On New Mexico’s primary election day, in almost triple-digit heat, former state Senator Dede Feldman stood outside an Albuquerque middle school with a signature-filled clipboard in hand. It’s not uncommon to see people gathering signatures outside of polling locations for various political efforts. But Feldman wasn’t there to get anyone elected. The former four-term lawmaker, shaded by a wide brimmed hat, was collecting signatures to get a public campaign finance initiative on the ballot in November for Albuquerque voters. The initiative that Feldman and others hope to get on the ballot would increase money to at least some municipal candidates in Albuquerque who take part in the city’s public financing system.
As last-minute attacks swirl and campaigns shift efforts to get voters to the polls, candidates filed their final campaign finance reports before the Tuesday primary election. U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham once again led the way in fundraising, and she also spent the most money out of all four gubernatorial candidates in the most recent campaign finance period, which spanned from May 8 to May 29. She raised over $215,000, more than twice her two Democratic opponents combined, and spent nearly $710,000. She finished May with nearly $1.1 million cash on hand. State Sen. Joe Cervantes spent nearly $575,000, and finished with nearly as much campaign cash in his coffers as Lujan Grisham.
Voters got to see the latest campaign finance numbers from candidates running for statewide and legislative offices Monday. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Steve Pearce, both U.S. Representatives running for governor, led the way among candidates reporting fundraising numbers Tuesday. Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, reported raising $1.4 million over the last six months, while Pearce, a Republican, raised $1.6 million. Nearly half of the money Pearce raised in the period came from a transfer of money from his federal campaign accounts after the Republican congressman won a legal battle in federal court. Former media executive Jeff Apodaca raised $254,000, while State Sen. Cervantes raised $1.05 million.
When candidates file their campaign finance reports Monday, there will be all types of ways to analyze the data. One will be to look for the biggest donors. But identifying them can be tricky. Even though New Mexico passed campaign contribution limits in 2009 after several high-profile elected officials went to jail for corruption, people still have the potential to contribute more than the limits by giving through companies they own, or combining with family members to give. This year New Mexico’s campaign contribution limit for statewide office is $5,500 in both the primary and general election cycles.
A federal judge said U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce can use money raised for federal office in his campaign for governor, giving his campaign a big boost. The court order means that Pearce’s campaign coffers will grow by nearly $1 million, perhaps putting his campaign at over $2 million cash on hand. Pearce had $911,000 cash on hand in his last campaign finance report six weeks ago. The preliminary injunction also means that New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver cannot enforce state donation limits to the funds Pearce raised for his federal campaigns. “The Secretary of State and her team are reviewing the details of the judge’s decision and will then consider next steps,” Secretary of State spokesman Joey Keefe said.
The hits keep coming towards one Albuquerque mayoral candidate—and at least two formal complaints against him are coming from a former candidate and his lawyer. Since the mayoral election ended earlier this month, Dan Lewis has gone after Tim Keller’s voting record in the New Mexico State Senate through T.V. ads and a website, but his campaign and supporters are also under fire for alleged unethical campaign practices. Bernalillo County Commissioner and former mayoral candidate Wayne Johnson filed two ethics complaints against Keller. Johnson’s lawyer in both cases is former Republican National Committeeman Pat Rogers. One ethics complaint against Keller is already pending with the Albuquerque Board of Ethics concerning in-kind contributions and now, another is headed for a city hearing officer’s jurisdiction.
Albuquerque’s mayoral runoff election is a month away and so far the two campaigns have stayed relatively quiet. But an upcoming ethics hearing and the city’s public finance rules could make the runoff election more complicated or at least open the door for more attack ads, particularly against State Auditor Tim Keller. Originally scheduled for Oct. 12, an ethics hearing for a complaint against Keller was moved to only a few days before the Nov. 14 runoff election—and well after early voting starts.
With a big gubernatorial race on tap in 13 months, two high-profile candidates reported Monday each bringing in more than $1 million in contributions in the last six months. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced raising nearly $1.4 million since her last campaign finance report in April. The campaign finance period was between between April 4 and October 2. Lujan Grisham’s campaign reported these came from nearly 6,500 contributors. Lujan Grisham’s campaign reported these came from nearly 6,500 contributors.
Albuquerque bans contributions to candidates for elective office from businesses or individuals who make money from city contracts, but that doesn’t prevent owners of those companies from giving to candidates in a different way. The practice is on stark display in a recent campaign report filed by mayoral candidate Brian Colón, who returned contributions from several companies with city contracts on September 12 and then accepted contributions from the owners of those companies about a week later. This story originally appeared on the New Mexico In Depth website and is reprinted with permission. Owners are allowed to give as individuals or through other companies they own. In his report filed September 22, Colón showed he had returned contributions from contractors identified previously to him by KOB Channel 4, reported by KOB on September 19.
The last few weeks of any election are sure to be dramatic as campaigns pile on the ads and social media posts, claiming opponents are acting improperly or are just bad people. The Albuquerque mayoral race is no different. With early voting already started and election day about two weeks away, the flow of campaign ads and ethics complaints is increasing. While ads run through election day, ethics complaints follow their own timeline and may not have resolutions before the polls close
In a recent complaint filed with Albuquerque’s Board of Ethics, mayoral candidate and Bernalillo County Commissioner Wayne Johnson alleged that candidate and State Auditor Tim Keller’s campaign accepted money as an in-kind contribution. The city’s election code doesn’t specifically state how an in-kind contribution should be received, but it does note that any professional services or property rental should be noted as an in-kind contribution on campaign finance filings.