Republican state Sen. Sander Rue didn’t take kindly to a nasty tweet by one of Gov. Susana Martinez’s political committees, sent shortly after the Senate approved Rue’s bill to shine a light on how the governor spends her contingency fund. The tweet was sent Wednesday by Advance New Mexico Now, which is run by Jay McCleskey, political adviser to Republican Martinez. McCleskey’s group said Rue sponsored the transparency bill on the governor’s expenditures because Martinez vetoed a legislative pension bill. Rue, a veteran senator from Albuquerque, then sent a written statement to The New Mexican. Related: Guv’s office doesn’t keep financial records of contingency fund
“It is telling that a political action committee linked to Gov. Martinez has attacked my ongoing efforts to create more transparency about how New Mexican taxpayer dollars are spent,” Rue said.
The biggest spender among lobbyists in New Mexico last year was not employed by an oil company or a tobacco company or a mining company. Instead, it was a New York-based advocacy group for gun safety that spent $219,500. The reports, filed this week with the Secretary of State’s Office, show that Pedro Morillas, regional director for Everytown for Gun Safety, spent more than any other lobbyist in the state. And he completely outgunned the National Rifle Association, which spent just over $10,000 on New Mexico candidates last year. Overall, lobbyists spent more than $1.7 million in the state in 2016.
As Democrats around the country were reeling from an unexpected loss in the presidential and many congressional races, New Mexico saw Democrats take back control of the state House of Representatives. Previously: Top ten stories of 2016: 10-6
This came two years after Democrats lost control of the House—where they held a majority for almost half a century. Conservative super PAC Advance Now New Mexico shelled out large amounts of cash towards unseating Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez. But some critics felt that the PAC didn’t spend enough time focused on on maintaining the majority in the House or unseating other Senate Democrats. Hatch Mayor Andy Nunez, a Republican, lost his legislative seat in southern New Mexico to Las Cruces City Councilor Nathan Smalls.
If he had to do it all over again, Michael Sanchez says he wouldn’t do anything differently. The outgoing state Senate Majority Leader will no longer be a member of the New Mexico Legislature for the first time since 1993, after losing in a bruising campaign that saw outside groups spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to defeat him. Newcomer Greg Baca, a Republican, will take over Sanchez’s seat in January. In an interview with NM Political Report last week, Sanchez looked back at his successes and other proud moments in the Senate. One of his chief legislative legacies is the lottery scholarship for college students, which he helped shepherd through the Legislature in the mid-1990s.
One bright spot New Mexico Republicans point to in state elections is the defeat of Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez. The Belen Democrat lost after Advance New Mexico Now, a Super PAC with close ties to Gov. Susana Martinez, and other organizations targeted him for what they saw as obstruction of important issues. In recent days, Sanchez has told media outlets this nearly single-minded focus on his state Senate district may have tipped the balance and allowed Democrats to take back the state House of Representatives while expanding their state Senate majority. “I’m really grateful for her aiming at me,” Sanchez told the Albuquerque Journal. “They focused their attention on me, and they didn’t pay attention to what they needed to pay attention to.”
He said something similar to the Santa Fe New Mexican.
Gov. Susana Martinez took out her major target in Tuesday’s election, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez. But that single victory came at a cost. Republicans lost the state House after two years in control, while Democrats strengthened their margin in the state Senate. The Democrats will control the House by at least a 37-33 margin, with an outside shot at a 39-31 split. Two races are going to recounts.
Presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton made a splash with their TV ads in New Mexico in the final week of campaign 2016. But neither candidate broke into the top three spenders or the top five advertisers during October. Republican Trump spent $219,500 on 466 ads in the state, while Democrat Clinton spent $179,374 on 1,194 ads. (Clinton’s spending went further because she also bought ads on cable and satellite TV, which is less expensive than network TV ads.)
That’s according to an analysis of TV and cable ad contracts filed with the Federal Communications Commission. 1st Congressional District Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, still tops the list of spenders during October at $427,463.
New Mexico Democrats are at war with a political action committee tied to Gov. Susana Martinez that is spouting a seemingly endless stream of negative, unfactual ads and mailers. The PAC, Advance New Mexico Now, is using a lot of resources against state Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez of Belen, a longtime Martinez nemesis who has led the Senate to oppose many of her core policies. Its most recent ad and mailer show the wife of a slain Rio Rancho police officer Gregg “Nigel” Benner officer claiming Sanchez was “cold and dismissive” when she met him and told him to support tough-on-crime laws. Sanchez, who faces a tough reelection against Republican Gregory Baca, said this meeting actually never happened. “I have never met the widow of Rio Rancho police officer Benner, not once,” Sanchez said Wednesday in a prepared statement.
A federal PAC is coming to the aid of the state House Majority Leader, even as House Republicans seek to keep control of the state House. That’s the news from the Santa Fe New Mexican, which spoke to Mark Murphy, who is a major donor to GOAL-West PAC. GOAL-West PAC also received attention last year for trying to influence Las Cruces municipal elections. Now, the PAC is seeking to aid Republicans in state House races. Most are on the list of swing districts, like Andy Nuñez of Hatch in District 36 or Christina Hall of Albuquerque in an open seat in District 24.
In his race to retain his Senate seat, Michael Sanchez never mentions the name of his opponent. But he does frequently mention his political nemesis over the last six years, Governor Susana Martinez. That’s because Sanchez, the Senate Majority leader from Belen, is the top target of Republicans this year. Advance New Mexico Now, a Republican super PAC with close ties to Martinez, is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in an attempt to defeat the Democratic Senate leader. “There’s no way that I can raise the amount of money that Advance New Mexico and this governor can raise against me,” Sanchez told NM Political Report.