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Monday, October 05, 2015

Another Dianna News Dump: Does This One Bury Her? Plus: Eyebrow Raising Comments On SOS Scandal From GOP Senate Leader, And: The Kelly File: Fajardo Seen as Strong If Reluctant Replacement For Duran 

Attorney General Hector Balderas did another of his Friday afternoon news dumps on embattled Secretary of State Diana Duran, raising the question of whether Balderas has buried her political life once and for all.

Certainly the AG's latest felony accusation--that Duran engaged in identity theft by listing prominent Carlsbad banker Don Kidd as her campaign treasurer (he says without his knowledge) threw Republicans for a loop.

Kidd is a former three term GOP state Senator who served with Duran in that body. The alleged illegal use of his name on her campaign reports--which are the subject of criminal charges by the AG--are going to put pressure on the SOS to explain just why she used Kidd's name. Her standard explanation that she can't comment on any of the charges against her on the advice of her attorney may not hold up with lawmakers on this one. The pressure for her to resign has been like a slow simmer but now the pot could reach a boil. (When asked by an investigator with the attorney general's office why she listed Kidd as her treasurer, she said, "Well, I have no idea. I just don't know, that's amazing," according to the LA Times.)

NOTHING WRONG HERE

In an interview with the Portales News-Tribune before the Kidd charge was made longtime state Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle commented on the SOS crisis, only he doesn't see it as a crisis. As a matter of fact, Ingle downplayed the entire affair.

Now that's important because if Duran is impeached by the House the state Senate would hold a trial to determine if she should be removed from office. Here's Ingle's eyebrow raising analysis in which he was asked about Duran not showing up at her office in the wake of the criminal charges. She has since reported to the office:

I don’t know that she’s shirking her work duties. There’s a lot of people at different agencies who aren’t in their office every day. That certainly doesn’t mean they’re not working. There’s a lot of newspaper articles that say she hasn’t been at work in a couple of weeks, but that does not mean that she is not working and communicating.
I’m not worried about the secretary of state office. The gentleman Ken Ortiz (chief of staff) is her second in command up there, and he is very capable.

Not worried, Mr. Leader, about how this scandal is impacting the perception of the state?   And that Ingle defense of Duran--probably built on years of service together--how does that play out if we get what we have never had before--an impeachment trial?

Democrats believe they benefit the more Dianna hangs around but Ingle doesn't appear deeply worried about it. What should that tell the Dems?

THE KELLY FILE

Rep. Kelly Fajardo
If Dianna eventually resigns assorted Alligators, insiders and wall-leaners are pointing to Valencia County GOP State Rep. Kelly Fajardo as perhaps the strongest Republican name circulating to replace her. But wall-leaners report Fajardo adamantly declares she has no interest in the post and has said as much to the Governor. Still, it merits a look as circumstances can change any political declarations.

The 44 year old mother of three has made a good impression on her GOP colleagues who elected her caucus chair when they took over the chamber for the first time in 62 years following the '14 elections.

Fajardo, who lives in Belen and runs a web consulting business, was narrowly elected in 2012 but widened her margin (57%) in her re-election bid in 2014. Before her state House run she made a play for Valencia County Clerk.

Fajardo is photogenic and handled the camera pretty well in this YouTube interview. Also, the SOS position has been held by a Hispanic female since 1983, giving the Spanish surnamed Fajardo an edge over some other possible Duran replacements.

Fajardo has been active in child advocacy issues in the Legislature. Recently, she was named by House Speaker Tripp to the bipartisan panel doing the spadework for impeaching Duran. That puts her in the SOS orbit as the scandal plays out.

If and when Duran resigns Governor Martinez will appoint her replacement. Fajardo's House seat is still seen as being a swing seat and that could be problematic in moving her to the SOS office--if the R's think the seat could mean the difference between winning or losing the House next year. However, some analysts see the district as more reliably red now--as long as a strong R is recruited.

Political pros say Fajardo matches up well against Democratic Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver who ran and lost to Duran in 2014 and is expected to make a play for SOS if Duran resigns.

Fajardo, who was born in ABQ, is seen competing in the big ABQ metro area as well as the Hispanic Democratic North, similar to Gov. Martinez. But the big impetus for Fajardo (or any other Republican named) would be the advantage of the incumbency. The new SOS could take steps to assure the public the office is back on the right track, build her own record and put the Duran debacle behind her and the Republicans.

If Duran resigns at least 60 days before the November '16 election, the SOS position will go on the ballot to fill out the remaining two years of Duran's term. The odds seem high that will happen.

The Dems think the office is ripe to be taken back, given the Duran scandal and the higher turnout anticipated in the presidential election year. Could a Secretary of State Fajardo have them recalculating their assumptions?

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