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Editorial: Journal recommendations for NM’s statewide offices

Journal endorsements in this year’s general election continue today with the statewide races for attorney general, secretary of state, auditor, treasurer and commissioner of public lands:

Attorney General – Hector Balderas

The attorney general is responsible for fighting crime, enforcing open meetings and public records laws, protecting consumers and providing legal advice to state agencies. AG Hector Balderas, a Democrat who has held the position for nearly four years, has demonstrated he isn’t afraid of taking on corrupt politicians of either political stripe, from former Sen. Phil Griego, a Democrat convicted of fraud, bribery and other public corruption charges, to former Secretary of State Dianna Duran, a Republican who pleaded guilty to stealing campaign donations to feed a gambling habit. Nor has Balderas shied away from hammering government officials who have violated state transparency laws, going after such entities as the University of New Mexico. On the crime front, he has prioritized protecting vulnerable children from violent crime, bringing charges in the case of the Albuquerque couple accused of prostituting a 7-year-old relative for drugs.

Balderas, a former state auditor and prosecutor and certified fraud examiner, is running against Republican Michael Hendricks and Libertarian Blair Dunn. The Journal recommends voters keep Hector Balderas as attorney general.

Secretary of State – Maggie Toulouse Oliver

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, a Democrat, previously served as Bernalillo County clerk for about 10 years, where she made elections run faster and smoother than her predecessors. As secretary of state for the past two years she has run a statewide primary election and implemented new rules aimed at requiring more disclosure of state political spending; she also supports opening New Mexico primary elections to independent voters. An early adopter of suitable technology, Toulouse Oliver has kept voter rolls up to date. And while she has had a couple of glaring missteps – most notably attempting to reinstitute straight-party voting, an effort quashed by the state Supreme Court in September – on the whole she has brought the office into the 21st century. She’s running against Republican Gavin Clarkson and Libertarian Ginger Grider. The Journal recommends voters keep Maggie Toulouse Oliver as secretary of state.

Commissioner of Public Lands – Patrick Lyons

This is a critical position that oversees 14,000 square miles of state trust lands, leveraging those resources to generate millions of dollars for public schools and other beneficiaries each year. Republican and Quay County rancher Patrick Lyons is an experienced land manager who will work with oil and gas producers, ranchers and other private industries to maximize revenues for public schools and the other beneficiaries of the land trust.

Yes, Lyons had his share of controversy while serving as land commissioner from 2003 to 2010. While that is concerning, the bottom line is oil production in New Mexico is at an all-time high, and the State Land Office must seize the opportunity to maximize revenue for beneficiaries – especially our children in the classrooms. We cannot afford a land commissioner who will throw up roadblocks in front of this opportunity.

Lyons is running against Democrat Stephanie Garcia Richard and Libertarian Michael Lucero. The Journal endorses Patrick Lyons for state land commissioner.

State Auditor – Brian Colón

At its core, the Office of the State Auditor must be a watchdog, someone who will hold public officials accountable and ferret out waste, fraud and abuse. Brian Colón’s education and experience make him a good fit for the position. Colón, a Democrat and an attorney, earned a finance degree from New Mexico State University and a law degree from the University of New Mexico. He has pledged to build on the strong foundation built by former state auditors Tim Keller and Hector Balderas. That includes such projects as a transparency report on how much taxpayers have forked out on contract buyouts. But he also understands the office must maintain its core mission of ensuring accountability for every government agency in our state.

Colón is running against Republican Wayne Johnson, who was appointed state auditor late last year. The Journal endorses Brian Colón for state auditor.

State Treasurer – Tim Eichenberg

The state treasurer is essentially the state’s banker, managing and investing cash used to operate state government, running an investment pool for local governments and serving as a member of key state boards, including the State Investment Council and Mortgage Finance Authority. As treasurer for the past four years, Democrat Tim Eichenberg has done all of that. But he has also pushed hard to make paying the state with a credit card more secure, which has saved taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars. He has overseen the conversion of the state Treasurer’s Office computer system to the centralized state government computer system. And he has been pushing for legislation aimed at requiring more public disclosure of how much state agencies pay in investment fees, commissions and similar expenses, arguing the public has a right to know.

Eichenberg is running against Republican Arthur Castillo. The Journal recommends voters keep Tim Eichenberg as state treasurer.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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