New Mexico Democrat Roger Montaya has succeeded in his race for the State House of Representatives despite a smear campaign from conservatives highlighting his appearances in gay adult films in his early twenties.
Right-wing website Piñon Post published allegations last month that Montoya had participated in “unprotected sex in multiple gay films” under the aliases of “Joe Savage” and “Eric Martinez,” leading to backlash from conservatives who called on him to drop out of his campaign for House District 40.
Montoya responded by disclosing his involvement in two adult films at the age of 22, noting that, at the time, he was a financially destitute college student in Los Angeles.
In a statement at the time, Montoya said he was “not proud of that choice, as I was young and naïve, but those experiences helped me to understand the exploitation young people face.”
“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,” he added.
The Democratic Party of New Mexico rallied behind Montoya in light of the GOP’s calls to step down from the race, condemning Republicans for their efforts “to shame a gay man for a choice made in the distant past, while ignoring Donald Trump’s long record of illicit conduct.”
In spite of attacks from the right, Montoya handily won against his Republican challenger, Justin Salazar-Torrez, by a margin of 56.8 percent to 43.2 percent.
Following his win, he committed to strengthening bipartisan relations once he takes office, writing on Facebook, “As I prepare to serve in the NM State House of Representatives, I pledge to build bridges with my colleagues regardless of the political divide — our state deserves civility, vision and progress.”
Montoya, an artist, dancer, and longtime community organizer who heads Moving Arts Española, a local arts-centric youth center, has worked on anti-violence and HIV education initiatives.
As a person living with HIV, he helped implement the first HIV education programs in Española public schools., and was recognized as one of 10 CNN Heroes in 2019 for his contributions.
“In many ways, my life has been accentuated for the positive by having HIV,” Montoya said in a 2019 interview with POZ. “My diagnosis gave me a sense of urgency. It made me realize life is very short.”
He added: “It also made it possible for me to be bold and courageous, to accomplish what I could in the time that was left.”
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