Many New Mexicans have expressed anger and disappointment toward Secretary of State Dianna Duran since she was accused Friday of fraud, extortion and other charges related to abusing the state’s campaign finance system.
Meanwhile, some expressed compassion for a woman they suspect suffers from a gambling problem.
Many who weighed in during conversations NMPolitics.net facilitated on Facebook appeared to agree with House Democrats, who are calling for Duran, a Republican, to resign or face possible impeachment.
“It would be nice, if true, for Ms. Duran to own what she did and step down,” wrote Fred Beverage of Roswell.
“Impeachment!” wrote Olin Kieyoomia of Tohatchi.
Others called for prison time for the third-highest official in state government.
“If any of us had done something like this, we would be spending most of the rest of our lives in prison,” wrote Stephen Milano of Las Cruces, who praised the prosecution of Duran.
“She needs to go to prison,” wrote Grace Olivas of Albuquerque. “She is teaching our young children to steal and do what is against our law. Has brought shame to our state.”
“Jail time,” wrote Mike Valdez of Santa Fe.
Duran’s attorney says she plans to plead not guilty. Duran hasn’t yet appeared in court.
Compassion and consequences
Meanwhile, John Ross of Albuquerque called for compassion along with consequences.
“While I am usually more than willing to go after corrupt public officials, reading between the lines here, it seems that this individual is suffering through a severe gambling problem,” Ross wrote. “Yes, she should resign. Yes, she will need to suffer some legal consequences. But, empathy here is also a good thing.”
To be clear, Duran hasn’t admitted to a gambling problem. Investigators allege she withdrew hundreds of thousands of dollars from bank accounts at New Mexico casinos in 2013 and 2014, but they haven’t actually said she had a gambling problem.
According to the criminal complaint, investigators were able to obtain records showing that players cards belonging to Duran were used for gambling at two New Mexico casinos on dates that she also withdrew money from bank accounts at those casinos.
Regardless, Don Saunders of Las Cruces called the situation “truly sad.”
“If it is a gambling addiction, then I feel for Mrs. Duran,” Saunders wrote. “If it is something else, as charged, then it is bad for the state of New Mexico — and let the prosecution proceed.”
“Sad, but if the allegations are true then she must resign,” wrote Jim Simonin of Las Cruces.
“Poor thing. How terrible that she has ruined her life with this addiction,” wrote Tabitha Hall of Albuquerque.
Such sympathy elicited angry responses from some, who pointed at Duran’s long and controversial crusade against another type of alleged fraud in New Mexico — voter fraud.
“Poor thing???” asked Fred Gallegos of Albuquerque. “What about the people she screwed over with her false accusations? The thousands she wasted on investigating voter fraud, the manpower she wasted going after so-called frauds and always came up empty?”
“You have a good point and I agree,” Hall replied. “I guess I was thinking about being addicted to gambling and not so much all that she has done as a Republican.”
Some take wait-and-see approach
Not all were calling for Duran’s immediate resignation. Michael McInerney of Rio Rancho was among those urging a wait-and-see approach.
“Until all facts are revealed and any necessary legal steps are taken we should not be making any judgements,” McInerney wrote. “I do not know for certain if she is guilty of anything. Do you?”
“I want to hear a confession from her own mouth. Until I see that, I’ll wonder how much is truth or politics,” wrote Kathy Matthews Gruben of Las Cruces.
“Dems need to wait for the legal process to take place,” wrote Carlos Castañeda of Las Cruces about possible impeachment proceedings. “I personally feel she’s cornered, but the politics cannot circumvent the legal process.”
The problem with impeachment, wrote Algernon D’Ammassa of Deming,” is that it is inescapably tainted with partisan politics.”
“The question is, granting Secretary Duran a legal presumption of innocence, can she be expected to fulfill the duties of her office while defending herself against these criminal charges?” D’Ammassa asked.
To which Claudia Anderson of Farmington pointed out that Duran is “charged with breaking the very laws that she is supposed to enforce.”
“It is extremely difficult to make the case for the secretary continuing,” D’Ammassa replied. “Unless this evidence is exposed as a hoax, I think we know exactly where this must lead.”
This article has been updated to clarify that, according to the criminal complaint, investigators were able to obtain records showing that players cards belonging to Duran were used for gambling at two New Mexico casinos on dates that she also withdrew money from bank accounts at those casinos.