Inside the Capitol

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Election Officials Must Like Jobs

SANTA FE – Election officials have one heck of a job on election night, but apparently that doesn’t discourage them from wanting more of the same.
Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron is term-limited from running again two years from now and plenty of county clerks want that job. The list includes Bernalillo County Clerk Mary Herrera, who has frequently noted what a toll vote counting takes on herself and her staff.
The office of secretary of state has never been a springboard to higher office. That is because traditionally it has been the one office that women are allowed to hold. In recent years, that rule has been broken by Attorney General Patricia Madrid, U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson and Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, but none of them stepped up from the secretary of state’s office.
At least two of them have tried. Vigil-Giron ran for Congress against incumbent Steve Schiff in the 1st district after one of her previous four-year terms expired in 1990. Stephanie Gonzales tried the lieutenant governor’s race in 1998, but was bested by Denish for the Democratic nomination.
But there is always hope. This year, Vigil-Giron took advantage of $19 million in federal election reform money, appropriated under the Help America Vote Act, to spend $2 million of that on voter education ads on radio and television That put her face and name on the TV screen as often as most major candidates.
That exposure may have some carry-over to the 2006 elections, but what office can Vigil-Giron seek? Unless she challenges an incumbent within her own party, she can’t run for Governor, lieutenant governor or U.S. Senate. Other statewide offices also are up for reelection in 2006. Robert Vigil, the Democrat incumbent, is running again for treasurer.
Domingo Martinez is finishing two terms as state auditor, so that seat will be open. Although it is not required, it helps to be a CPA when running for that office. Patricia Madrid is finishing two terms as attorney general, but Vigil-Giron is not an attorney.
She could run against Patrick Lyons, the Republican commissioner of public lands. She can come up with a natural-sounding drawl when talking with an Eastsider, but she still might have trouble looking at home among ranchers and oilmen.
Democrats always need a strong candidate to toss in the ring against Rep. Heather Wilson, in Albuquerque, just in case Wilson might falter. But AG Patricia Madrid also will be looking for an office to seek and Madrid is also from Albuquerque.
Another interesting development is taking place in the Santa Fe County Clerk’s office. Valerie Espinosa, a former employee at the secretary of state’s office, wants to surround herself with some high-powered aides. Observers suspect it has to do with future plans to seek the secretary of state’s office.
Already hired is former Secretary of State Shirley Hooper Garcia, who also has been Lea County Clerk. In fact, Espinosa worked for Hooper in the Secretary of State’s office 25 years ago.
Espinosa also wants to hire state Elections Bureau Chief Denise Lamb to be her elections chief. Lamb says she is taking a look at it. She may see the job as being a little less high pressure. And it could be that the retirement benefit is a little better.
Amid complaints of hanky-panky in vote counting came questions about where 1,000 Republican votes went in Los Alamos County. President Bush won the county, but only by 500 votes, instead of the 1,500 he normally could have expected.
Blogger Joe Monahan reports that apparently disgruntled LANL employees, who want to keep the University of California running the lab, were fearful that Bush might award a new contract to the University of Texas, which doesn’t offer nearly the employee benefits that California does.
Ironically, Gov. Bill Richardson, who was burned badly by the lab’s ineffective security, is lobbying to keep the University of California’s contract.


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