No GOP contender for state auditor yet as second Dem announces

On Tuesday, Democrat Public Regulation Commissioner Joe Maestas, 60, confirmed to the Santa Fe New Mexican that he is running to be New Mexico’s next state auditor following one other Democrat already in the race, former ombudsman Zackary Quintero, 30, who served under Gov. Lujan Grisham. Quintero lost a race for Albuquerque City Council two years ago.

Maestas was a former Española city councilor, former Santa Fe city councilor, and unsuccessful candidate for the Santa Fe mayorship before winning a seat on the PRC his second time running.

Quintero says he served as ombudsman for 10 months and that he has a close relationship with Lujan Grisham, who may endorse him for the race. He has the endorsements of multiple far-left state legislators, including appointed Rep. Pamelya Herndon (D-Bernalillo), Rep. Gail Chasey (D-Bernalillo), and Rep. Andrea Romero (D-Santa Fe).

Maestas is running for Auditor instead of vying for Lujan Grisham’s appointment to the PRC, which is set to be governor-appointed in 2023. Maestas says since Lujan Grisham endorsed his opponent for PRC, so it would likely mean she would not keep him on the commission if she is reelected in 2022. 

With Quintero and Maestas competing for the Democrat nomination for state auditor, a Republican has still yet to file to run for the office — a critical position that would oversee finances of New Mexico agencies and hold local and state governments accountable for their use of funds.

Current Auditor Brian Colón is running for Attorney General, leaving the position an open seat, and a better opportunity for a Republican pickup — if a Republican ran for the seat.

The two Democrats already in the race will have a fundraising edge on whatever GOP candidate announces, making it that much more important for the Republicans to field a viable candidate.

The Auditor’s office has long been used as a launching pad for higher office rather than its purpose to oversee government entities. Colón is only in his first term and is already leaving to pursue a job as the state’s top law enforcer, while former Auditor Tim Keller left the gig after just a little over two years for the mayorship of Albuquerque, New Mexico’s most populous city. Current attorney general Hector Balderas, who is term-limited, previously served as state auditor, and Colón appears to be vying for his career path. 

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