William J. Mills (1910)
Governor Mills came to the gubernatorial office well equipped for its duties. He had legislative experience in both houses of the Connecticut legislature, and had been chief justice of New Mexico since 1898. This experience not only gave facility in disposing of most administrative questions but a poise and tact which smoothed many difficulties.
Much of his term of office was occupied by matters connected with the transition to statehood. On June 20, 1910, the enabling act was signed by the president. This was followed by the preparations for the election of a constitutional convention, and that election itself on September 6th. The governor, chief justice, and secretary constituted a commission to apportion the delegates among the respective counties, and this duty was performed on June 28th and the election proclamation was issued the next day. The convention contained 100 delegates, and as elected consisted of 71 Republicans and 29 Democrats. Charles A. Spiess, of Las Vegas, was elected president. The convention met on October 3, 1910, was in session till November 21st, and formulated a constitution good in most of its provisions, but not containing the new theories rife at the time and then called "progressive." The section as to amendments was especially objectionable on account of the difficulties that it placed in the way of future constitutional changes. The constitution was very satisfactory in guarding with extreme care the rights of Spanish-speaking citizens. . The vote of the people on the adoption of the constitution was taken on January 21, 1911, when the result as recorded was 31,742 in favor and 13,399 against. While this is not an accurate expression of the people's will, because unfortunately in a few counties over-zealous friends of statehood prevented any ballots against the constitution being circulated or cast, yet even with a liberal calculation of the votes thus suppressed, the majority in favor of the proposition was many thousands. There was much discussion and delay in Congress, but finally the resolution admitting New Mexico and Arizona was passed, and signed by the president on August 21st. The only proviso, so far as New Mexico was concerned, was that at the first election the people should vote on the proposition to facilitate the making of amendments to the constitution. As the congressional resolution provided that this question should be voted on separately, by a ballot printed on blue paper, the question was commonly called "The Blue Ballot."
The final acquisition of the long-fought-for boon of statehood brought new duties to the governor, upon whom it devolved to fix the date of the first state election and give notice thereof by proclamation. This was accordingly done, the day selected being November 7th. Instantly political activity was rife throughout the state, everyone desiring to take part in the first state election. With many it was the first opportunity they had ever had to vote for a governor or for a regular member of Congress.
Both parties made strenuous efforts to carry the state at its first election. The Republican convention, confident of victory, met at Las Vegas on September 28th, and the Democratic at Santa Pe on October 2d. Had wise counsels prevailed at Las Vegas there was no doubt of Republican success. But several circumstances weakened the chances for the ticket nominated. The insistence on Hon. H. O. Bursum as candidate for governor, when he had evident elements of weakness, an unfortunate and impassioned address raising the "race issue," by Mr. 0. A. Larrazola, until recently a Democratic leader, and the arbitrary manner in which the remainder of the ticket was dictated, were chiefly responsible for the subsequent defeat. The Democratic convention was less confident, and perhaps therefore more careful. It nominated William C. McDonald, of Lincoln county, for governor and placed two progressive Republicans on the ticket.
The succeeding campaign was brief but vigorous, and the number of "split" tickets cast and the wide difference in the aggregate votes of the leading candidates, show that the people cast their first state ballot with a care and study most commendable and encouraging. The '' blue ballot'' amendment received a much larger majority than any individual candidate, 34,897 to 23,831, which is surprising, because as a rule it is difficult to arouse the interest of voters in an abstract proposition. Of the principal officers, the Democrats elected the governor, lieutenant-governor, one congressman, superintendent of public instruction, secretary of state, and treasurer; and the Republicans the attorney-general, auditor, one congressman, the commissioner of public lands, and two of the three supreme judges. The total vote cast was 60,842.
Nothing now remained for the territorial government which had existed so long but to end its days with dignity and grace.
On January 6, 1912, the president signed the proclamation admitting New Mexico into the American Union.
On January 15th, at noon, the first governor of the state of New Mexico took the oath of office, and the territorial authority, which had existed for over sixty years, was at an end. The ceremonies were dignified and appropriate. Governor Mills made an address, largely a review of the past; Governor McDonald took the oath which made him the chief executive of the state, and delivered his inaugural address, which looked to the future and what it held for the welfare of New Mexico and its people.
The flag of the nation waved from the dome of the capitol, directly over the actors in this great political drama.
The band burst into the exultant strain of patriotic music.