Prominent Republicans show love to Balderas

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Hector Balderas

Hector Balderas

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.

7 thoughts on “Prominent Republicans show love to Balderas

  1. Hector has done an outstanding job aggressively fighting government corruption. He was the first statewide elected official to institute a fraud hotline and with the few resources his small office has he has exposed the largest embezzlement case in New Mexico history–the Jemez Mountain Public School District. I’m glad he’s getting the recognition he deserves from folks throughout the state.

  2. Maybe because Hector is so beloved or maybe because reporters just forgot about it, but no one has ever reported what ever became of the Attorney Generals Investigation into reports that Hector Balderas misused public property and or employees for his own use. That story just sort of went away. Is the investigation complete? What was the outcome?

  3. Frank – We live in Dona Ana County, so we’re the only people in the state not to see this, but Burgos has often appeared on TV in the ABQ market (which covers the rest of the state) as a conservative analyst (an example is here – http://cli.gs/mdzHXR). He’s also done PR and worked on Republican campaigns, such as Aubrey Dunn’s congressional campaign in 2008. And he’s one of the more well-read political bloggers in the state.

  4. “Prominent Republicans”…so having been retired here in New Mexico for the better part of 8 years now, I at least recognized Keith Gardner’s name. An elected official. But to lead off with the name of an occasional “conservative blogger” who I had to Google to find out who he was does not exactly indicate prominence. Seems that this article was tilted to support Balderas by finding anyone with a Republican registration to back up his arguments. Prominent means someone that a lot of people know and who’s opinion people widely respect. I’m not sure this Burgos guy meets that definition.

  5. Just one more La Politica operative, nothing different here. The establishment love him, ‘nuf said.

  6. Hector was anointed to this position by Bill Richardson only because of his friendship with Brian Colon and Bill Richardson. The same way he was moved from Albuquerque to Wagon Mound to take an anointed seat in the legislature by Brian and Richardson before he became auditor. He has never had to win an election against anyone and democrats are making sure no one challenges him in the primary and republicans are too disorganized to try and get a candidate. I really don’t think he has proven himself yet and without any opposition he won’t have too either! He has always been a golden child of the Richardson Administration.

    I find it very interesting that you (Heath Haussamen) run a flattering article at the same time you run a poll on Hectors performance. You did not do that with other polls you ran on elected officials performance. Shows your bias and is unfair to others whom you have had polls on.

  7. That’s the kind of praise a do nothing auditor deserves.
    It’s the GOP’s way of saying thanking your doing nothing about the State Land Commissioner…
    Way to go HECTOR!