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Dianna Duran has resigned from her position as New Mexico’s secretary of state, NMPolitics.net has learned.
A hearing in the criminal case against Duran is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. today in Santa Fe. District Judge T. Glenn Ellington is set to address several pending motions.
It’s not clear if Duran’s resignation is related to today’s hearing. A spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office said Thursday only that the hearing is “to address matters pending in the case.” Duran’s attorney didn’t respond to an email asking what to expect.
Kari Fresquez, the interim elections director in the Secretary of State’s Office, made reference to Duran’s resignation in an email sent at 11:18 p.m. Thursday. Fresquez was announcing the cancellation of hearings on several proposed rules that were scheduled to be held today.
“In light of Secretary Duran’s resignation on Thursday evening, the Office of the Secretary of State has cancelled the rulemaking hearings,” states the email, which was obtained and released by the Democratic Party of New Mexico.
Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican, is now tasked with appointing a replacement to lead the Secretary of State’s Office through the 2016 election.
Whoever Martinez appoints will also have to decide whether to run for re-election almost immediately. Voters will select a new secretary of state next year.
Lonna Atkeson, a political science professor at the University of New Mexico, characterized Duran’s resignation as “clearing the cloud over her administration as plans begin for the 2016 election.”
“It’s important for the integrity of our election system that this happened,” Atkeson wrote on Facebook. “I hope Governor Martinez quickly appoints a qualified successor who can raise the stature of the office.”
Duran’s resignation comes almost two months after Attorney General Hector Balderas filed a criminal complaint accusing her of using campaign funds to keep her personal bank account in the black while gambling at several casinos in New Mexico.
Duran allegedly deposited some checks intended to be campaign contributions into her personal bank account and never disclosed them as political donations. In other instances the AG’s office says Duran took money out of her campaign account and deposited it into her personal account.
In all, Duran is accused of misusing about $10,000 in campaign funds.
Duran also faces a charge of identify theft for listing a former state senator as her campaign treasurer, allegedly without his knowledge.
The road to resignation
But Duran herself was a barrier to such conversations. She insisted on showing up to work in recent weeks instead of resigning. Many balked at the idea of her overseeing the 2016 presidential election.
It got worse when Duran went ahead with plans to implement new rules intended to make elections more transparent and accountable. Those were among the rules scheduled for a hearing today.
“What does embattled Secretary of State Dianna Duran not understand about the problem with putting her name and the word ‘reform’ in the same sentence?” asked the Albuquerque Journal editorial board in a piece that ran earlier this week.
The calls for Duran’s resignation had grown louder in recent weeks. Many of the state’s newspapers, politicians and even former staffers in the Secretary of State’s Office said she needed to go. So did NMPolitics.net’s readers.
“There is a confidence problem and, may I add, it is severe,” Cindy Madrid of Socorro wrote during a discussion NMPolitics.net facilitated on Facebook. “This is why she should not continue in the job. She is compromised even if she is proven to be innocent.”
House Speaker Don Tripp had already initiated the process of considering impeachment, but Duran’s resignation halts the special legislative committee’s work.
It also puts an end to a long political career. Duran served two terms as Otero County clerk. She was a state senator for 17 years. And, in 2010, Duran became the first Republican to be elected secretary of state since 1928. Voters narrowly re-elected her last year.
On to 2016
Following Duran’s resignation, Democrats wasted no time focusing on what’s next. Deb Haaland, who chairs the state Democratic Party, said she’s hopeful New Mexico can “move forward with a fair election in 2016, and that trust can be restored in the Secretary of State’s office.”
“We will have a strong Democratic candidate that will take a hard look at the drop in voter participation in New Mexico as well as the other various issues facing the Secretary of State’s office,” Haaland said.
Spokesmen for Martinez and the state Republican Party, in addition to staffers in the Secretary of State’s Office, didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.