Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – Zack Quintero would be among the youngest elected state officials in the country if he wins election in 2022 as New Mexico state auditor.
But the 30-year-old Mesilla native – he would be 31 on swearing-in-day – has already built up a varied résumé that includes spending most of the last year as New Mexico’s state ombudsman, a position he was appointed to by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.
Quintero recently stepped down from the position to launch his campaign for state auditor, becoming the first candidate in the race for the $85,000-per year job.
He said New Mexico voters have shown a willingness to elect “young, focused community-driven candidates” in recent election cycles.
And his tenure as state ombudsman, a position tasked with advocating for residents of nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, sharpened his interest in the State Auditor’s Office, Quintero said.
“I started to be a lot more aggressive on abuse, neglect and financial exploitation issues,” he told the Journal.
Quintero, who recently established a campaign committee with the Secretary of State’s Office, is hoping to succeed current state Auditor Brian Colón, who has announced his plans to run for attorney general next year.
If elected state auditor, Quintero said he would take a proactive approach toward monitoring guardianships, a legal arrangement that involves state-appointed attorneys overseeing the financial affairs of incapacitated adults, who are often elderly residents.
He also cited a desire to focus on financial fraud issues, which state agencies like the Department of Workforce Solutions have struggled to curb during the pandemic.
“There is a new, expanded role that past auditors have built up,” Quintero said, referring to fellow Democrats Hector Balderas, Tim Keller and Colón.
“It’s a very powerful office that can support the most vulnerable New Mexicans – the elderly,” he added.
Quintero said his experience growing up in southern New Mexico with limited means as the son of a public school teacher and plumber helped fuel his desire to work in the public sector, saying, “I saw this struggle at an early stage in my life.”
Before his tenure as state ombudsman, Quintero worked as a legal analyst in Albuquerque and as an economic development specialist for the city of Santa Fe.
He also ran for an Albuquerque City Council seat in 2019, but narrowly lost in a hard-fought runoff election to incumbent Isaac Benton.
All statewide New Mexico elected offices will be on the general election ballot next year, including governor, attorney general, secretary of state, treasurer and auditor.
Voters affiliated with major political parties will pick their nominees for the offices in June 2022.