This week, we’re running a series of interviews with New Mexico’s four gubernatorial candidates, each of whom answered questions about issues related to water, energy and climate change. We kick off the series with Democrat Jeff Apodaca. Apodaca is a former media executive and the son of former Gov. Jerry Apodaca. NMPR: We’re coming off a bad winter and we’ve got drought returning to the state. What critical water issues will your administration tackle?
This week, NM Political Report is publishing interviews with New Mexico’s four gubernatorial candidates about water, energy, climate change and other environment issues. Throughout election season, candidates typically talk a lot about jobs, education, the economy and what their opponents might be saying or doing. Those are undoubtedly important issues. But so are conflicts over water, the fact that the southwestern United States is warming at nearly double the global rate, and chronically low morale at some of the state’s most important agencies. We didn’t tailor the questions we asked to elicit campaign promises or to paint candidates into an ideological corner.
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 student-organized march and rally in Albuquerque attracted thousands of people to Old Town this morning as part of the national March for Our Lives which protested gun violence and school shootings. The march began at the Old Town Plaza and ended a few blocks away at Tiguex Park. Along the edges of the crowd at Tiguex Park, Democratic gubernatorial and congressional candidates shook hands and spoke with attendees. But most of the calls to action, poems and inspirational words came from middle school, high school and college students. Lillian Hunt, 17, and Emma Buck-Anderson, 19, who helped organize the rally, both said they just want adults to hear their concerns when it comes to issues like school safety.
Peter DeBenedittis announced Wednesday that he would end his gubernatorial campaign. The announcement came after the longshot candidate failed to reach two percent at the Democratic pre-primary convention, and urged his supporters to instead support Jeff Apodaca, one of his opponents. DeBenedittis said he was “incredibly sad” to make the decision, but thanked supporters. He also outlined why he said his campaign never gained traction. “Over the past few weeks, our campaign needed several things to break in our direction for the campaign to be viable, and none of them did,” DeBenedittis wrote.
A poll conducted for the Michelle Lujan Grisham campaign shows she has a massive lead over the other three candidates in the Democratic primary for governor. The internally-funded poll shows that the congresswoman from Albuquerque has the support of 72 percent of Democratic primary voters. All other candidates are far behind, with former media executive Jeff Apodaca at 13 percent, state Senator Joe Cervantes at 6 percent and alcohol tax advocate Peter DeBendittis at 2 percent. The campaign released the poll just days ahead of the Democratic pre-primary convention, where delegates from around the state will vote on who ends up on the ballot. Candidates who receive the support of 20 percent of those at the pre-primary convention will automatically make the ballot, while those who fail to do so will need to collect additional signatures to make the primary ballot.
A southern New Mexico county commissioner appeared to take personal shots at the mother of a female activist and constituent on Facebook Wednesday night. Screenshots from progressive activist Johana Bencomo show comments from Democratic Doña Ana County Commissioner John Vasquez, saying Bencomo’s mother asked him for “wierd (sic) favors” from the commissioner. In a time of #MeToo and public discussions regarding treatment of women by men in positions of power, Vasquez may have put himself, the county commission and the state and local Democratic party in an unwanted spotlight. Bencomo said Vasquez’s personal shots came after she commented on a post he made criticizing other politicians for endorsing candidates seeking election in 2018. “I just simply asked a question,” Bencomo told NM Political Report.
Oil and gas industry revenues pay a huge share of the money that goes into the state budget. And lobbyists for big oil companies pay a huge amount of campaign contributions to New Mexico politicians. An analysis of lobbyist expense reports filed in recent days with the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office shows oil companies dominate the list of the largest donors to campaigns and political committees since last October. By far the biggest contributor among lobbyists in the new batch of reports was the Austin, Texas-based Stephen Perry, Chevron USA’s state government affairs manager for Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma. Perry listed $183,250 in contributions.
An end-of-year back-and-forth is riling up the Democratic primary race for governor. The spat began after a former Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute intern alleged she was fired after revealing she was transgender. Michelle Lujan Grisham is currently the head of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. The CHCI and Lujan Grisham denied knowing that Riley Del Ray was transgender and that the CHCI fired her for other reasons. Jeff Apodaca, another Democratic candidate for governor, called for a congressional ethics investigation into Lujan Grisham over the allegations earlier this week.
A new poll shows Michelle Lujan Grisham has a strong lead in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. The poll by The Majority Institute (TMI) found that 75 percent of likely Democratic primary voters support Lujan Grisham, lapping the field. Ten percent support Jeff Apodaca, three percent Joe Cervantes and two percent Peter DeBenedittis. According to the poll ten percent of likely Democratic primary voters are undecided. Rick Palacio, a managing partner with TMI, said the poll was not paid or conducted for by any candidate or committee “but was part of a larger research project.”
“We regularly conduct research on a variety of topics nationally and in various states throughout the country,” Palacio said in an email to NM Political Report.