As the third highest office in the state, the SOS is responsible for filling that role when the Governor and Lt. Governor are unavailable. And it happens more often than you might think.
Since GOP stalwart Dianna Duran’s spectacular fall from grace last year, the current interim Secretary of State, Brad Winter, has stepped up into the acting governor role at least three times.
And that should have your really worried considering one of the two candidates for that position this November is Nora Espinoza and even acting governors can control the national guard (and so so much more).
Espinoza was quoted in an interview this week saying that, “her work ‘has given me the kind of experience required for supervising the staff and operations of an administrative office, one geared to ensuring that procedures and policies are carried out in accordance with the law and established rules.’ ”
Take a look at a few of the proposals Espinoza has championed from her perch as State legislator (and imagine what she would do if she had full authority to direct the state police, national guard or guard the state’s checkbook without anyone requiring anyone else’s approval at all).
She once attempted to pass a bill that would turn cops into criminals if they tried to enforce gun laws in New Mexico! You read that right. HB114, sponsored by State Rep. Nora Espinoza, would have made it a felony for police officers to enforce federal firearm laws within the state – including those that allow officers to seize guns from felons and arrest them on the spot (ditto for laws requiring ATF agents to be sure firearms dealers aren’t selling assault rifles to felons, domestic abusers or kids).
She tried to legalize discrimination through a bill allowing public places to refuse service to gays, lesbians and about anyone else they could claim a religious objection to. Our current governor likes to talk a lot about all the new tourism New Mexico enjoys; but what if the acting governor suddenly closed all those state rest stops, state parks and public facilities to anyone who didn’t attend her church?
Speaking of her church, Nora Espinoza is the only elected person in the country crazy enough to be featured in a Scientology recruiting video encouraging states to adopt Scientology government policy. “Love you guys. Love you guys,” Espinoza says in a Church Scientology video promoting their legislative agenda against science and public health. “That is the reason I walk hand in hand with you and you’ve walked hand in hand with me.” To be fair, the Church of Scientology’s approach to behavioral health (tear it down) isn’t that much different than Gov. Martinez’s approach (break it, sell it, blame someone else) but it is a lot more radical and, well, not based on science.
And still one of the most incredible, she once tried to ban books by Latino and Chicano writers in public school in New Mexico. Saying we didn’t need to learn Chicano heritage in New Mexico schools, Espinoza became a laughing stock of national news for suggesting to eliminate those books. But who’d be laughing if she was actually governor and could appoint or fire the secretary of education who stood in her way?
Like your good paying job? What if Nora Espinoza got to pack the state’s labor relations board with big corporate construction executives who supported her bill to reduce wages on public construction projects 30% to protect their own profits? She did that and you can be they would if they could.
And if you trust her to manage the state’s public credit card, think again. She can’t even manage her own. In response to a public complaint about her campaign spending, the current Secretary of State noted in his report that he had “concern” over how Espinoza went about reporting payments to personal credit cards to reimburse herself for unknown expenses. You would think someone claiming to have the best experience to oversee the position of campaigns and elections could follow simple rules about how to run a campaign – especially after the last Secretary of State went to jail for mismanaging (embezzling) campaign funds and breaking rules she was supposed to enforce.
Those might sound funny, but it’s no joke. Acting governors carry the full authority of the actual governor and that includes the power to appoint members of state boards and commissions governing public healthcare, public education policy, environmental enforcement, wildlife and public lands protection. Oh! And she could appoint members of the boards of regents of our state’s largest universities (Scientology 101, anyone?), members of the labor relations board (good bye union jobs) and the state’s version of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission which guarantees that everyone – including gays and women – are protected at work.
It turns out, who we elect matters.