State treasurer steps into race for successor - Albuquerque Journal

State treasurer steps into race for successor

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Tim Eichenberg is wading into the race to determine his successor.

The two-term Democratic state treasurer, who is barred by term limits from running for reelection this year, recently filed a complaint with the state Ethics Commission and two other state agencies accusing Laura Montoya of violating New Mexico’s campaign finance and financial disclosure laws.

Montoya, the former Sandoval County treasurer, is one of two Democrats seeking the party’s nomination in the June primary election.

The other Democrat in the race is Heather Benavidez, a top official in the State Treasurer’s Office.

Eichenberg said in a recent interview he decided to make the complaint after being made aware in late February of possible discrepancies in Montoya’s mandatory reports. Benavidez was not aware of the complaint until it was made public, he said.

“My only reason for doing this is the character and integrity of Laura Montoya,” Eichenberg told the Journal.

But Montoya denied any allegations of wrongdoing and suggested it was inappropriate for Eichenberg to get involved in the race. She also said the complaint was made after she filed a records request for Benavidez’s state salary and work history.

“I’m disappointed that a sitting state treasurer is putting his thumb on the scale to try to get his appointee elected,” Montoya said in an interview.

Among other things, the complaint alleges Montoya failed to fully report $10,500 in campaign contributions she received last year from Adelante Sandoval, a Placitas-based political committee.

However, Montoya said $500 of the $10,500 in donations was inadvertently attributed to the political committee’s treasurer, not the committee itself, on her report. She provided the Journal with a letter from the committee’s treasurer explaining the situation and said she plans to make a correction to her filed report.

She also said she plans to provide the political committee with a $100 reimbursement to comply with state campaign contribution limits – the maximum total contribution for the primary and general election cycles is $10,400.

But Montoya denied another allegation in Eichenberg’s complaint that pertained to a financial disclosure form she filed with the Secretary of State’s Office in February.

She said she accurately described herself as an independent contractor – her second term as Sandoval County treasurer ended in 2020 – and said she did not receive unemployment benefits after announcing her campaign for state treasurer.

While Eichenberg cited a lien from the Department of Workforce Solutions for a balance of $4,202, Montoya provided the Journal with a recent letter from the agency indicating the lien had been released and Montoya has no outstanding balance.

Meanwhile, a Secretary of State’s Office spokesman said the agency has received Eichenberg’s complaint and has asked Montoya to submit a formal response.

The campaign dust-up comes with just over a month before absentee voting starts May 10.

Eichenberg said his involvement in the race is due to his concern for maintaining public trust in the State Treasurer’s Office.

“As a public officer, I do not want to see the State Treasurer’s Office return to days of business as usual, as conducted by Michael Montoya and Robert Vigil,” said Eichenberg, referring to past state treasurers who were convicted of public corruption charges.

But Montoya called the reference misguided, saying, “The only thing I have in common with those two men is I’m from northern New Mexico and I’m brown.”

The winner of the June 7 primary contest would face off against Republican Harry Montoya in the November general election.

Laura Montoya outpaced Benavidez in the state Democratic Party pre-primary convention, getting more than 58% of the votes cast by delegates at the event last month in Roswell.

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