Clerk points to record; challenger promises changes

May 2—Former County Clerk Geraldine Salazar says she has come out of retirement at others’ request to problem incumbent Katharine Clark.

“I had no interest [in] running again,” Salazar mentioned in an interview. “But push came to shove in my own mind. … I felt compelled to do the work again.”

Clark mentioned she is proud to run on her report from the previous three years in workplace as a result of her crew has easily applied many changes to enhance customer support and entry to the poll.

“Our mission is to make it as easy as possible to vote, public service and … continuous improvement,” she mentioned.

The county clerk runs elections and information and preserves public information equivalent to actual property paperwork. With no Republicans working, the winner of the June 4 Democratic major will virtually actually declare the seat.

After serving two phrases as clerk from 2013-20, Salazar couldn’t run for reelection — county officers are restricted to two consecutive phrases — and endorsed Clark, who handily received a five-way Democratic major in 2020.

In the present race, Clark had raised greater than $35,000 in contributions by early April, when candidates submitted their first marketing campaign finance experiences. Salazar reported solely a $686 contribution from herself.

Salazar blamed the fund-raising distinction on time spent campaigning, noting she determined to run for workplace in late January.

“I’m not worried [about finances] because I think I stand on my record and my broad career in this community, and people know me,” she mentioned.

Clark contributed $9,573 to her personal marketing campaign, and her largest donation, $5,500, got here from her mom. But the opposite practically $20,000 she raised via contributions of between $5 and $1,200 reveals she has a broad base of help from Democrats and the enterprise neighborhood, Clark mentioned. She has spent the cash on marketing campaign workers, indicators and promoting, she added.

Clark, 42, grew up on the transfer as an Air Force brat and later attended the University of California, Berkeley, the place she studied neuroscience. It was there she grew to become excited about politics as a union organizer and volunteer for numerous campaigns, she mentioned.

When her mother moved to Santa Fe in 2012, Clark adopted and — as she labored in advertising and marketing and IT consulting — grew to become closely concerned with the native and state Democratic events, working her means up to election as statewide occasion secretary in 2017. She additionally acquired a Master of Business Administration from the University of New Mexico.

Clark determined to run for county clerk in 2020 to assist safeguard elections as a result of “elections were becoming more and more under attack,” she mentioned. “Elections are where we defend democracy.”

Salazar, 70, grew up a “teenage activist” in East Los Angeles, the place she and a good friend began a program to mentor youthful women. She has lived in Santa Fe, the place her husband has deep roots, for the reason that Nineteen Seventies and has an affiliate diploma in neighborhood social providers from the College of Santa Fe and a bachelor’s diploma in sociology from the University of New Mexico.

An “ingrained public servant,” as she put it, Salazar labored numerous jobs, together with as a division director of substance abuse providers within the state Department of Health. She ran, unsuccessfully, for a state Senate seat in 2004 earlier than she joined the Santa Fe County Clerk’s Office in 2008 as a recording clerk. From there, Salazar labored her means up to profitable election as clerk in 2012.

She lately determined to run for a 3rd time period “based on everyone telling me, ‘Geraldine, we need you.’ I’ve tried to be supportive and positive of the current county clerk. I no longer can, and that’s why I’m running,” she mentioned — to enhance customer support, workers morale and “the whole office.”

Clark mentioned knowledge reveals the alternative: Services on the workplace have improved over her time period.

“Candidates have to make a choice whether they’re going to go negative or not. I think I can run on all the great things my team and I have done,” she mentioned.

Her greatest successes have included increasing entry to the workplace by digitizing all of its information; enabling folks to pay for providers with bank cards; constructing a greater elections web site, SantaFe.Vote; and initiating a social media presence, Clark mentioned.

The workplace has additionally streamlined the voting course of by, for instance, lowering pointless voter registration paperwork and putting in drive-up drop bins, a primary for the state, she mentioned.

“Because Jan. 6 was my third day in office, that’s really set the tone for the office. We’ve had the most changes in laws around elections in the last three years than we had the entire history of New Mexico,” Clark mentioned. “There are significant operational challenges now, but we [haven’t] seen them as challenges because we’re so organized. I don’t think voters noticed how seamlessly we integrated same-day registration. I don’t think voters noticed that drop boxes were installed because they just worked, you know?”

Salazar mentioned her priorities throughout her two phrases in workplace have been enhancing customer support and worker wages and “bringing people together from diverse backgrounds in the interests of the people.”

She is most happy with how she and her workers dealt with the 2020 election. In the 2020 major, shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the workplace was “inundated” with absentee ballots and took three days after polls closed to end counting votes. After that, Salazar labored with a vendor to streamline the processing of absentee ballots in time for the final election, and by November, “we were prepared for the absentee ballots that were mailed in,” she mentioned.

Shortly after taking workplace in 2013, Salazar additionally withstood strain from her personal occasion to problem marriage licenses to same-sex {couples}, she mentioned. One month prior, in arguments filed within the state Supreme Court, the legal professional common had written that denying licenses to same-sex {couples} was unconstitutional, however justices didn’t instantly take up the problem, The New Mexican reported.

Residents sued Salazar, and the courtroom directed her workplace to problem licenses no matter gender. She mentioned on the time she supported same-sex marriage however needed clear authorized course earlier than making any change.

“Once in the office, when you are the county clerk, you represent everyone,” Salazar mentioned in a latest interview. “If you don’t represent everyone, they will not trust you and the work you’re doing.”

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