A group that raised big money in the Georgia special congressional election last month is now endorsing Martin Heinrich’s U.S. Senate reelection bid. End Citizens United supports campaign finance reform, including the titular goal of overturning the Citizens United U.S. Supreme Court decision. The group’s president and executive director, Tiffany Muller, praised Heinrich while endorsing him. “Senator Heinrich has consistently stepped up to the plate to root out Big Money from our political system and represent those who really matter—hard-working New Mexico families,” Muller said in a statement. “He knows that special interests are rigging the system and Americans are getting left behind, which is why he’s fighting to rip the price tag off of our democracy.
Democrats are lining up to run for Congress in the 2nd Congressional District in 2018. Four have already decided to take a stab at the 2nd Congressional District seat, currently held by Republican Steve Pearce. The district has been held by Republicans for all but two years since New Mexico gained a third seat in 1983. From 2009 to 2011, Democrat Harry Teague held the seat after winning in the Democratic wave election of 2008, when Steve Pearce opted for a Senate run. Pearce again ran for the seat in 2010 and easily defeated Teague.
New Mexico’s gubernatorial race is trending blue according to a prominent news outlet that analyzes elections. The Cook Political Report changed its ratings for eight gubernatorial elections Monday, moving New Mexico and four other states toward Democrats, two states closer to Republicans and one away from an independent. New Mexico was moved from a toss up to “Lean D.” According to the outlet’s rating system, “lean” races “are considered competitive races but one party has an advantage” while toss ups “are the most competitive races; either party has a good chance of winning.”
New Mexico is one of two races with current Republican governors where the race is likely to tilt Democratic. New Jersey, with unpopular Gov. Chris Christie leaving, is considered “likely D,” which means it is not currently competitive but could become so at some point. Gov. Susana Martinez is unable to run for a third consecutive term.
In news that surprised no one, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver announced Tuesday that she will run for reelection. “From modernizing campaign finance rules to increasing ballot access and voter education in our native and rural communities, we are making swift progress on many of the priorities I set early on,” the Democrat said in her press release. “I look forward to serving a full term for the people of New Mexico so that we can continue to combat dark money in politics, raise the bar for transparency and accountability in government and cement our sacred voting rights for every eligible citizen.”
No other candidate has announced their intention to run. Toulouse Oliver, a Democrat, won election in 2016, defeating Republican Nora Espinoza. The position is normally contested in non-presidential years, but the election was held in 2016 because Dianna Duran resigned from her position as Secretary of State hours before pleading guilty to criminal charges related to campaign finance.
Former House Majority Leader Rick Miera announced Monday that he will run for lieutenant governor. The Albuquerque Democrat is the second to announce a run for the position. “I am running for Lt. Governor because New Mexicans deserve leaders who have the courage to make the bold decisions we need that will get our state moving again,” Miera said in a statement announcing his candidacy. The position’s biggest responsibility is to preside over the state senate. In the event of a tie vote in the Senate, the lieutenant governor will cast a vote, something that very rarely occurs.
Corruption has long been endemic to New Mexico government. And today, even when people ferret out potential problems or ethical lapses, there’s still a significant gap between the laws meant to protect people and the ability or willingness of state agencies to enforce them. In January, for example, conservation groups wrote to the state purchasing agent and director, asking him to look into a political donation from a company with a lucrative state contract. The company had contributed $1,000 to Gov. Susana Martinez’s political action committee during a time when the state’s Procurement Code prohibits political contributions, when proposals are being evaluated for the awarding of contracts. Months passed, and the activists didn’t hear back from the state purchasing agent or from the agency that had issued the contract, the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission (ISC).
As promised, State Commissioner of Public Lands Aubrey Dunn filed a defamation lawsuit against land commissioner candidate Garrett VeneKlasen Monday evening. Dunn also filed a request for a temporary restraining order to stop VeneKlasen from running a campaign radio ad. The campaign ad features VeneKlasen raising questions about a ranch owned by Dunn and the commissioner’s involvement in allowing a major electrical transmission line to run through his property. Related story: Land commissioner files ‘cease and desist’ order against contender
Dunn maintains he only learned the line was set to run through his land after he purchased the ranch. Blair Dunn, who is acting as attorney for his father, said his father has not allowed access to his property and may get paid easement royalties.
A poll by a Republican pollster finds that Democratic candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham leads Steve Pearce in a hypothetical matchup—but also that there are still a large number of undecided voters. The poll, conducted by The Tarrance Group in late May, found that when the two U.S. Representatives are matched up against each other, Lujan Grisham leads Pearce 47 percent to 43 percent with 10 percent undecided. The Tarrance Group lists Pearce as a former client on its website, though the polling memo does not indicate who paid for the poll. Notably, the firm polled for the Republican in 2010, when he successfully ran against Harry Teague to retake the 2nd Congressional District seat. Pearce left the seat in 2008 to run for U.S. Senate.
One week after announcing his candidacy for New Mexico State Land Commissioner, Garrett VeneKlasen received a “cease and desist order” from the current commissioner, Republican Aubrey Dunn. The order came from Dunn’s son, Blair, an attorney who ran unsuccessfully for the state Senate as a Republican last fall and helped run Gary Johnson’s last gubernatorial campaign. Blair Dunn sent the order to the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, of which VeneKlasen is the executive director, and eight media outlets including NM Political Report. The order called political statements made by VeneKlasen, a Democrat, untrue and misleading. It references a radio ad from VeneKlasen’s campaign accusing Aubrey Dunn of using the office for personal gain.
National Democrats announced Monday they will target New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District in the 2018 elections. The move comes as part of an expansion of 20 more Republican-held House seats targeted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Already, Democrats announced 59 other seats are in their electoral crosshairs. With this second round of targets, Democrats are targeting nearly one-third of all seats currently held by Republicans. (Four seats are currently vacant.)
Republicans said earlier this year that both of the New Mexico congressional districts held by Democrats are on their list of targets.