Brian Colón and Wayne Johnson will compete in another election this fall, running for New Mexico State Auditor. If their names sound familiar, it could be because they both competed last fall in the Albuquerque Mayor’s race, both losing to Tim Keller. And in a circular twist-of-fate, it’s Keller’s old job — State Auditor — that they are hoping to win now.
When Keller assumed the mayor’s position, Governor Susana Martinez appointed Johnson to fill out the state auditor’s term. Johnson had been a Bernalillo County Commissioner. Now he hopes to keep the auditor’s job for another four years.
“Since Tim Keller was moving on to be the mayor of Albuquerque it created an opening,” Johnson said. “It occurred to me at that time, that really what auditors do is provide transparency.”
While the mayor’s race was non-partisan, the auditor’s race will pit the Republican Johnson against the Democrat Colón.
“When (Keller) won that race for mayor and I didn’t, shortly there after it became evident to me that it might be a great place for me to take my finance background, my law background and really do what I love doing which is putting my energy into bettering New Mexico for future generations,” Colón said.
Brian Colón: inspired by the people of New Mexico
Colón tells of growing up with his father who was suffering from muscular dystrophy. The two lived in Valencia county, sometimes relying on government assistance programs. After his father’s passing, Colón graduated from Los Lunas High School, and moved to Las Cruces to pursue his bachelor’s degree in finance at New Mexico State University. He was the first college graduate in his family. Colón earned his law degree at the University of New Mexico.
“[My background] is the combined background of our last two auditors, Hector Balderas was the first attorney to hold that office,” Colón said. “Tim (Keller)’s background was finance, and my background is a combination of both.”
Colón said he wants to take the state auditor’s office “on the road,” with a mission to go to the 33 counties in New Mexico to engage all communities in the work the state auditor’s office does.
“When I visit with people, it puts oxygen into my blood cells,” Colón said.
He explained that he is inspired by his wife, a teacher in the international district on the Southeast side of Albuquerque, and by the people that he visits with everyday.
Colón said that he wants to restore the people’s trust in government.
“Part of how we build a state that reaches its potential is to have people trust government,” Colón said.
Wayne Johnson: plans to increase transparency
Johnson received his bachelor’s degree in university studies from the UNM and has a background in broadcast media. His political experience includes the two terms he served as county commissioner.
The appointed incumbent said his mission for the auditor’s office is to increase transparency within state and local government.
“Really what auditors do is provide transparency,” Johnson said. “They do their fact finding and then they report back to the governing body.”
Johnson calls himself the “chief transparency officer.”
The auditor doesn’t work for the governor or the legislature, Johnson said, but works directly for the people of New Mexico.
“I bring a tremendous amount of independence — of reviews of finance and policies and compliance of audits that are performed annually in the state of New Mexico,” Johnson said.
Johnson said his office looks at procurement issues to directly stop any fraud or corruption that occurs when contracting or hiring in public offices. It protects fairness and use of public dollars, he said.
“My passion is making sure that all of these entities, all of these governments are not only following the law which is incredibly important, but their own policies as well,” Johnson said. “[Not] putting their thumb on the scale in favor of their buddies, or their friends, or the powerful.”
Early voting for the New Mexico general elections begin Oct. 20, and the last day to vote is Nov. 6.
Shayla Cunico can be contacted on Twitter @ShaylaCunico.