Maybe social media has made muting oneself an anachronism. Even so, good newspapers cut off the back-and-forth combat between politicians a few days before the polls close.

The theory is sensational late allegations shouldn’t be dignified if there’s no chance for rebuttal.

Santa Fe will choose a mayor Tuesday night after an ugly and uninspired campaign. The candidates, at least for now, are out of newsprint.

But elections don’t end conversations. They start them. For good or bad, seven stand out for their lasting significance, historical changes or antics worth a belly laugh.

Pipeline to greed: Republican Warren G. Harding won a landslide victory in the 1920 presidential election. An inept judge of talent, Harding chose corrupt New Mexico politician Albert B. Fall as his interior secretary.

Fall took bribes from cronies. In turn, he handed them no-bid rights to drill for oil at Teapot Dome in Wyoming and another choice site in California. Fall became the first U.S. Cabinet secretary convicted of a crime. He spent a year in jail. Many more New Mexico officeholders would follow Fall’s example by committing crimes to enrich themselves. Among the sparsely populated states in the West, New Mexico might lead in public corruption.

More bluster than brains: Edwin Mechem, an attorney and a former FBI agent, in 1950 became the first Republican in 20 years elected as governor of New Mexico. One of Mechem’s campaign promises was an all-out effort to solve the 1949 murder of an 18-year-old Las Cruces waitress, Ovida “Cricket” Coogler.

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerry Nuzum, who played college football at New Mexico A&M in Las Cruces, had been investigated and cleared in Coogler’s killing. After Mechem’s election, state prosecutors nonetheless charged Nuzum with her murder. After a four-day trial, a judge ordered Nuzum’s acquittal for lack of evidence.

Coogler’s murder remains unsolved.

Let the people decide: Certain politicians lost considerable power in the 1914 election, and ordinary people were better for it. State legislatures elected U.S. senators from 1789 to 1913. The system changed with the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which gave the public authority to choose its senators.

Bonds of mistrust: Santa Fe voters in 2008 approved a $30.3 million bond issue to improve parks and trails. City executives misused a sizable portion of the money, diverting it to pay the salaries of dozens of municipal employees. At once, bond issues became more difficult to sell to voters.



Bars, restaurants win a round: New Mexico legislators in 1999 ended prohibition on election days. Until then, the state had barred alcohol sales while the polls were open. The restriction was probably tied to a time when ward heelers might hand out bottles of wine or whiskey as enticements for voters.

Rudy’s zany ways: New Mexico was Joe Biden territory in 2020. Television networks called the state for the Democratic presidential candidate as soon as the polls closed. Defeated President Donald Trump still tried to cast doubt on the outcome, enlisting former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani to complain.

“And the state that we’re looking at that would surprise you, we’re seeing very, very significant amount of fraud allegations in the state of New Mexico,” Giuliani said.

Few believed Giuliani. Trump lost New Mexico by 100,000 votes, and his camp soon dropped its complaint. But Trump continues to claim without evidence that cheating in a half-dozen other states caused his defeat.

Rank them — or not: Santa Fe voters in 2008 approved a trendy system of electing city politicians.

People could vote for multiple candidates for the same office, ranking them in order of preference. If no one received more than 50 percent of the first-place votes, the second choices of bottom-tier candidates would be counted until a contender receives majority support.

It took 10 years to launch ranked-choice voting in Santa Fe. Part of the delay was getting the right voting equipment. Lethargy also was in play. Candidates continued to be elected by plurality until March 2018.

Now that ranked-choice voting has been in place for almost four years, many supporters of mayoral candidates are balking. Vote only for one candidate, they say. Otherwise, an enemy might win the election with second-place support.

Ranked-choice voting was supposed to quell anger and lessen dirty tactics. Candidates would play nice to corral second-place votes, the advocates said.

That’s not the way it has worked in this year’s mayoral election. The system is no better than the candidates, who, for today, won’t get their names in the paper.

Ringside Seat is an opinion column about people, politics and news. Contact Milan Simonich at msimonich@sfnewmexican.com or 505-986-3080.

(13) comments

Michael Kiley

Hey, man, you can do better. Thom Hartman, nationally syndicated writer shows that no Republican has been elected since Ike, who just golfed while Sherman Adams ran things for General Motors.

Nixon and Kissinger killed another 20,000 US troops extending the Vietnam war, when polls showed them losing to Vice President Humphrey, by scuttling the LBJ armistice in back door treason.

Same with Reagan, keeping the Iran hostages imprisoned another 6 months to rescue his defeat by President Carter.

Bush used John Roberts with James Baker III on the Bush strike cabal to violate federal law by crossing state lines to foment the "Brooks Brothers" riot, stopping the vote-counting in Tallahassee using bussed-in GOP DC staffers, and awarded felon Roberts the chief's chair on the Court. And anyone who thinks Trump was elected is suppressing their view of facts in plain sight.

Step up your game.

Prince Michael Jauregui

Mr. Kiley, in the same words I once used in a comment directed to glorified pulp-fiction "author" George R.R. Martin: "Your first mistake, is calling it a game".

Michael Kiley

And yours is quoting yourself.

Prince Michael Jauregui

Quote myself? If you insist Kiley: "As History -and many journalists- can confirm, when I'm in A Mood, things get broken: Necks. Furniture. National monuments. Global economies. Plates - Oceanic AND Continental".

"Fear, is not a Godly-spirit. Rather, the presence of Fear is most-often indicative of the absence of God. Truly, your cowardly "Government" fears the inevitable, impending and indefensible consequences for their unimaginably wicked actions. Verifiably, your evil "Government" fears The Kingdom of Christ Yeshua, The House of David, and their anointed Prince."

"In My Lifetime, I've witnessed no greater oppressor than those who once screamed "Oppression!" the loudest, and I've heard no greater cry for "Mercy!" than from the once-merciless."

Thanks Michael, -is it?- always glad to help.

Mike Johnson

Two good points here. First, Albert Fall, the notorious crook and close ally of the Santa Fe Ring, and a mortal enemy of my grandfather's during the 1910 NM Constitutional Convention, was the worst thing NM ever produced. However, a couple of current NM politicians are vying for that title. And ranked choice voting is probably the most inane and ridiculous voting system ever devised, with SF being a prime example of its failures.

Sam Finn

Here's the facts about ranked choice voting.

* Someone is going to win the election regardless of whether voters make a second choice or not.

* If a voter's candidate is eliminated and the voter does not make their second choice known, it increases the percentage of votes that the front-runner has.

In other words, the only person who gains from voters withholding a second choice vote is the front-runner: Webber.

And - this is my opinion - Webber is smart enough to know that.

Augustin de la Sierra

I am pretty sure you meant Webber is lacking enough in smarts to believe this.

If the election proceeds to the second round, and enough people who voted for Johnson voted for Vigil Coppler as their second choice, then Vigil Coppler might very well become the front runner.

The math of RCV is simple. But because so few can grasp the math, maybe Santa Fe should get rid of RCV and instead, mandate run-off elections. But then we'd just be abetting the dumbing down of this country, wouldn't we?

Sam Finn

My perhaps too-oblique remark was meant to suggest that Webber and his campaign know enough to be behind discouraging voters from marking a second choice. If the election goes to a second count, those voters who were discouraged from marking a second choice would be effectively disenfranchised. If, as it appears, he's the front-runner, that would give him the election.

Augustin de la Sierra

If Webber has a plurality after round 1, and all voters fail to mark a second choice, Webber wins. But if Webber is the front runner by only a small amount after round 1, then it may take only a small amount of voters who, say voted for Johnson first and Vigil Coppler second, to yield a win by Vigil Coppler.

I think those who vote for only one candidate either have chosen to disenfranchise themselves, or they have bought into a dis-information campaign about the math and are led to lose their chance for full input for whom they prefer for mayor.

I think getting rid of Ranked Choice Voting would take a years long effort in the courts or maybe a voters' initiative supported by lawmakers. The sad part is the lies published about RCV. The Santa Fe New Mexican daily newspaper has helped promulgate these lies. Milan Simonich's columns have been particularly misleading. These lies are resulting in the less educated voters unwittingly choosing to be disenfranchised. (Though let me by clear: Hahvahd educated former City Councilor Peter Ives could not handle the math of RCV, either.) I think the Santa Fe New Mexican's time would be better spent promoting math literacy.

The only time a voter should not rank their choices is if they do not care about who is mayor (or city councilor) if their first choice does not win. Else all voters in this Santa Fe election should rank their choices.

Joe Brownrigg

I have read several places that a consideration should be made for the quanity of our public financing for election candidates. Ours is so LOW, it is little wonder that some candidates refuse to take it. SUPPOSE the amount were larger AND it was mandatory? NO contributions. It would cost more up front, but I bet it would change the quality of our candidates, of our campaigns, and of the discussion of issues.

Chris Mechels

As usual for Milan, and the New Mexican, another "substance free" piece.

Worth noting, but not noted, is that Ranked Choice voting favors those candidates who DO NOT take public financing, which limits their fund raising. Having a large war chest allows for more media coverage, including more ad money for the New Mexican, with more name recognition. Thus, more money aids in the later rounds of "Ranked Choice" counts.

Santa Fe Councilors, in their ignorance, went for Ranked Choice WITHOUT tying it to public financing, thus establishing a system where those with deep funding have a large advantage.

I attribute this to the stupidity of our SF Government, as that assumption is usually sufficient. We should immediately move AWAY from Ranked Choice voting, as it made things worse, allowing money an even MORE central role. Did we really mean to SELL our Mayor's office, with its new powers, to the highest bidder? That's what happened. Let Milan write about THAT fact, instead of just pumping hot air.

Angel Ortiz

Blah [thumbdown]

Prince Michael Jauregui

The House of David hereby congratulates and commends journalist par excellence, Mr. Milan Simonich for his recent N.M. Press Association award. Rightfully, the skilled wordsmith and powerful Political pundit was recognized for his unwavering commitment to We, The People.

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