Democrats swept statewide races on Election Day, and will control not just the governor’s office and all of the executive agencies, but also independent state agencies that oversee everything from state funds to state lands. Democratic incumbent Tim Eichenberg easily won the race for State Treasurer over Republican Arthur Castillo and Democrat Brian Colón defeated Republican Wayne Johnson for State Auditor. In the three-way race for Attorney General, Democratic incumbent Hector Balderas beat Republican Michael Hendricks and Libertarian Blair Dunn. And another Democratic incumbent, Maggie Toulouse Oliver defeated Republican Gavin Clarkson and Libertarian Ginger Grider to hold on to the Secretary of State seat. The closest statewide race on Election Day was for State Land Commissioner.
Campaign finance reports filed Monday showed positives for both gubernatorial candidates, with the Republican showing a lead with money left, but the Democrat raised, and spent, more money. Republican nominee Steve Pearce finished the campaign finance period—which lasted from July 1 to Sept. 3—with nearly $1.9 million cash-on-hand for the final two months of the race. This was well ahead of the $1.2 million cash-on-hand for his opponent, Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham. Lujan Grisham, however, raised $1.9 million in the period and spent almost $1.5 million.
Two of the three candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for governor have over $1.5 million cash on hand for the final stretch before the primary election on June 5. Early voting has already started. State Sen. Joseph Cervantes has now loaned his own campaign over $2 million and raised only about $15,000 from others. He now has $1.65 million cash on hand. U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham raised over $410,000 and spent nearly $640,000 between April 3 and May 7.
As one of the tour guides at the New Mexico state Capitol, Dolores Esquibel loves to show off every corner of a building that has, well, no corners. For years, the Española resident has led dozens of visitors through the dizzying maze of hallways and corridors that make up the four floors of the half-century-old Roundhouse. But when lawmakers are in session, her tour is unlikely to include much time in the Rotunda, the open and circular center of the Roundhouse that rises all the way to the governor’s office on the fourth floor. “We usually bring them up here because we can’t do anything downstairs — they’re always having something, some kind of a function,” Esquibel said recently, peering down at the airy and busy Rotunda from the third floor. “Every day during the Legislature, there’s something going on,” she said.
Rifts within political parties are nothing new. The Democratic National Committee is still reeling from infighting that was exposed during the lead-up to the election it lost to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Even here in New Mexico, while the Democratic divide is less pronounced, there is already a long list of Democrats vying for nominations for state and federal elections. Now, a contentious meeting last week to discuss state investments may have shown how New Mexico Republicans are divided, too. New Mexico State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn believes the State Investment Council’s punitive action against him has at least something to do with his run for Congress—and he says that Gov. Susana Martinez and one of her prominent advisors are to blame.
A high profile legislative leader and the State Treasurer are urging the governor to call a special session to deal with a worse-than-expected fiscal situation in the state. Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith said in a capitol press conference that lawmakers need to inject an additional $200 million to keep the current budget, which went into effect this month, balanced. Smith said he thought the state would face a shortfall of $500 million in next year’s budget. These predictions came after the most recent numbers showed revenues fell $58 million in May 2016 when compared to May 2015. Smith, D-Deming, predicted state revenues this year will amount to $5.7 billion, down from the $6.1 billion signed into law earlier this year.
On Tuesday the Santa Fe New Mexican reported that New Mexico’s State Investment Council voted to take away decision-making power from a controversial sub-committee. According to the paper, the council’s move was in response to issues raised by an open government advocacy group and a group that represents print media. The State Investment Council moved Tuesday to strip its three-member litigation committee of decision-making authority, a move that came in response to concerns raised in April by the Foundation for Open Government, a nonprofit that lobbies for transparency in public institutions, and the New Mexico Press Association, which represents the interests of print media outlets in the state. The SIC, which is tasked with managing state investments, is made up of Gov. Susana Martinez, State Treasurer Tim Eichenberg, New Mexico Commissioner of Public Lands Aubrey Dunn, Department of Finance and Administration Secretary Tom Clifford and seven other public members who were appointed by the Legislature and Martinez. The litigation committee is made up of Martinez and two of the appointed public members.