Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – State Treasurer Tim Eichenberg’s attack ads targeting a fellow Democrat in the race to succeed him are drawing opposition from county-level Democratic Party leaders.
In a recent letter, they called on Eichenberg to halt his “mudslinging” against Laura Montoya and described the ads as “totally beneath the office of State Treasurer.”
Eichenberg says he is within his rights to educate voters about Montoya’s record.
The conflict centers on the race between Montoya, a former Sandoval County treasurer, and Heather Benavidez, Eichenberg’s chief of staff, for the Democratic nomination to serve as state treasurer.
Eichenberg, who can’t run for reelection this year because of term limits, has purchased radio ads and filed an ethics complaint slamming Montoya. He has accused her of accepting unemployment benefits last year while campaigning, among other allegations, all of which Montoya says are false.
A letter to Eichenberg from Democratic activists – including county-level party chairs Alexandria Piland of Sandoval County, Bernadette Vadurro of Santa Fe County and Flora Lucero of Bernalillo County – urged Eichenberg to stop the attacks.
“As Democrats,” they said, “we cannot have our primaries descend into schoolyard spectacles where baseless accusations are made and character assassinations are an accepted part of campaigning.”
Vadurro shared the letter with the Journal and said she signed it in her personal capacity as an activist, not on behalf the Santa Fe County Democratic Party.
Eichenberg, in turn, rejected the call to curtail his involvement in the race.
“I intend to protect the integrity of the State Treasurer’s office and that’s why I’ve been active in this primary,” he said in a written response to the letter. “Primaries are to vet candidates and I believe it is important for voters to have information on our candidates that may negatively affect the result in the General Election.”
Montoya, for her part, has defended herself vigorously and questioned why Eichenberg has inserted himself into the race.
She acknowledges that she received federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits in January and February last year after leaving office as county treasurer. But she said it was appropriate for her situation – work was difficult to find in the pandemic – and that she didn’t announce a campaign for state treasurer until August.
State Democratic Party spokesperson Daniel Garcia said the state and county parties are impartial in contested primaries and that the letter didn’t come from them.
“The signers of this letter are acting on their own accord as individuals,” he said. “They have not signed this letter on behalf of the Democratic Party of New Mexico or their county parties.”
The winner of the June 7 primary election will advance to face Republican Harry Montoya in the fall.