Friday in state District Court in Santa Fe. The hearing concerns motions in her criminal case. It’s not known whether Duran’s resignation has anything to do with that hearing.
Fresquez’s email, sent to undisclosed recipients, noted that the governor will have to appoint an acting secretary of state. “it is appropriate that [the replacement] have the opportunity to shape the policy and rules of the office,” Fresquez said.
Duran, 60, is facing 65 criminal charges including embezzlement, fraud, money laundering, identity theft stemming from allegations that she illegally transferred an estimate $13,000 from her campaign account to her personal account. The state attorney says Duran altered her campaign finance reports to cover up the transfers.
The New Mexico Political Report has a look at next steps:
A special House investigatory committee looking into the impeachment was scheduled to have its second meeting on Tuesday. With Duran no longer in office, there is no need for impeachment.
No statewide official has ever been impeached.The closest was former State Treasurer Robert Vigil who resigned in 2005 while facing corruption charges. A committee was looking at possibly voting to move the impeachment to the full House, but Vigil resigned before the process could move forward much further.
And so did Duran, meaning that impeachment by the state House is no longer necessary; only state officials can be impeached by the House.
Now, Gov. Susana Martinez will be able to choose a replacement for Duran.
How it will be done is unknown; it appears that Duran is the first Secretary of State in New Mexico to ever fail to serve out a full term.
Vigil may be an example. After Vigil left, Gov. Bill Richardson had to name a replacement. Then-governor Bill Richardson named a search committee of lawmakers and financial experts to give him names to choose from to fill the State Treasurer position. Less than a week later, Richardson chose Doug Brown. Brown agreed not to run for reelection in 2006.
According to the state Constitution, there would be an election for Secretary of State in 2016, since that is the next general election.
Politically, this is big news because Duran won re-election in 2014 despite a strong Democratic challenge, suggesting that a special election (coinciding with the federal election) could be even more competitive. Politics aside, it will be interesting to see if this resignation throws election planning (including implementation of a registration lookup tool in 2016 as a prelude to full OVR in 2017) into chaos – or if the SoS office has already factored Duran’s absence into its planning after news of her indictment broke earlier this year.
Either way, it looks like it will be an exciting year-plus in the Land of Enchantment. Stay tuned …