Friday, February 26, 2010

R.I.P. Betty Fiorina

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
February 27, 2010

Betty Fiorina, who served three terms as secretary of state in New Mexico, died this week at her Santa Fe home after a long struggle with Alzheimer's disease. She was 90.

“She was a pioneer for women in politics,” her son former Municipal Judge Tom Fiorina said Friday. “When she was first elected, she faced some powerful women in the primary. But she broke out of the old backroom ward system and took her campaign to the streets, to the people.”

Born in El Paso to Delphine Sauders and Jules Vicknair Sr., she married Anthony Fiorina, who preceded her in death.

She began working for the state Legislature, where she was deputy chief clerk for the House of Representatives by 1951. That’s when Fabian Chavez, who began serving his first term in the House that year, met her.

“She was highly respected and liked,” Chavez said Friday. “Very efficient. That’s probably why she got elected three times. She was very active in the Democratic Party. She had a great partner in her husband, Tony.”

Betty Fiorina won her first election as Secretary of State in 1958. During that period the terms were only two years. She won a four-year term to that office in 1970.

Before that last term, Betty Fiorina served as chief clerk of a Constitutional Convention in the late 1960s. The chairman of that convention was the late Bruce King, who go on to win three terms as governor.

She was active in her son’s campaigns for municipal judge in the 1980s and ‘90s.

The New Mexico State Printing Facility off Siringo Road in Santa Fe is named for Betty Fiorina.
Besides her love for politics, Betty Fiorina also had a great love for dogs, Tom Fiorina said.

“I know she’s going to Heaven, but she’s also going to Dog Heaven,” the former judge said.

He told a story how an Albuquerque police officer threatened to jail her when she stopped traffic on Central Avenue to save a dog cross the busy street. “That was when she was secretary of state,” Tom Fiorina said. “If she’d have been arrested for that, it would have made headlines, but she didn’t care. She loved animals.”

She is survived by: her sons Tom Fiorina and Gary Fiorina, four grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

A service for Betty Fiorina is scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday at Calvary Chapel, 2520 Camino Entrada. Burial will follow at the Santa Fe National Cemetery at 11:30 a.m and a reception at 12:30 p.m. at a location to be announced.

In lieu of sending flowers; the family suggests that donations be made to the Alzheimer’s Association at PO Box 96011, Washington, DC 20090-6011.