Experienced candidates face off in race for state treasurer

Editor’s note: The Journal continues its series of articles focusing on key races in this year’s general election.

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE — Two county government candidates 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 money.

Laura Montoya, a former Sandoval County Treasurer, won a brutal primary campaign to become the Democratic nominee this year, staging a two-way race with Harry Montoya, a Republican who served on the Santa Fe County Commission and Council Pojoaque school.

The two candidates boast of their experience.

Laura Montoya said her tenure as county-level treasurer for eight years — including the start of the pandemic — demonstrates she has the skills to handle the statewide role. She served as Sandoval County Treasurer from 2013-2020.

“It’s a proven track record,” she said, “being able to manage money in all types of environments.”

Harry Montoya said he too would bring critical experience to the office. As county commissioner, he said, he helped revise Santa Fe County’s investment strategy to raise revenue from road construction and other capital projects.

He also managed finances as executive director of Hands Across Cultures, a nonprofit group that provides addiction education in schools, among other programs.

“I’ve always served with honesty and integrity – that’s something I’m proud of,” Harry Montoya said in an interview.

Laura Montoya and Harry Montoya are not related.

The winner of the race will play a role similar to that of state banker, managing and investing the money used to run the state government. The Treasurer also manages an investment pool for local governments and sits on some state boards, including the State Investment Board and the Public Employees Retirement Association.

Harry Montoya, who is 63 and lives in Nambé, said he would add a fresh perspective to state councils, drawing on his experience in schools, local government and the non-profit sector. He himself is retired from PERA.

Laura Montoya, 45 and a resident of Rio Rancho, said she was 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 also served as an analyst in the Legislative Assembly.

Q&A: State Treasurer Candidate Harry Montoya

NAME: Harry Montoya POLITICAL PARTY: Republican OCCUPATION: Retired HOMETOWN: Nambe RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: Two terms…

Q&A: Laura Montoya, Candidate for State Treasurer

NAME: Laura M. Montoya POLITICAL PARTY: Democrat OCCUPATION: Independent contractor HOME CITY: Rio Rancho…

Candidates have differing views on the possibility of creating a public bank for New Mexico, an idea some supporters have called on the Legislature to establish. The state treasurer would sit on a board overseeing the institution, which proponents say would help ensure the availability of loans for small businesses and rural development.

Harry Montoya opposes the idea. He raised questions about whether it would be properly regulated, and he argues that community banks and federal credit unions already fulfill the role that proponents envision for a state bank.

“It’s not a prudent way to put people’s money in this type of institution,” he said. “There would be no accountability.”

Laura Montoya, on the other hand, said she was willing to consider the idea, with a view to helping rural communities or the cannabis industry. But she has not yet taken a firm position.

“I’m super open to just a chat,” she said.

Harry Montoya was unopposed in the Republican primary. He is a former Democrat and has described himself as a recent convert to the GOP.

Laura Montoya withstood a barrage of attacks in the primary — some launched by Eichenberg, the incumbent treasurer, who backed a rival candidate — to win the Democratic nomination.

Among the allegations in a radio ad was that she was accused of domestic violence. Laura Montoya admitted the 2014 battery charge against her and notes that it was dropped. His 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.

Harry Montoya raised around $76,000 and has around $43,000 in his account.

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