Voters’ Guide

Federal Offices

Candidates for Statewide New Mexico Offices

GENERAL ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS FOR ALL STATE, DISTRICT AND COUNTY CANDIDATES: A candidate must be a registered voter in New Mexico affiliated with the political party for which he/she is seeking office. A candidate for district office must reside in the district of voter registration. Additional requirements for each office are given on the following pages.



Secretary of State

Four-year term with no more than two terms in succession. Must be at least 30 years old, a citizen of the United States, and have resided continuously in New Mexico for five years preceding his/her election. The Secretary of State is second in line of succession behind the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor. The Secretary of State attests and affixes the Great Seal of the State of New Mexico to official documents, maintains the state repository of signed legislation and required filings, is the chief election officer, and generally supervises statewide elections. The Secretary of State is responsible for the registration of lobbyists, trade names, trademarks, and notary public commissions. Annual salary: $85,000.


Nora Espinoza

Nora Espinoza

Republican

Would you support any changes to New Mexico’s voting procedures, such as Same Day Voter Registration, mail-in voting, or requiring photo IDs at the polls? Please explain.

Support Voter ID, with free IDs to those who don’t have one. Albuquerque has had it for ten years, with zero complaints. The US is about the only country in the world without Voter ID. I oppose Same-Day Voter Registration. It allows non-New Mexicans to pass through on Election Day, register, vote, and leave the state. Once that vote is cast it cannot be un-counted.

What actions would you take to increase voter registrations? Would you favor an “opt out” system at motor vehicle departments where eligible citizens are automatically registered to vote? If not, why not?

Registration is extremely easy and can be done on-line at any time. The only thing preventing someone from registering to vote is not wanting to register. I oppose automatic registration because legal non-citizens, temporary visa holders, and certain felons are all eligible to apply for driver’s licenses, but are ineligible to vote. Registering them “automatically,” combined with the lack of Voter ID, decreases electoral integrity.

What changes, if any, would you support in campaign finance reporting? (65 words)

Our law is unenforceable due to three key federal court decisions in 2009, 2010 and 2012. We must have bright-line provisions that clearly define who must report and what has to be disclosed—including the dark money participants, such as George Soros, who funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars to candidates like my opponent, using multiple “shell” PACs. I support legislation to address these deficiencies.

How have your abilities and experience prepared you for the duties of this office?

My background as a businesswoman and legislator taught me the distinction between legislative discretion and administrative duties. My opponent, who’s a professional political consultant, indicates she’ll use the SOS position to impose her ideas. That’s wrong. The office is administrative. The SOS must follow the law—not attempt to create law. The SOS must ensure elections integrity without favoring any one group over any other.

Maggie Toulouse Oliver

Maggie Toulouse Oliver

Democrat

Would you support any changes to New Mexico’s voting procedures, such as Same Day Voter Registration, mail-in voting, or requiring photo IDs at the polls? Please explain.

I support same-day registration as long as ballots are verified for eligibility before they are officially counted. I would also like to expand mail-in voting in New Mexico. I support our current voter identification laws and any legislation that improves the security and integrity of our elections, but not at the expense of diminishing access to the polls or restricting the right to vote.

What actions would you take to increase voter registrations? Would you favor an “opt out” system at motor vehicle departments where eligible citizens are automatically registered to vote? If not, why not?

I fully support an easier, more accessible registration process including Automatic Voter Registration linked to the MVD/online voter registration system. I support this concept whether the opt-out option is available at the time of registration or afterward. Once the majority of citizens are automatically registered, other resources can be dedicated to helping those who do not have contact with the MVD register to vote.

What changes, if any, would you support in campaign finance reporting?

There are too many gaps in current systems. I will write rules that are easy to comply with so that information is reported in a way that the public can easily understand, and see the relationships between candidates and donors. I will work with legislators to make changes that require the highest levels of disclosure for every dollar spent in support or opposition of candidates.

How have your abilities and experience prepared you for the duties of this office?

As Bernalillo Clerk since 2007, I’ve made protecting the right to vote, improving the integrity of elections and ensuring accountable leadership top priorities. My 9.5+ years of experience running elections in the largest county in the state, combined with my work toward ensuring accountability and transparency in my office, and elections, have prepared me to make much-needed changes in the Secretary of State’s office.




New Mexico State Judicial Offices

Vacancies for courts in New Mexico are filled through appointment by the governor from a slate of potential nominees submitted by a judicial nominating committee. The newly appointed judge must then run in a contested, partisan election at the next general election. Thereafter, the judge runs in nonpartisan retention elections for set terms. In a partisan election, the candidate receiving the most votes will be elected. In a retention election, the justice or judge must receive a 57% “yes” vote out of all the votes cast on the question of whether the justice or judge should remain in office.


Justice of the Supreme Court

The five justices on the Supreme Court are elected by all voters in the state and serve eight-year terms. To be eligible to hold the office of Justice of the Supreme Court, a person must be 35 years old, have practiced law for at least 10 years, and have resided in New Mexico for the last 3 years. The Supreme Court serves as the administrative head of the New Mexico judicial branch of government. It is the “court of last resort” for state appellate actions, regulates attorneys and judges, and has superintending control over all lower state courts. It has jurisdiction over civil cases where jurisdiction is not specifically vested in the state Court of Appeals, appeals from criminal cases imposing the death penalty or life imprisonment, appeals from decisions of the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission, certiorari review of state Court of Appeals decisions, and cases certified to it by the state Court of Appeals or any federal court. Annual salary: $131,174.31.

Judith K. Nakamura

Judith K. Nakamura

(Republican)

How have your training, professional experience, and interests prepared you to serve on this court?

As one of five Supreme Court Justices, I help resolve a wide spectrum of complex legal issues and supervise state courts. My extensive civil law experience—private, corporate and governmental—and my past service as a former Metropolitan Court and District Court criminal trial judge, is unique on our Court. My four terms as the Metropolitan Court’s Chief Judge provide invaluable court managerial skills.

What programs or changes would improve the New Mexico Supreme Court?

Difficult economic times have led to a stark diminution of judicial resources, without a corresponding decrease in cases. Improved resource availability, along with better allocation to need areas and core support staffing, can best facilitate the most important objective: improving the timely disposition of court cases. People’s lives hang in the balance when justice is delayed; my goal is to speed the process up.

What is your judicial philosophy?

My philosophy is to correctly resolve the cases that come before the Supreme Court. To do so, the Constitution is to be followed, as are laws written by our Legislators. Jurists must non-creatively and faithfully honor precedent. Fairness, punctuality, evenhandedness and respect for litigants are the philosophic hallmarks of judicial service.

What has been your greatest achievement as a judge?

My greatest achievement is the unprecedented privilege of serving at every level of our Court system, currently as a Supreme Court Justice. Along the way, I was honored by MADD as its national judge of the year for combatting DWI, I sped up and tried dozens of delayed criminal cases at District Court. I have now authored or participated in dozens of Supreme Court decisions.

Michael E. Vigil

Michael E. Vigil

(Democrat)

How have your training, professional experience, and interests prepared you to serve on this court?

I am Chief Judge of the New Mexico Court of Appeals, on which I have served since 2003. I have sat on over 3,000 appellate cases and written over 1,000 appellate opinions. I appeared as counsel in every NM judicial district and was appellate counsel in over 50 precedent-setting cases as a practicing attorney for 27 years before serving on the Court of Appeals.

What programs or changes would improve the New Mexico Supreme Court/Court of Appeals? (Question applies to the office for which you are the candidate.)

The Supreme Court can provide for the safety of our children and communities by Implementing practical rules for district attorneys and courts and by creating tools that laboratories and police officers need to do their jobs.

What is your judicial philosophy?

My judicial philosophy is that everyone, regardless of their race, religion, sex, national origin, social class, or sexual orientation should have their day in court and be heard because justice isn’t only about laws, it’s about lives.

What has been your greatest achievement as a judge?

My greatest achievement has been working hard for the last 13 years on the Court of Appeals for all the people of New Mexico to enforce the laws and protect their rights: their personal rights, their property rights, their constitutional rights. I have twice been recommended as qualified for the NM Supreme Court by the bi-partisan Appellate Judges Nominating Commission.




Judge of the Court of Appeals

The ten judges on the Court of Appeals are elected statewide and serve eight-year terms. Eligibility requirements: a person must be 35 years old, have practiced law for at least 10 years, and have resided in New Mexico for the last 3 years. As the intermediate court between the district courts and the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals reviews appeals in all cases, except criminal cases involving sentences of death or life imprisonment, appeals from the Public Regulation Commission, and cases involving habeas corpus. The judges sit in panels of three judges to decide cases. Annual salary: Judge, $124,615.

Stephen G. French

Stephen G. French

(Republican)

How have your training, professional experience, and interests prepared you to serve on this court?

For 35 years, I had the pleasure of meeting the legal needs of New Mexicans, as a prosecutor, criminal defense attorney, and a civil attorney. I handled over 110 appeals. I have been as a mediator and successfully resolved hundreds of complex cases. Now as a sitting Judge, I am familiar with the process and I have already decided several important matters before the Court.

What programs or changes would improve the New Mexico Supreme Court/Court of Appeals? (Question applies to the office for which you are the candidate.)

We need to continue to focus on the efficient administration of justice. I would like to see the Court of Appeals implement an electronic filing system. This would bring efficiency to the Court and the litigants.

What is your judicial philosophy?

Fairness must always come before politics. Every person, regardless of who they are, where they come from, or their political party is entitled to a full and fair hearing before the Court. That is the kind of Judge I am and that’s the kind of Judge I will continue to be.

What has been your greatest achievement as a judge?

In the short time I have been on the Court of Appeals, I have demonstrated my clear commitment to the fair and equal administration of justice, to resolving cases expeditiously, and to fostering the collegiality and dignity of the Court.

Julie J. Vargas

Julie J. Vargas

(Democrat)

How have your training, professional experience, and interests prepared you to serve on this court?

I was born and raised in Old Town, Albuquerque, where I still live. For 23 years, I’ve protected the rights of New Mexican families and New Mexico small businesses. I’ve dedicated my career to improving the legal profession, especially in the area of legal ethics. I’ve volunteered my time and services for NM Museum of Natural History Foundation, Children’s Cancer Fund and Special Olympics.

What programs or changes would improve the New Mexico Court of Appeals?

The Court of Appeals lags behind other New Mexico courts in the area of technology. While other courts are equipped for electronic filing and allow online access to court documents, the Court of Appeals does not have those capabilities. Budget constraints over the past several years have prevented the much-needed technological upgrades that would modernize the Court and make it more accessible to the public.

What is your judicial philosophy?

Know the law, understand the facts, and apply the law fairly and equally to everyone who comes before you, without exception.

What has been your greatest achievement as a judge?

My greatest professional achievement is my work on lawyer ethics. I am a member of the Disciplinary Board, making disciplinary recommendations to the Supreme Court about lawyers who violate ethical rules. I am an 18-year member of the Bar’s Ethics Advisory Committee, advising lawyers on ethical dilemmas. I have chaired that committee since 2008. I have also taught legal ethics at the UNM Law School.