ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A primary election night spat between Secretary of State Dianna Duran’s office and Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver over erroneous early vote returns suggested the race for secretary of state is shaping up as a hot one.
Duran, a Republican, is seeking re-election. Toulouse Oliver, a Democrat, is challenging Duran for the state office.
The election-night issue feud stemmed from a batch of early, unofficial election returns posted on the secretary of state’s website minutes after New Mexico polls closed at 7 p.m. The data showed more than 80,000 votes already counted and Democratic governor candidate Linda Lopez, who ultimately finished last, leading the field of five candidates with 33 percent of the vote.
The erroneous data later were deleted and the election returns published online were reset. But in a campaign for secretary of state – an office often judged on its ability to run smooth elections – any election night blunder becomes campaign fodder.
The Secretary of State’s Office promptly pointed blame at Toulouse Oliver for the error, saying the Bernalillo County Clerk’s Office uploaded a bogus “test” document into the system that skewed the results. Secretary of state’s spokesman Ken Ortiz sent out a news release accusing Toulouse Oliver for the “early glitch”
“What had happened is Bernalillo County accidentally loaded a bad file, and so when we saw it come through, we removed that number because of their mistake,” Ortiz told the Journal on election night.
Not so, said Toulouse Oliver. The Bernalillo County clerk said her staff reviewed their records and found no evidence that any test file was in the office’s computer system on Tuesday or was sent to the secretary of state.
“I’m left to conclude that either a huge mistake was made on their end and they were trying to cover their mistake by firing first, or that they took advantage of what they thought was my mistake to make me look bad,” Toulouse Oliver said.
Early returns on the Bernalillo County clerk’s own website Tuesday night appeared accurate.
Bernalillo County vote tabulations were completed on the county’s website about 11:15 p.m. on Tuesday.
Making amends: The Democratic candidates in the state treasurer’s race appeared to make amends on Wednesday on the heels of a campaign that got nasty before being won by former state Sen. Tim Eichenberg.
Eichenberg beat out former state Democratic Party Chairman John Wertheim, who repeatedly cast himself as the only “real Democrat” in the race, among other attacks aimed at Eichenberg.
On Wednesday morning, Wertheim conceded defeat. “Now it is time for all of us to come together and support our nominees to ensure Democratic victories up and down the ballot in November,” he said. Eichenberg said he harbored no ill will toward Wertheim after the campaign attacks.
“People say things in battle that aren’t necessarily what they would say if they thought about it,” Eichenberg said. “It’s time for the Democrats to get united and get past this, and that’s what we did today.”
James Monteleone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.