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Former County Treasurer Padilla runs to reclaim office

Patrick Padilla, a former county treasurer and county commissioner, sits in the office of his private accounting firm. He caught the shark behind him in 1993 during a trip to Florida. (Dan Mckay/Journal file)

Patrick Padilla, a former county treasurer and county commissioner, sits in the office of his private accounting firm. He caught the shark behind him in 1993 during a trip to Florida. (Dan Mckay/Albuquerque Journal)

Patrick Padilla – architect of an investment strategy that county officials say almost left them without enough cash to cover daily operations – wants to reclaim his old office.

Padilla is among four candidates who filed Tuesday to seek the Democratic nomination for county treasurer.

One of his rivals is the incumbent, Manny Ortiz, who served as investment officer under Padilla and then hired Padilla, in turn, to oversee investments when Ortiz took office in 2013.

In other words, the two switched jobs in 2013, though they later had a falling out over the county investment strategy.

The other two Democratic candidates are Christopher J. Sanchez, the accounting manager in the treasurer’s office, and Nancy Bearce, a La Mesa neighborhood leader.

On the Republican side, Kim Hillard and Christopher Mario Romero filed to run for treasurer in the June 7 primary election.

Padilla’s investment strategy led to a state investigation and criticism from other county officials and state auditors. Critics said the county invested too heavily in long-term bonds that tied up the county’s cash and were at risk of losing value as interest rates rose.

The county, over Padilla’s objection, ended up selling investments at a $17 million loss to ensure there was enough money on hand and to avoid the threat of even steeper losses.

Padilla said Tuesday that the sales were a “grave mistake.” The county had plenty of cash, he said, and could have avoided losses by sticking with his strategy.

“I want to see the county treasurer back to where it should be – being the banker for Bernalillo County,” Padilla said.

Ortiz, for his part, later agreed to a more stringent county investment policy crafted with help from the County Commission and experts brought in to help address the investment portfolio. He said he believes the treasurer’s office is running well and he decided over the last month or so to run for re-election.

“I happen to think it’d be a pretty close race up and down the line,” he said.

Padilla said he would work to reclaim the treasurer’s independence.

Sanchez, the accounting manager, said he likes the new collaborative approach.

“I do think it’s a good idea,” he said, “to have more eyes on the subject rather than just one person making the decisions on their own.”

The Journal wasn’t immediately able to reach Bearce for an interview.

In other county races:

  • Three Democrats are campaigning to replace Art De La Cruz, a Democrat who cannot run this year because of term limits. They are Steven Michael Quezada, Robert G. Chavez and Adrian Pedroza.

Patricia Paiz is running on the Republican side.

  • Incumbent commissioners Maggie Hart Stebbins, a Democrat, and Lonnie Talbert, a Republican, filed to run for re-election, with no opponents emerging.
  • To succeed Maggie Toulouse Oliver, a Democrat, as county clerk, the candidates are Democrats Linda Stover and Roman Montoya and Republican Maryellen Ortega-Saenz.

Not every county office is on the ballot this year. In the next cycle, in 2018, voters will cast ballots in the sheriff’s race and for assessor, probate judge and two County Commission districts.

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