Former state Sen. Tim Eichenberg has won the Democratic primary for state treasurer, defeating lawyer John Wertheim in a contest that proved the nastiest of the election season.
Eichenberg had 53 percent of the vote, according to unofficial returns from The Associated Press.
He will face Republican Rick Lopez, a veteran of state and federal government, in the Nov. 4 general election. Lopez, of Santa Fe, was unopposed in the GOP primary.
The Democratic race was a standout in an otherwise sedate primary season, with the Albuquerque men assailing each other in TV ads and mailers.
Wertheim portrayed himself as the “real Democrat” and Eichenberg as a bigot. Eichenberg held himself out as more honest and experienced, and complained of Wertheim’s “innuendo and lies.”
The winner of the November general election will succeed James Lewis, a Democrat who got the Treasurer’s Office back on an even keel after scandals that sent two former treasurers to federal prison.
Lewis has served two terms and can’t run again.
Wertheim was on the attack from the beginning and, a week ago, state Democratic Party Chairman Sam Bregman intervened, accusing him of “character assassination” that was harming the party. Wertheim and his supporters insisted they were simply telling the truth about Eichenberg’s record.
Wertheim cited a Human Rights Commission finding that Eichenberg discriminated against a Hispanic employee when he was Bernalillo County treasurer in the 1970s, and his votes against bills creating domestic partnerships and prohibiting insurance companies from discriminating against women.
Eichenberg countered with endorsements from Hispanic leaders and women’s rights advocates, including his former Senate colleagues.
Eichenberg, 62, served a term in the state Senate from 2009 to 2012 and was twice elected county treasurer. He also worked for the Taxation and Revenue Department in the administration of then-Gov. Bill Richardson as state property tax director.
He is a Realtor and property tax consultant who helps people challenge their tax assessments.
Wertheim, 46, is the former chairman of the state Democratic Party, and directed New Mexico campaigns for Bill Clinton’s presidency and Gov. Bruce King’s re-election bid. He was the Democratic nominee for Congress in the 1st District in 1996, losing to incumbent GOP Rep. Steve Schiff.
Both candidates said they would continue Lewis’s stewardship of state funds.
The treasurer is the state’s banker, investing its short-term funds, and sitting on key boards and commissions, including the State Investment Council and the Board of Finance.