Colón jumps in to auditor’s race
The race is on for state auditor.
Brian Colón, an Albuquerque lawyer, unsuccessful mayoral candidate and former chairman of the state Democratic Party, said Sunday he is running to be New Mexico’s next top financial watchdog.
Colón, 47, will face off in the primary against state Rep. Bill McCamley, a Democrat from Las Cruces who has been campaigning up and down New Mexico ever since the previous auditor, Tim Keller, won election as mayor of the Duke City in November.
Whoever wins the party’s nomination will likely run against Republican Wayne Johnson in the general election. Gov. Susana Martinez tapped the Bernalillo County Commissioner last month to take over as auditor after Keller decamped for Albuquerque city hall.
Immersed in the arcane day-to-day running of New Mexico government, the job can be wonkish but at times proves important. It also has served as a political springboard — both Keller and current Attorney General Hector Balderas increased their political profiles while in office.
The Office of the State Auditor is responsible for monitoring the finances of government agencies and a wide range of other organizations that receive taxpayer money, from water associations to universities and school districts. That adds up to about 1,500 entities around the state.
“The Auditor’s Office is one that you can really lean in and serve taxpayers by fighting waste, fraud and abuse and advancing public policy issues,” Colón said Sunday.
A lawyer with a degree in finance, Colón argued he has the background to use the office as a platform for addressing issues from crime to education.
The office has a full-time staff of a few dozen people, and the auditor is paid an annual salary of $85,000.
Colón’s announcement sets up a Democratic Party primary showdown between a progressive legislator and a veteran of New Mexico Democratic politics.
Raised in Albuquerque, Bosque Farms and Los Lunas, Colón graduated from New Mexico State University and earned a law degree from The University of New Mexico. He has practiced law since 2001.
The state Democratic Party elected Colón as its chairman in 2008. He went on to win the party’s nomination for lieutenant governor in 2010. But the ticket lost to Martinez in what would prove to be a big year for Republicans.
Colón ran for mayor of Albuquerque last year but placed third in a crowded field, winning nearly 15,900 votes, or about 16 percent, and missing the runoff election. Johnson ran for mayor, too, winning about 10 percent of the vote.
But having led the state party and run on a statewide ticket, Colón already has made connections across New Mexico that could give him an advantage.
“I won’t be introducing myself to those Democrats; they know me,” he said.
Democratic candidates for auditor have about one month left to collect about 2,500 signatures to get on the primary election ballot.
And historically, the race is the Democrats’ to lose. The party has held the office since 1971.
For his part, McCamley, 39, has been crisscrossing the state and speaking out on issues from early childhood education to the Trump administration’s rollback of protections for medical cannabis patients. But he will have less time to campaign as the Legislature convenes for a month starting next week, just as some county parties prepare for conventions.
Contact Andrew Oxford at 986-3093 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @andrewboxford.