- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 6, 2020

SANTA FE, N.M. — Roger Montoya, a Democratic candidate in an open New Mexico House race, has acknowledged his participation in two pornographic films in the 1980s as a college student.

He said he is not proud of it but believes the experience helped him better understand exploitation and the need to provide opportunities for young people.

The revelation about Montoya of Velarde emerged as the nationally heralded arts educator runs for office in a sprawling rural legislative district with high rates of poverty that stretches from Espanola to the Colorado state line.

“I am not proud of that choice, as I was young and naive, but those experiences helped me understand the exploitation that young people face,” Montoya said in a lengthy statement posted on social media.

Reached by telephone, Montoya said he remains focused on the political race and resolving issues of educational and economic inequality.

“Really for me at 60 years old this race is about the issues of the day,” he said. “I’m happy to talk about the inequalities in education, in water infrastructure access … to health care in the time of COVID.”

The state Republican Party on Monday called on Montoya to withdraw from the race against GOP candidate Justin Salazar-Torrez of Espanola. Montoya’s past work in pornography was first reported by conservative blog Piñon Post overseen by John Block.

“While many students find college difficult financially, very few choose this route to solve their problems,” the party said in a statement. “This kind of risky and reckless behavior is unacceptable.”

High profile Democrats including U.S. Rep. Debra Haaland and state House speaker Brian Egolf rallied in support of Montoya. Haaland accused the Republican Party of hypocrisy, highlighting President Donald Trump’s treatment of women and handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Last year, CNN recognized Montoya as a community hero in a segment about his work as a co-founder of a local youth center that provides classes in art, music and dance. Montoya also has organized an HIV support group in Española and was active in efforts to end the city’s sponsorship of an annual tribute to a Spanish conquistador reviled by many local Native Americans.

In his written statement on social media, Montoya said his decision to participate in pornographic films took place at the age of 22 as he worked his way independently through college in Los Angeles.

“Among those choices were two adult films I acted in as an adult, with other adults, in a very different environment and time,” he wrote. “Those experiences do not reflect who I am, and they are insignificant in the scope of my life’s work, yet they helped inspire my dedication to my community and the work I do to make sure that youth have opportunities, support and confidence.”

State Republican Party Chairman Steve Pearce admonished Montoya’s past behavior.

“Starring in gay porno films, whether it takes place now or years ago, is unbecoming of any candidate or elected official,” Pearce said in a statement. “New Mexico holds dear to its strong, traditional values, and Mr. Montoya should leave the race immediately.”

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