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Editorial: NM secretary of state should focus on vote, not craven fundraising

As we approach the 2020 election, there has been rhetoric on both sides that can only undermine credibility of, and confidence in, the results. President Trump and some Republicans have claimed expanded mail-in voting in states that aren’t prepared is susceptible to fraud, with Trump tweeting last month: “The fraud and abuse will be an embarrassment to our Country.” Democrats claim Republicans are engaging in voter suppression and vow to wage “lawfare” for weeks after Nov. 3 to make sure every vote is counted.

Hillary Clinton is on record as saying Joe Biden should “not concede under any circumstances because I think this is going to drag out and eventually I do believe we will win if we don’t give an inch.” Trump has repeatedly refused to commit to a peaceful transfer if he loses, asserting that would happen only because of fraudulent mail-in voting.

And let’s not forget the drumbeat of Russian interference. And allegations of Chinese interference.

Against this disturbing backdrop, it would seem imperative that elected officials whose primary job is to ensure fair and efficient elections the public can have confidence in would make sure they are above reproach and try to stay above the political fray – at least during the election run-up.

But on this, N.M. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver gets a “F.” In the past two weeks, her campaign committee, “Friends of Maggie Toulouse Oliver,” has put out fundraising appeals based on two of the political hot-button issues roiling the nation – the shooting death of Louisville, Kentucky, EMT Breonna Taylor and the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court to succeed liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

“An unarmed Black woman was murdered inside her home by cops,” a Sept. 23 Friends of Maggie solicitation says. “Want to help Maggie protect our elections system and create a stronger democracy? Make a contribution today.”

A Sept. 27 pitch from “Friends of Maggie” said the GOP Senate “is eager to infringe on our voting rights, and it’s likely that Trump’s new appointee will favor the national Republican popular opinion.” The digital flyer includes a petition and, of course, a button to donate to help Maggie fight “for clean and fair elections devoid of dark money and outside influence.”

It’s not clear how Toulouse Oliver, a Democrat who isn’t on the ballot, could legally spend campaign money on the job she was elected to do, but it hasn’t stopped her pitch.

Toulouse Oliver is politically ambitious. Her office is elected and she briefly challenged Ben Ray Luján for her party’s Senate nomination, but eventually tossed in the towel. (She had a separate fundraising committee for that race.)

But using the tragic death of Taylor, or the passing of Ginsburg, to raise campaign cash seems especially craven.

And she doesn’t hesitate to call Taylor’s death “murder,” even though the Kentucky attorney general, also African American, says the facts of the case don’t support criminal charges against white police officers carrying out a drug raid at her home. Taylor was shot and killed after her boyfriend – who didn’t know who had come into the house – opened fire on the officers and they returned it.

The city of Louisville has agreed to a $12 million settlement and banned no-knock raids. The police chief has departed and been replaced by an African American woman. Daily protests have ensued, some turning violent. While Toulouse Oliver and others call it “murder,” two high-profile African Americans in the sports world – Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal – took a different approach, worrying the case shouldn’t be lumped into others, such as the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. “When you talk about murder, you have to show intent,” O’Neal says. “A homicide occurred, and we’re sorry … but when you have a warrant signed by the judge, you are doing your job, and I imagine you would fire back.” It should be noted Barkley has also dismissed the “Defund the Police” movement, asking “Who are Black people supposed to call, Ghostbusters, when we have crime in our neighborhood?”

That doesn’t mean we don’t need police reform. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t ban no-knock raids. It doesn’t mean we don’t need to strive for racial justice, or that Kentucky AG Daniel Cameron shouldn’t make public as much evidence as possible that was presented to the grand jury, or that the next Supreme Court nominee doesn’t need a full and thorough vetting.

But what we don’t need are politicians, such as our secretary of state, who should be ensuring a smooth and impartial election where every vote is counted as expeditiously as possible, using these issues to foment fear and fill a war chest.

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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