Las Vegas, N.M., native says she’ll focus on health care, improved higher ed programs
Laura Montoya, a native of Las Vegas, New Mexico, and the two-term treasurer of Sandoval County, announced her candidacy for the state’s 3rd Congressional District in early July, entering a hotly contested 2020 race to represent Northern New Mexico in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Montoya is one of the more recent entrants in a deep field of candidates, including nine other Democrats and one Republican.
“I believe that I would be a good representative of Taos because this area is very similar to where I live now and where I lived in Las Vegas,” Montoya said in an interview with Taos News on July 22. “The pueblos, cities and towns have many of the same needs. We’ve been able to succeed in assisting with some of those needs, whether it’s economic development or changing our structure or how we do business.”
Montoya has worked in government at the federal, state and local level for 17 years. In 2012, she was elected Sandoval county treasurer. She was reelected in 2016.
Born and raised in Las Vegas, Montoya grew up in a family that valued public service, she said. Her father, Michael Montoya, is a former Las Vegas city councilman. Her aunt on her father’s side is a former county clerk who was based in Mora. Another of her father’s sisters worked for a former senator and served as the adjutant secretary for the New Mexico Department of Transportation. Her mother, Geralyn Montoya, was a high school teacher, along with her mother’s sisters.
“Definitely public service has been ingrained in my life,” Laura Montoya said.
That legacy guided her decision to major in political science and psychology at New Mexico Highlands University, where she also later obtained a master’s degree in public affairs. She also studied international relations at the University of Costa Rica as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar.
Early in her career in Santa Fe, Montoya became one of the youngest Latina women working in politics when she began working for the ranking member of the state Senate Finance Committee in 2001. Following that, she worked as a Constituent Services Representative for U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman, whom she assisted in managing five counties in Northern New Mexico.
As treasurer of Sandoval County, Montoya has worked for six years for the Treasurer’s Affiliate, assisting in the passage of several pieces of legislation that remove tax loopholes, improve tax collections and enhance tax equitability, according to a press release announcing her congressional bid. She has also worked on policy to assist with veterans affairs, senior citizens and the disabled. She has also made investments more accessible in New Mexico Class A counties and municipalities.
She says her years of experience in public service help her stand out from the competition. She also prides herself on raising campaign funds solely from sources in the state.
“I’m not taking money from pharmaceuticals, payday lenders, tobacco industry or corporate oil and gas,” she said. “And the reason for that is because I want to be able to go into D.C. and make sure that the priority is the people who I am supposed to represent and serve. I’m not very fond of the fact that most of the candidates who have put in their campaign finance reports that have gotten close to $200,000 have basically raised that money from outside interests, outside of New Mexico.”
Montoya announced her candidacy after June 30, the latest date to turn in campaign finance reports. Until the next deadline arrives on Oct 15, Montoya declined to say how much her campaign had raised as of July 24.
If elected, Montoya said she would focus on improving access to health care, particularly behavioral health, for Northern New Mexico residents.
“We can’t get enough doctors to come out here. In New Mexico, the median age for a doctor is over 67. So you’re going to have another crisis of most of the doctors retiring,” she said.
Economic development would also be among her priorities, she said, explaining that improved educational opportunities in trade schools and finance are critical to moving the region forward, especially for youth who cannot afford higher education.
“Sometimes in order to dream bigger, you have to see a reflection of yourself and a lot of times in the history books, we’re seeing history, but we’re not seeing our history,” she said. “We’re not seeing a reflection of ourselves. Young people need to see that dynamic: ‘If they can do it, I can do it.’
Being from Las Vegas and from Mora, if I can accomplish this – to serve my people – I will be the first woman to ever represent Northern New Mexico in Congress.”