Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Duran Sentencing Rouses Angry Public; Light Jail Time Derided, Plus: Out Of the Blue Choice To Replace Duran, And: Balderas Comes Up Looking Short As Duran Fallout Hits 

The sentencing of former Secretary of State Dianna Duran should remind our often insulated political community just how much anger  the public harbors toward politicians.

Duran's 30 day jail sentence for campaign finance corruption stemming from her gambling addiction was widely derided and denounced on social media. A typical comment went like this:

"So, they slapped her wrist, but not hard enough to make it jiggle."

Anger has been escalating in the past decade as the economy changes, political campaigns grow more vicious and as social media provides an immediate platform to vent rage. Ironically, the hostility--if not hatred--toward the political class has led not to an explosion in voting but an abandonment of political participation. Voting dives as rage rises. . .


And an out-of-the-blue choice is Gov. Martinez's pick to become the new Secretary of State to replace the disgraced Duran. KOB-TV confirmed that she will name ABQ Republican City Councilor Brad Winter to fill the post. He would be the first man in the modern era to serve in the position.

His appointment means a vacancy on the ABQ city council that will be filled by Mayor Berry and confirms speculation heard here during the October city council election that Winter--if re-elected--might not serve out his full four year term. (We're assuming Winter will leave the council. No official word on that yet.)

Winter will not seek election to the SOS post in '16,  the Governor's office said Tuesday morning.

For sure Winter will keep Martinez's political machine in good standing as he presides over the SOS office in the '16 election year. That's what we see as the main point of this appointment, not necessarily what happens after that. Winter and his attorney wife Nann Winter are members in good standing of the Machine. (Also, Winter's PERA retirement check will benefit from a year long stint at the $85,000 level as SOS. He already is retired with a state ERB pension from his years at APS).

Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver is expected to soon announce that she is a Dem candidate. Her party--with the exception of Republican Duran--has held the post since the 1930's.


Attorney General Hector Balderas won some initial praise for bringing the Duran case forward, but he was caught behind the curve (and the public mood) with his soft prosecution.

He said he was unable to stop Duran from getting her government pension despite her admission of guilt because the law was unclear (although that is disputed).  And his plea deal with Duran asked the judge not to give her jail time. Again, that was way behind the public's way of thinking. Duran ended up getting 30 days and still retains the right to drop the plea and take the case to trial to try to avoid time in the pokey.

Balderas says his office saved "tremendous taxpayers resources" because his actions avoided impeachment proceedings against Duran in the Legislature. But after years of the Governor and her political machine accusing Democrats of being drenched in corruption, foregoing impeachment proceedings against Republican Duran is looking like a costly political mistake. It made it much easier for Gov. Martinez to separate herself from the embarrassment of Duran, not to mention that impeachment and more punishment is what an outraged public wanted but that the AG either did not pick up on or ignored.

Here's reader John with a sample of some of the kind of email we received:

Hector says on TV news that Dianna was convicted and will serve jail time, but he forgot to say his office did not ask for the jail time. If not for the judge she would be planning a vacation to "spend time with family/" The judge didn't give enough time in my opinion but at least it was more than the state asked for. Hector's career has gone as far as its gonna go. (Former AG)Gary King would have done a better job even at his slow pace. 

Now the chess game continues with Balderas. He still has on his desk two hot potatoes placed there by State Auditor Tim Keller--the shady deal cut with the Taser corporation by former APD Chief Ray Schulz and the investigation of the taxation and revenue secretary for alleged favoritism. What will he do with those?

And then there's the potentially explosive corruption probe by a federal grand jury of the Governor's chief political adviser Jay McCleskey. If that erupts, will Balderas simply watch from the bleacher seats?

The Guv's machine has pretty much marched through this state, leaving much carnage in its wake. Second terms have a way of sorting out what legal and ethical barriers were breached in that kind of rampage. The stinky stuff is already surfacing. After watching the Duran case play out the question is whether Attorney General Balderas will continue to hold his nose to stifle the stench or put his gloves on and take out the garbage.


Reader Joe Barlela writes of Gov. Martinez's program to combat road rage, known as "Operation Lilly":

Joe, What Gov. Martinez should be doing for all the citizens is moving heaven and earth to get an adequate amount of police officers on the street to stop the rampant crime and road rage in Albuquerque. Clearly, Mayor Berry cannot seem to fix the problem.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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