In midst of election season, blogger and House minority whip praise Democratic state auditor, who has yet to draw a Republican challenger
The 2010 election is in full swing, and the governor’s race has already degraded into the usual partisan, nasty mess. In contrast, some prominent Republicans have nothing but nice things to say about State Auditor Hector Balderas, a rising star in the Democratic Party who’s up for re-election next year.
The current non-scientific poll question on this site asks whether voters approve of the job Balderas is doing. In response to the poll, conservative blogger and GOP activist Mario Burgos posted an unsolicited note about Balderas on my Facebook page.
“I’ve got to admit I was a pretty vocal critic when Hector was being considered for the position since he lacked an accounting background, but I’ve been impressed with his commitment and performance to date,” Burgos wrote. “I may be partisan, but I’m more than willing to put politics aside when someone is doing a great job. Keep it up Mr. Auditor.”
Asked about the comments from Burgos, House Minority Whip Keith Gardner, R-Roswell, also praised Balderas, who served with Gardner in the House for several years before Balderas became auditor.
“He’s honest. He tries to do what’s right,” Gardner said. “He’s just a solid guy and so I have a ton of respect for him.”
“I think he’s done a great job in a department that struggles to make ends meet,” Gardner added. “They’re underfunded, understaffed, and yet he finds a way to do his job.”
How popular Balderas is among other Republicans isn’t clear. State GOP spokeswoman Janel Causey didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Burgos has recently been complementary of Balderas on his blog. In one posting, he wrote that Balderas “is leading the fight to get criminals behind bars. He seems to be doing his job well and with little concern whether the elected criminals have an R or D attached to their name.”
In another posting, Burgos highlighted an audit released by Balderas’ office that accused the Mora school district of improperly using tens of thousands of dollars to buy gifts for state legislators and other officials.
Taking on Democrats and Republicans
Balderas, an attorney who has been state auditor since 2007, has clashed with Democratic Attorney General Gary King, saying the AG may be illegally using a subpoena for documents as a way to find out what Balderas has discovered in the course of investigations involving King, the AG’s office or other agencies with which King has a conflict.
Balderas also called the state’s affordable housing system a “colossal failure” after his office released a long-awaited report that found that, whether it was due to corruption, ineptitude, mismanagement or other factors, several state housing agencies were running amok with public money and there were inadequate controls in place to stop it. That put him at odds with some high-ranking Democratic officials, but his concerns were eventually backed up when a former Democratic state lawmaker and others were indicted in the scandal.
Balderas hasn’t only taken on Democrats. His office is in the middle of auditing the office of Republican Land Commissioner Patrick Lyons. Auditors are considering whether there has been any wrongdoing in the land office’s dealings related to state trust land.
Most recently, Balderas has been in the news for publicly calling out all state agencies that have refused to submit annual audits that are required by law. He has asked for a new state law that gives him the authority to do something about those rogue government agencies.
In a statement released by his office, Balderas said he’s thankful for the words of Burgos and Gardner.
“In the past three years as state auditor, I have worked hard to expand the duties of the State Auditor’s Office and have aggressively protected taxpayers against governmental fraud, waste and abuse,” he said. “I believe that this important work is above partisan politics, and I appreciate the support of many Republicans, including Mr. Burgos and Rep. Gardner.”
Will Balderas have a GOP challenger?
Balderas has yet to draw a challenge from a Republican or anyone else in next year’s election. Gardner said if Republicans can find a qualified candidate to run against Balderas, that would be “a great thing” because the GOP needs more statewide elected officials.
“But I don’t think it’s something where we should be falling all over ourselves, because Hector is a fiscal conservative; he’s done a great job,” Gardner added. “It’s not something where I would personally say I need to go and recruit someone to run against him.”
Burgos sounded lukewarm about a GOP challenge to Balderas.
“The democratic process relies on people challenging incumbents for them to continue to be held accountable,” he said. “If someone thinks they can do a better job, I think they should run.”
“Of course, they’ll have to explain why they can do a better job,” he said. “It’s not like the GOP has a lot of people sitting, waiting to run for this. As I recall, the last time someone switched parties to run on the R ticket.”
That’s right. Balderas’ Republican opponent in the 2006 election was Lorenzo Garcia, who ran for state treasurer in 1994 as a member of the Green Party.