State politics

New Mexico gubernatorial candidates spend big to win big

Lujan Grisham spent $3.9 million to secure Democratic nod, Republican Pearce has spent $1.2 million


Democratic Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham's campaign for governor has cost a whopping $3.9 million so far, according to financial reports filed Thursday (July 5).

The latest numbers show that while Lujan Grisham spent what is probably an unprecedented sum to cinch her party's nomination for New Mexico's top state office in the three-way primary election last month, Republican Congressman Steve Pearce has established a substantial financial advantage as he emerges from a GOP nominating contest in which he was unopposed.

Pearce had more than $1.9 million on hand by the end of June while Lujan Grisham had about $873,000.

So, while Lujan Grisham raised more money from individual donors, she has spent far more, too.

All of that advertising and staff paid off last month when she won 66 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary election, blowing away her two opponents, businessman Jeff Apodaca and state Sen. Joseph Cervantes.

Now, the questions for Lujan Grisham's backers are whether her year and a half on the campaign trail has given her an advantage with voters heading into the general election and whether she can continue raising large sums of cash to keep up with the congressman from Southern New Mexico over the next several months.

The general election is bound to be pricey, too.

The latest round of campaign finance reports offered insight in to just how much the Democratic primary cost, though.

Cervantes spent nearly $1.4 million and Apodaca spent more than $1.2 million.

Apodaca had not filed a report by a 5 p.m. deadline on Thursday for the last days of the primary election and ensuing weeks.

Cervantes, meanwhile, reported paying himself back $1 million of the roughly $2 million he had loaned his campaign.

Pearce had spent about $1.2 million by the end of last month.

Lujan Grisham has spent big on television advertising, polling and a relatively large staff spread out around the state. Her biggest expense also was advertising. She paid a Washington, D.C., agency called Buying Time Media $351,504.

It is a campaign apparatus that may give her an edge, but it will also prove costly.

Pearce has spent big on consultants and advertising. His biggest expense was FlexPoint Media of New Albany, Ohio. The campaign paid the company $173,476.

That's significantly less than Lujan Grisham's totals. But Pearce did not face any opposition in the Republican primary election. And he got an infusion of about $783,000 during the primary by transferring money from his congressional campaign to his campaign for governor.

While Lujan Grisham listed only three contributions of $5,000 or more, Pearce reported 35. His biggest contributors were former state Republican Party Chairwoman Debbie Weh Maestas and Cemco Inc., a Belen machinery manufacturer. Each gave $10,000.

But Pearce also had 35 contributors who gave $5,000 or more. Among these were Great America Committee, a political action committee associated with Vice President Mike Pence ($5,400); Lt. Gov. John Sanchez's campaign committee ($5,500); and former state GOP Chairman Allen Weh ($5,500). Weh's company CSI Aviation also contributed $5,500.

Lujan Grisham's biggest contributors were Integrated Control Systems, an Albuquerque engineering consulting firm ($5,500); Premier Distributing Company ($5,500) and the Iron Workers union ($5,000).

Pearce also gets a boost from Michelle Garcia Holmes, who won the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor unopposed and had nearly $38,000 in her campaign account at the end of June.

Lujan Grisham's running mate, state Sen. Howie Morales, ended last month with nearly $19,000 in his campaign account.

Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Bob Walsh, who is seeking a recount of some primary election votes in an effort to get on the ballot in November, reported he spent a little under $11,000 and raised around $11,200 in all.

This story first published in the Santa Fe New Mexican, a sibling publication of The Taos News.