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Santa Fe County Commissioner Harry Montoya said he estimates half the voters are still undecided about the crowded Democratic primary for the District Three Congressional seat that Tom Udall will give up at the end of this year.
“I don’t have a million dollars or a coat tail to ride,” he said, a reference to Santa Fe millionaire Don Wiviott and Public Regulatory Commission Chair Ben Ray Lujan, whose father Ben Lujan is the Speaker of the House in the state legislature.
Lujan and Wiviott received the most votes during the Democratic pre-nominating convention in March.
What he does have to offer is 14 years of experience as an elected official, eight years as a Pojoaque Valley School board member (1994-2002) and six years on the Santa Fe County Commission, including a term as chair.
The first issue he mentioned during a recent editorial visit to the Monitor was veterans services – the lack of access, the need to improve services for veterans of the Iraq war who will be returning home and the need to decentralize those services by bringing them closer to the citizens.
He gave, as a reference, his work on the commission to open a satellite office for county business in Pojoaque, saving many long trips and delays to conduct business in downtown Santa Fe.
He is chairman of the Buckman Direct Diversion Project, a $171 million regional water development investment, which has been considered crucial for both the city and county of Santa Fe to diversify their water portfolio.
Montoya’s view of Los Alamos National Laboratory emphasized the lab’s critical role in addressing the energy crisis. He said he would not have voted for the controversial House appropriation bill that contained $400 million in cuts for LANL last year – later restored in an omnibus appropriation bill.
“The impact on the surrounding communities is tremendous,” he said, noting that everything from indigent care to infrastructure, roads and bridges are affected when LANL is cut.
Like other Democratic contenders for the nomination, Montoya opposes the war in Iraq.
“We need to get out. We need to have a timeline and timetable, and be out in 12-18 months,” he said, adding that he opposed a post-occupation presence.
He connected the “$10 billion a month” cost of the war directly to the current plight of the economy.
“Bring those dollars back and invest in healthcare, education, infrastructure, veteran services,” he said. “We need to invest in ourselves, rather than oil companies and country’s that don’t even want us there.”
He added, “Without a timeline, I would vote against funding the war.”
Asked which committees he would like to work on in the House, he deadpanned, “It would be nice to take Udall’s place on the appropriation committee.”
Seriously, he said, his long involvement in the school system; his interest in veterans’ affairs, energy and natural resources, and labor; and his professional background in substance abuse and social services would qualify him to work as an informed representative in those areas as well.
Montoya is married, and has two sons and four grandchildren. He has an M.A. in psychology and is the CEO of Hands Across Culture Corp., a nonprofit organization involved in substance abuse and anti-drug programs in Rio Arriba and Santa Fe Counties and the pueblos.
He was a president of the New Mexico School Boards Association and is on the board of directors of the National Association of Counties.
The primary takes place June 3.