Democratic candidates were poised for a sweep of statewide offices in Tuesday’s midterm election, with strong leads in races for secretary of state, auditor, treasurer and public land commissioner.
Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, who gained national prominence in the role for countering election disinformation, held a 11-point lead over Republican opponent Audrey Trujillo late Tuesday.
“I’m deeply humbled by tonight’s resounding victory,” Toulouse Oliver said in a statement. “... Because of you, New Mexico’s democracy can continue to thrive and we can continue to build on this administration’s successes.”
Toulouse Oliver has served as secretary of state for almost six years, taking office after a scandal in the previous administration. She won a special election in 2016 following the resignation of former Republican Secretary of State Dianna Duran, who pleaded guilty to embezzling campaign funds. Toulouse Oliver won the office again in the 2018 election.
She has touted her office’s changes to campaign finance reporting rules in the wake of the scandal and leading the charge — as president of the National Association of Secretaries of State — against false claims by former President Donald Trump and others of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election.
In June, Toulouse Oliver sued the Otero County Commission in the state Supreme Court, seeking an order for the commission to certify the county’s primary election results.
Trujillo, her opponent, cast doubt on the fairness of the state’s elections during the campaign. She vowed that if elected she would implement a voter ID law, purge the state’s voter rolls and roll back some rules on early and absentee voting.
Trujillo’s campaign manager, Freddy Lopez, said she was “optimistic.”
“We’re just watching the results right now until all the precincts and all the votes are fully counted,” he said.
Democrat Laura Montoya on Tuesday became the first woman in the state elected state treasurer. She also will be the first Latina in the nation to serve as a state treasurer, according to the National Association of State Treasurers.
“It’s huge,” Montoya said, “especially because it deals with finances. Most people don’t see women in finance, let alone Latina women in finance.”
After a hard-fought primary race, she defeated Republican Harry Montoya in Tuesday’s general election, winning 52 percent of votes, according to unofficial results.
Harry Montoya did not respond to calls seeking comment on his loss.
Laura Montoya received harsh personal attacks from current State Treasurer Tim Eichenberg, who purchased a radio ad during the Democratic primary accusing her of misconduct at the state Children, Youth and Families Department and of domestic abuse with a child present.
“I will definitely be looking to see what is going on in that office that he had to be so hateful,” Laura Montoya said, adding she would be auditing the finances of the office when she takes the helm.
She said she is planning outreach to rural and tribal communities about involvement in the New Mexico Local Government Investment Pool and is considering legislative goals like financial literacy in K-12 education.
Laura Montoya served two terms as the Sandoval County treasurer before running for the state office. She campaigned on a sophisticated understanding of public finance, having worked in the State Treasurer’s Office previously.
Harry Montoya was involved in Santa Fe County and school board politics as a Democrat prior to 2019, when he made a switch to the Republican Party. He cast his opposition to the creation of a public bank as a central dividing line in the state treasurer’s race this year.
Laura Montoya said she will continue “thoughtful conversations with people about the the state bank,” but she doesn’t plan to “rush into it.”
State Public Regulation Commission member Joseph Maestas handily won the race for state auditor over his opponent, Libertarian Travis Sanchez. Maestas has served as a city councilor in Española and Santa Fe and as mayor of Española. He lost an election for Santa Fe mayor to Alan Webber in 2018.
Maestas had a 22-point lead over Sanchez, according to unofficial results.
Maestas’ family and lifelong friends joined him in an Albuquerque hotel room to watch the election results Tuesday evening. When they saw a check mark next to his name, they cheered.
“The voters of New Mexico have spoken, and I love what they had to say,” Maestas told the crowd at the state Democratic Party’s watch party at the Clyde Hotel in Albuquerque.
Maestas said he has been in talks with current Auditor Brian Colón about the transition, and he is expecting to play a role in a more diversified mission — particularly with regard to discretionary auditing of adult guardianships to root out exploitation, a recent development in the role of the State Auditor’s Office.
Maestas said he does not intend to use the office as a stepping stone, as Colón and Hector Balderas have been accused of doing in the past.
“I’m not a lawyer, so you can count attorney general out,” he joked. “One hundred percent of my focus is going to be on being a watchdog for the public.”
One of Maestas’ responsibilities will be oversight of the city of Santa Fe’s audits, two of which are expected to come in June 2023, six and 18 months late, respectively.
“I will be very involved,” Maestas said. “I’m not the kind of individual who will wait until that deadline. I’m going to have milestones I’m going to want achieved before then.”
State Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard, the first woman to hold the office after her first election victory in 2018, was reelected Tuesday with 54 percent of the vote.
“It’s everything that we’ve worked on,” Garcia Richard said. “We get to continue that great work.”
She said the office’s mission is to balance revenue generation with protection of resources.
When talking to voters across the state, Garcia Richard said, she saw approval for the job she has done. She touted record state trust land revenues for public schools that came largely from oil and gas.
She refused to predict how her relationship with the state Public Regulation Commission might change after the agency shifts from an elected to governor-appointed body in 2023. She said she was “assuming the governor’s PRC appointees will be experienced with great backgrounds” and she is “looking forward to working with them.”
Her opponent, Republican Jefferson Byrd, is a current Public Regulation Commissioner from Tucumcari.
Byrd said he would finish his term as commissioner this year and then go back to work at his business.
“We did what we could,” Byrd said. “That’s how elections work.”