Tuesday, September 02, 2008

NOEL WITHDRAWS

Jim Noel, whose hiring as state Election Bureau director was heavily criticized by Republicans because he is married to the stepdaughter of U.S. Senate candidate Tom Udall, on Tuesday withdrew his appointment.

In a letter to Secretary of State Mary Herrera, Noel wrote, “I cannot in good conscience allow my appointment to distract from the real issues facing all of us this fall. ...

“Nor can I in good conscience allow certain individuals to use my appointment to cast any sort of doubt over the integrity of the electoral process,” Noel wrote. “The people of New Mexico deserve to know that their elections will be administered fairly. And while there is no doubt that I would bring nothing but integrity to the office, it has become increasingly clear that certain individuals with purely partisan interests would stop at nothing to inject fear into the election this fall.”

Noel’s current job is executive director and general counsel of the Judicial Standards Commission, which investigates complaints against judges and recommends disciplinary actions to the state Supreme Court.

His wife is Amanda Cooper, who is managing Udall’s Senate campaign.

The Elections Bureau job pays $104,809 a year.

Last week the state Republican Party released a statement saying, “The hiring of Tom Udall's son-in-law as state elections director is a stunning conflict of interest. During an election that will be extremely competitive, it is entirely inappropriate that a close family member of one of the candidates be in charge of counting the votes. Just when we thought the Secretary of State could not be any more partisan or incompetent, she proves us wrong again.”

UPDATE: This statement from state Senate Republican leader Stuart Ingle just came in: “It is important for the honor of our voters that our elections are run without any doubt whatsoever in the process. The decision to step down was the right one, and a very necessary one for the integrity of our election. Close family members of any candidate running for office, Democrat, Republican or Independent should never be in charge of an election here in New Mexico.”

UPDATE 9-3-08: Here's the link to the full story in today's New Mexican.

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