The race for Santa Fe County Clerk is pitting two Democrats against each other, incumbent Geraldine Salazar, and challenger Letitia Montoya.
There is no Republican in the race.
While Montoya had visited The Independent in April, her short visit did not include an interview, and she did not return phone calls seeking an interview for this story.
Montoya emphasized in her visit that she is being endorsed in the race by Valerie Espinoza, who was Santa Fe County Clerk before Salazar. Espinoza now sits on the Public Regulation Commission, or PRC.
Another race in Santa Fe County, that of Treasurer, is being sought by only one candidate, Patrick Varela.
“I think we’ve done an excellent job in maintaining fair elections and running a high-volume government office,” Salazar said when asked why she is running for re-election. “I think we have excellent customer service.”
When Salazar ran for County Clerk in 2012, she was endorsed by Espinoza. Asked why she no longer had that endorsement, Salazar said she had to be careful about what she said because it involves personnel issues.
Salazar said there were “a couple of incidents and one recent” in which “Valerie [Espinoza] had been conducting personal business using county employees.”
Salazar said she had “direct experience” with her former boss “who wanted me to do certain things that were not appropriate in the office.” Most recently, she said Espinoza had asked for 65 documents, but didn’t want to pay the fee the county charges.
Asked what accomplishments she points to in her first term in office, Salazar said, “Maintaining a staff and seeking a staff that is professional and can do the job in the best interest of the public.”
She added, “I’m hands-on, and communicate with the public about the duties of the office. … It’s important to me that we run fair and honest elections, and that I hired staff that will be professional and give the best customer service.”
The biggest challenge facing the office right now “is the rapid push for technology in elections,” Salazar said. She is in favor of paper ballots, currently mandated by state law.
Salazar said her office is looking at “voting convenience centers,” wherein any voter can vote at any polling location. The system is currently in use by Bernalillo County.
She said her concern is internet connectivity in some areas of the county, which stretches from Española to Edgewood. “It’s important that we plan accordingly so that when we do implement them, we don’t disenfranchise voters. … I decided that lack of connectivity around the county we feel means it is not secure yet.” She said she has a target date of 2018 to implement such a system. “We still have to do our due diligence,” Salazar said.
As for paper ballots, “I never want to see them taken away,” she explained. “I want paper ballots and technology to work together. The reason why is [with paper ballots] we will be able to recreate an election should anything occur electronically. … Yes, I want technology, but I don’t want to depend 100 percent on technology.”
Salazar said she plans to “help young people run for office, to train them on ethics and accountability, how to stay away from dirty politics and how to deal with it.”
Asked if she has ever been convicted of a crime, Salazar answered, “No.”
She finished by saying, “Go out and vote. Participate—in the primary election and the general election.”