New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran faced escalating pressure Monday to resign, as a slew of criminal charges related to her alleged use of campaign contributions to pay for personal expenses, including gambling debt, threatened to put an end to a nearly 30-year run in elected office. Top-ranking House Democrats said they were prepared to take the first steps in a possible impeachment effort if Duran did not resign, while Republican lawmakers also voiced concern about the seriousness of the charges leveled against Duran. House Speaker Don Tripp, R-Socorro, called the impeachment talk premature but said Duran’s alleged withdrawal of hundreds of thousands of dollars at casinos around the state raised concern about a possible gambling addiction, calling the situation a “personal tragedy. I’m confident the secretary of state will take personal responsibility for any mistakes she made,” Tripp told the Journal. However, Duran’s attorney said late Monday that the secretary of state is preparing to fight the charges.
“Let there be no doubt that Ms. Duran will plead not guilty to the attorney general’s sensational and misleading charges and will vigorously fight this selective prosecution,” Duran’s attorney, Erlinda Johnson, wrote in an email. Duran, who in 2010 became the first Republican elected New Mexico secretary of state in 80 years, was charged last week in state District Court with fraud, embezzlement, money laundering and other crimes.
Attorney General Hector Balderas, a Democrat, alleged 64 total violations in the criminal complaint and investigation, all dating back to 2013 and 2014.
Although the amounts withdrawn at casinos run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, the counts against her revolve around 19 transactions totaling about $13,000. Specifically, the Attorney General’s Office alleged that Duran illegally shifted money between her campaign and personal bank accounts and withdrew sums from eight casinos.