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Dems retake Secretary of State’s Office

Candidates for New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver and Nora Espinoza

Candidates for New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver and Nora Espinoza

Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver, a Democrat, defeated Republican state Rep. Nora Espinoza for secretary of state and promised to restore “integrity and accountability” to the scandal-scarred office.

Toulouse Oliver will fill out the final two years of the term of Republican Dianna Duran, who resigned last year as she pleaded guilty to misusing her campaign funds to feed a gambling habit.

“There’s a lot of reform that needs to be implemented — and I’m so ready for it,” said Toulouse Oliver, who has been clerk in the state’s most populous county for the past decade.

It was the second go-round for the Democrat, who lost to Duran in 2014 when Duran ran for re-election. Duran was the first Republican to hold the seat in 80 years when she was elected in 2010.

The race between Toulouse Oliver and Espinoza was hard-fought, illustrating the philosophical gulf between the candidates.

Espinoza, of Roswell, focused her campaign on voter fraud, promising to push for photo voter identification to ensure honest elections. She criticized Toulouse Oliver’s tenure as clerk and said the Democrat’s proposals to make voting more accessible would invite voter fraud.

Toulouse Oliver said she would advocate for a statewide ethics commission and restore the straight-ticket voting option Duran did away with, if she were elected.

The candidates, who labeled each other as too extreme, raised more than $1 million between them and had spent nearly that much as of last week, with Toulouse Oliver outspending Espinoza 2-to-1.

Toulouse Oliver also had the advantage of name recognition as well as statewide voter registration, which tilts to Democrats.

Espinoza called Toulouse Oliver to congratulate her, and they had a brief and “very gracious” conversation, according to Espinoza’s campaign manager, former state Sen. Rod Adair.

The current secretary of state, Brad Winter — a Republican appointed last year by Gov. Susana Martinez — didn’t run for the job this year.

Journal staff writer Charles Brunt contributed to this report.