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Attorney to vie for secretary of state

SANTA FE – Political newcomer JoHanna Cox, a Republican, has stepped up to challenge incumbent Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver in this year’s election cycle.

Cox, an Albuquerque attorney, is the first GOP candidate in the race. She said Wednesday that she decided to enter the contest in part due to voters’ concerns about the integrity of New Mexico elections.

JoHanna Cox

“I want to make sure every vote counts moving forward,” she told the Journal.

Currently in private practice, Cox previously worked as an assistant district attorney in Valencia County and held a similar position in the Santa Fe-based 1st Judicial District Attorney’s office.

She acknowledged Wednesday that she has no experience running elections but cited her work with a special unit that prosecuted public corruption cases, including a high-profile embezzlement case involving the Jemez Mountain School District.

In announcing her campaign, Cox also accused Toulouse Oliver, the Democratic incumbent, of playing “partisan politics” in the Secretary of State’s Office.

“We cannot afford to allow our elections, the constitutional check on our government, to be coerced by political decisions not based on the law, fairness and equality for all,” she said.

Toulouse Oliver was criticized by GOP gubernatorial candidate Steve Pearce last summer for ruling he could not tap his entire federal election account for the governor’s race. Pearce eventually won a court order on the issue in November.

But Toulouse Oliver has denied her actions were politically motivated. Her campaign manager indicated the former Bernalillo County clerk is prepared to tout her track record.

“Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver is excited to be running for re-election so that she can continue her successful work to shine a light on dark money in politics, ensure our elections are fair and transparent, protect New Mexico voters’ personal information and the integrity of our elections systems,” campaign manager Heather Brewer said Wednesday.

Just one Republican – Dianna Duran – has held the office of secretary of state since 1930. Duran was elected in 2010 and subsequently re-elected in 2014, but she resigned from office and pleaded guilty in 2015 to illegally diverting campaign funds to fuel a gambling habit.

Toulouse Oliver, who lost in the 2014 election, was elected secretary of state in a 2016 special election. She received more than 56 percent of the votes cast in that year’s race to defeat Republican Nora Espinoza.

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