Bernalillo County clerk wins secretary of state
ALBUQUERQUE — Democrat Maggie Toulouse Oliver won over voters today in the race for secretary of state after touting her experience running elections in New Mexico’s most populous county and vowing to restore confidence in the troubled agency.
Toulouse Oliver, who has served as the Bernalillo County clerk since 2007, defeated Republican Nora Espinoza to fill the last two years remaining from Dianna Duran’s term.
Marking just the latest scandal to rock the office in recent years, Duran resigned in 2015 and was convicted of embezzlement and money laundering, acknowledging that she used campaign funds to fuel a gambling spree.
Duran’s case reignited the debate about weaknesses in New Mexico’s campaign finance laws and led more lawmakers to face accusations of sidestepping the laws by failing to report donations and misusing election funds.
It was a tough race, with both Toulouse Oliver and Espinoza, a member of the state House and former teacher, pouring money into a series of last-minute television ads.
Toulouse Oliver was leading the vote-counting effort in Bernalillo County today, leaving no time for campaigning.
She thanked her supporters in a brief statement, saying every donor and every voter made a difference.
“Thank you to the people of New Mexico for supporting this campaign for reform,” she said. “Now, we begin the work of ensuring integrity and accountability in the secretary’s office and throughout government in New Mexico.”
During her campaign, Toulouse Oliver emphasized the need to expand voter registration and participation using new technologies.
Toulouse Oliver has had her eye on the secretary of state’s office for years. She lost to Duran in 2014 and applied to fill the vacant seat after Duran resigned. She launched her second campaign after Republican Gov. Susana Martinez appointed Brad Winter, an Albuquerque city councilor who had no plans to seek the post permanently.
In the tough race, labor unions and two national groups helped Toulouse Oliver outpace Espinoza in campaign donations. Emily’s List, which supports the campaigns of Democratic women, and iVote, a political organization backing liberal candidates in secretary of state races nationwide, each donated $10,800 — the maximum allowed from a single donor.
Toulouse Oliver used some of her campaign cash to buy ads in early October. Espinoza began rolling out her television ads in mid-October, outspending her Democratic opponent more than 2-to-1.
Toulouse Oliver, an Albuquerque native, studied political science at the University of New Mexico, where she received a master’s degree. She worked on the campaigns of Democratic candidates and was statewide director for the League of Conservation Voters, an environmental advocacy group.
The Bernalillo County Board of Commissioners appointed her county clerk in 2007.