Editor’s note: The Journal continues its series of stories focusing on key races in this year’s general election.
Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – Two candidates with a background in county government are campaigning this year to succeed Democrat Tim Eichenberg as state treasurer, a key post that helps manage and invest some of the state’s cash.
Laura Montoya, a former Sandoval County treasurer, won a brutal primary campaign to emerge as the Democratic nominee this year, setting up a two-person race with Harry Montoya, a Republican who’s served on the Santa Fe County Commission and Pojoaque school board.
Both candidates are touting their experience.
Laura Montoya said her tenure as a treasurer at the county level for eight years – including the beginning of the pandemic – demonstrates she has the skills to handle the role statewide. She was Sandoval County treasurer from 2013-20.
“It’s a proven track record,” she said, “in being able to manage money in all different kinds of environments.”
Harry Montoya said he, too, would bring critical experience to the office. As a county commissioner, he said, he helped revise Santa Fe County’s investment strategy to boost income for road-building and other capital projects.
He also handled finances as chief executive of Hands Across Cultures, a nonprofit group that provides substance-abuse education in schools, among other programs.
“I’ve always served with honesty and integrity – that’s something I pride myself on,” Harry Montoya said in an interview.
Laura Montoya and Harry Montoya aren’t related.
The winner of the race will serve in a role akin to being the state’s banker, managing and investing the cash used to operate state government. The treasurer also runs an investment pool for local governments and serves on some state boards, including the State Investment Council and Public Employees Retirement Association.
Harry Montoya, who’s 63 and lives in Nambé, said he would add a fresh perspective to state boards, drawing on his experience in schools, local government and the nonprofit sector. He is a PERA retiree himself.
Laura Montoya, 45 and a resident of Rio Rancho, said she is well-prepared to serve on state boards and would focus on building strong relationships with other agencies. Her tenure in Sandoval County included working with Republicans and Democrats on the County Commission, she said, and she has also served as an analyst at the Legislature.
The candidates have different views on the possibility of starting a public bank for New Mexico, an idea that some advocates have called on the Legislature to establish. The state treasurer would serve on a board overseeing the institution, which supporters say would help ensure loans are available for small businesses and rural development.
Harry Montoya opposes the idea. He raised questions about whether it would be properly regulated, and he contends that community banks and federal credit unions already fulfill the role supporters envision for a state bank.
“It’s not a prudent way to have people’s monies placed in that type of institution,” he said. “There would be no accountability.”
Laura Montoya, by contrast, said she is willing to consider the idea, with an eye toward aiding rural communities or the cannabis industry. But she hasn’t settled on a firm position yet.
“I’m super open to just having a discussion,” she said.
Harry Montoya was unopposed in the Republican primary. He is a former Democrat and described himself as a recent convert to the GOP.
Laura Montoya withstood a barrage of attack adds in the primary – some launched by Eichenberg, the incumbent treasurer, who backed a rival candidate – to win the Democratic nomination.
Among the allegations in one radio ad were that she was charged with domestic violence. Laura Montoya has acknowledged the 2014 battery charge against her and notes that it was dropped. Her defense attorney at the time called it a “serious self-defense issue.”
Both candidates are reasonably well-funded. Laura Montoya has raised about $189,000 this election cycle and has about $54,000 in cash on hand.
Harry Montoya has raised about $76,000 and has about $43,000 in his account.