Opinion: Otero County Treasurers Office Race Political Theater verses Experience


The Otero County primary election season rhetoric has begun as the primary race has candidates beginning their campaigns for the June 2nd vote.

The primary has few contested races, but the one that will be the most watched in Otero County is the race for Otero County Treasurer. 

The Republican primary will decide the victor as there is no Democratic opponent.   A individual must be registered Republican to vote in the race between Melton and Mrs. Black.

The race is between a veteran of the department having worked as Deputy Treasurer for 7 years, of her 16 year stint in the department.

Local, Rachael Black verses a transplant and domestic partner to John Block; Karl Melton.

The race for treasurer in most counties is a boring races that garners little attention, as the position is a New Mexico State Constitutionally required position.

One could argue it makes so sense for the position to be elected but state law requires it and with good reason.

The county treasurer or county tax assessor-collector is a public official responsible for collecting taxes and maintaining financial records for a county. This official organizes the regular collection of property taxes from county residents and special taxes from businesses. A county treasurer is also responsible for managing funds distributed from the state or the federal government to a a variety of entities, manage and invest the county reserves and publish unclaimed property lists. County treasurers are elected offices in 34 states

As an elected position it provides independence in managing public monies as well as a check and balance between the Clerk, Assessor, Auditor and Commissioners

The Treasurer also serves other local governmental entities and disburses bond money, state and federal matching funds etc to school, fire districts, etc. and is accountable directly to the citizens and not the county commission. 

The position is typically an individual with accounting experience as the individual is basically the lead bean counter for a county.

The position is not political in scope, as it cannot make social policy nor withhold funds based on political theatre.

The position is typically a bureaucrat that has worked as a civil servant and works their way up to the leadership position of which the head of the department is elected by constitutional  mandate.  

But only the political theater of Otero County would this race become the race to watch in June.

This race is a rematch of a sort of a local community servant Rachael Black, in a fight against the duo of John Block and Karl Melton. Melton is Representative District 51, John Blocks Domestic Partner. John Block, beat Rachael Black, for the state office by a split of a hair of only 49 votes in the last general election cycle. Melton ran the Block campaign.

The campaign for treasurer is NOT a policy position, so dialog about abortion access, CRT, border policy and presidential politics has no relevance to the position at hand and yet the Block/Melton duo are attempting to frame the candidate selection around those very polices of which the candidates have NO authority nor responsibility.

This last week Republicans were treated to a meet the candidate event and the candidates were allowed to make speeches and explain their credentials. The speeches were recorded and posted to YouTube to be accessible to the voting public. 

What follows is commentary and deep dive on the videos released from the Republican Party of Otero County.

The Melton Video Number One is on the Republican Party of Otero County YouTube page. 

Mr Melton begins with a comment on being a city commissioner and then touts his one success, so to speak, that being the resolution he led as sponsor of to designate Alamogordo as a “Sanctuary City for the unborn babies.” He statesto make sure we don’t have any abortion clinics here in town.” 

Taken on the surface, if the typical voter that does not know the difference in a resolution or an ordinance is, were to hear that statement, it would lead the undereducated voter, to assume, he created legislation that by the power of law prohibits abortion clinics within the city of Alamogordo. It does not! 

But if we educate our voters, then we teach them, that what passed was a resolution and a resolution has NO power of law, it is just an opinion.

Thus, if Melton had said “we passed a resolution that says we’d rather not have Abortion Clinics in Alamogordo.” That would have been a true and accurate statement. But he did not share those facts!

His statement was misleading at best, false of fact at worst, depending on one’s interpretation. The fact is a resolution is only an opinion and has No power of law

Thus a resolution that passed does NOT “make sure we don’t have any abortion clinics here in town.” 

 If an abortion clinic applied for a business license and met the state requirements tomorrow, there is NOTHING, the city could do to prevent that clinic from opening in Alamogordo.

If Mr. Melton was serious about banning abortions, in Alamogordo, he should have championed an ordinance with the power of law, and then  used his accessible PAC money, to win against the state in court. The issue could have been framed as local jurisdictional power, in the courts, under the state constitution as Clovis and Hobbs had the courage to attempt.

Each created an impactful ordinance to protect the unborn and battling the resolve at the state Supreme Court, but not Alamogordo.

Mr. Melton’s one touted success, was no success at all, it was a voiced opinion, nothing more than political theater.

Legally a resolution generally states a position or opinion by a public body and is NOT legally enforceable as law.  An ordinance is more formal and authoritative than a resolution. An ordinance is a local law that generally regulates. 

Mr. Melton then went on to impress upon Republican voters his credentials and that he graduated from the largest “Christian University in the World.” Again playing to his base as attending a “Christian University” makes one superior to others? No

I also was offered a full scholarship to Liberty University to join their debate program. I turned it down to attend elsewhere, as I could not be a hypocrite and attend a “Christian University” and also be a member of the LBGTQ + community.  Obviously Melton has no issue with attending an institution that has strong anti-LBGTQ sentiments, oh the hypocrisy! 

One clarification of fact: Liberty is not the largest “Christian University in the World” Fact Check Grand Canyon University is the largest Christian College in the World.

Melton then proceeds to explain his past employment with several PAC’s “Heritage Foundation, Leadership Institute, Club for Growth, and several Trump Allied Organizations.” 

Melton worked for an organization attempting to block voting rights: Tax filings reveal advocacy arm of Heritage Foundation spent $5m on lobbying in 2021 to block voting rights in battleground states. 

The Heritage Foundation, Meltons employer, was created by Paul Weyrich, a richly networked conservative who wanted to inculcate small government, anti-regulation ideology at both federal and state level.

From the start, restricting access to voting was a core part of Weyrich’s mission. Melton’s employer, infamously articulated his thinking by saying: “I don’t want everybody to vote … Our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”

Organizations like Heritage Action PAC are able to push the boundaries…because they know that the FEC is unlikely to enforce the law against them,” given political gridlock at the Commission according to a statement from the Campaign Legal Center. 

Does Melton follow the same philosophy as his employers? Let’s look at his other employers for the pattern? 

Karl Melton’s employer the “Leadership Institute” - Leadership Institute founder Morton Blackwell, who is also behind the Council for National Policy, has advocated for abolishing public schools and replacing them with “free-market private schools, church schools, and home schools.” …The Leadership Institute is a lead sponsor to Mom’s for Liberty a group labeled an "extremist" organization by the Southern Poverty Law Center for allegedly harassing community members, advancing anti-LGBTQ+ misinformation and fighting to scrub diverse and inclusive material from lesson plans.

Meltons employer “Club for Growth” - a Political Action Committee fined $350,000 for not registering with the FEC as as PAC

 Melton then moves on to explain that he is a taxpayer and wants to manage the county’s.  “Not for prestige or money as it would be a pay cut.”

Does that mean Melton will stop doing campaign finance reporting for political action committees and state and Federal Representatives which could be construed as a conflict of interest if elected? 

Will  Melton suspend those activities while running as a candidate for treasurer?

The organizations of which Melton touts experience each have each been fined or placed under investigation from the Federal Election Commission. Is that employment record consistent with the values of Otero County voters? 

In a second video Melton repeated more of the same as above but then went on to accuse the present treasurers office of concerns? He accused the treasurer and deputy treasurer of not being responsive to the Country Commission by not attending a recent meeting and speaking on a lodgers tax.

His opponent, Ms. Black  responded to that accusation at the end of her video.

Commissioner Amy Barela piped into the fray and claims she spoke with Mrs. Black and invited her to speak on the lodgers tax to the commission

Rather that conversation was a formal request, and rather there is a formal process to request attendance at a commission meeting is being investigated

Regardless, the feel of the assertion and inuendo felt dirty and desperate on the part of Melton in the video in the way in which it was presented and the forum. The issue raised seems petty, when one weighs the merits of qualifications, for the position of treasurer. 

Melton ended his video claiming he is endorsed by Rep John Block and Rep Stephanie Lorde. (Note Block is his Domestic Partner and Lorde is a close friend and is not of nor live in Otero County) . One would hope the person one is sleeping with would endorse them!

In a video released by the Republican Party of Otero County by Rachael Black she touts her experience of 16 years in the treasurers office familiar with the processes, legal requirements and state statutes and that prior to that she worked at First National Bank for ten years.

Black then proceeds to explain the real job of the County Treasurer:

Constitutionally it’s an elected “administrative” position 

  • The position is term limited to 2 consecutive terms. 
    It sends out 35,000 bills and is responsible for a total collection of about $35 Million dollars. 
  • Responsible for balancing 144 different funds and distributing millions to schools and municipalities. 
  • Managing an investment portfolio of $60 Million 
  • Under state statute the treasurer appoints a chief deputy to assist in those duties. Ms Black touted she has served in that role as chief deputy for 7 years, positioning her to step into the new job if elected on day one without a leaning curve. 

For four of those years Mrs. Black  served as a New Mexico State Representative as well as the chief deputy to the treasurer’s office.

She expressed that she has a history of constituent services and relationships in understanding taxpayer concerns.

The two videos demonstrate a distinct contrast in the two individuals seeking office of treasurer:

  • Mrs Black a fidgety speaker focused on educating the public to the role and an experienced government finance professional.
  • Mr. Melton focused on a social agenda, experienced in the dark money world of Political Action Committees, campaigns by innuendo and needles via negative attacks. 

The candidacy of Karl Melton raises many questions.

His focus on ideology for a technical position, his experience with organizations that have been fined and investigated by the Federal Election Commission, the divisive rhetoric against his opponent rather then focusing on what positive outcomes his leadership would bring to the office and his lack of experience in a structured government setting each raises concern

The race for treasurer, is basically about Melton, an unknown commodity; east coast educated, that has a short history in the local community, that we must just trust at face value, that he will manage the county coffers with grace and dignity. 

Or choose a known commodity, Rachael Black with 16 years experience in the department and 7 years as the deputy treasurer. 

There will be no,on the job training with Black. 

One candidate, Mrs. Black’s video explains the job and her qualifications and why she is qualified

The choice is clear Mr Melton needs to remain as a consultant to dark money Political Action Committees.

Mrs. Black based upon experience alone, should be overwhelming elected to the office of Otero County Treasurer. 

Note: the videos linked have had fewer than 5 viewers as we go to press. We encourage voters to watch all candidate videos then dig into the content. This is an editorialized piece and clearly labeled as such. Links in the story link to facts backing the statements of the author.

As is typical of any editorial questioning Mr. Block or Mr. Melton and their respective past actions, we can count on a response by the Block/Melton machine and or a follower not to the questions raised but as an attack on the authors history or credibility. Noted and expected.  As political leaders hate the spotlight of free thought. But Amendment One was the first thoughts of our founding fathers and we strongly support Amendment 2 in protecting the rights expressed in Amendment number 1. 

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