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.