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.
A former Bernalillo County commission candidate is accusing a political action committee that advertised against him of not disclosing the bulk of its funding in time to meet state guidelines. Adrián Pedroza, a community organizer who in June lost a Democratic primary bid for an open county commission seat, filed a campaign ethics complaint against New Mexico for New Mexicans PAC last week. The complaint, filed with the Secretary of State’s Office, alleges that the PAC violated state law by not properly disclosing nearly $35,000 of its funding until one month after the June 7 primary election. That money, the vast majority of which came from Western Albuquerque Land Holdings, encompassed more than half of the PAC’s $64,500 in donations during the election cycle. “It’s really about maintaining the integrity of the election and voters knowing whose contribution went to what and for what reasons,” Pedroza’s campaign manager Neri Holguin said in an interview.
The developer of the controversial Santolina development in western Bernalillo County poured nearly $36,500 in June in successful efforts to defeat vocal opponent Adrian Pedroza in the District 2 commission race. New Mexicans for New Mexico, a political action committee, raised nearly $64,500 from April through the end of June. More than half of that came in the days leading up to the June 7 primary from Western Albuquerque Land Holdings LLC, the Arizona-based developer of Santolina, according to afinal report filed Thursday. Breaking Bad actor and Albuquerque Public Schools board member Steven Michael Quezadawon the three-way Democratic primary on June 7. New Mexicans for New Mexico bought billboards, hired canvassers, sent mailers and used robocalls to support Quezada and Robert Chavez as well as criticize Adrian Pedroza, who opposes the development.
A hard-fought, close three-way race that will determine the ideological balance of the Bernalillo County Commission ended with a winner late Tuesday—Steven Michael Quezada. Quezada, a member of the Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education and an actor best known for his supporting role in “Breaking Bad,” now goes into the fall general election race a clear favorite over Republican Patricia Paiz. Quezada said he isn’t ruling Paiz’s challenge out, despite his district’s Democratic leanings. “We still got to move forward,” he said. “We still got to fight.”
Quezada narrowly edged out opponents Adrián Pedroza and Robert Chavez by winning just over 35 percent of the vote for the district, which covers Albuquerque’s South Valley and Southwest Mesa.
A new political action committee of unknown origins inserted itself into a hotly-contested Bernalillo County Commission race with a decidedly nasty mailer the day before the primary election. The mailer, from a PAC called “Committee for the Truth District #2,” aggressively attacks candidates Adrián Pedroza and Steven Michael Quezada while ending with the phrase, “MAY THE LORD GUIDE YOUR VOTE!!!”
Pedroza and Quezada are vying, along with Robert Chavez, in this week’s primary for the Democratic Party nomination for the seat currently held by Art De La Cruz, who is term-limited and cannot run again. It’s unclear who is behind “Committee for the Truth District #2.” The mailer lists John Davis as treasurer. NM Political Report is choosing to not run pictures of the mailer because of at least two demonstrably false claims written on it, which we will not publish here. When NM Political Report called the phone number that the PAC left with the business that printed the mailer, a person on the other line said, “Wrong number,” and quickly hung up.
A Bernalillo County commissioner wants the county attorney to investigate donations to a political action committee supporting two candidates for county commission. New Mexicans for New Mexico PAC recently drew controversy for its donors’ affiliations with the Santolina planned development, a project on Albuquerque’s westside whose developers are asking the county to approve 80 subsidies for the next several decades. The PAC sent mailers supporting District 2 candidates Steven Michael Quezada and Robert Chavez and has repeatedly targeted Adrián Pedroza, the candidate most outspokenly critical of Santolina. The PAC also funded billboards for Quezada touting his “Breaking Bad” credits. Commissioner Debbie O’Malley, a supporter of Pedroza, wants an investigation into whether certain donations to the PAC violate county campaign finance rules.
As Bernalillo County Commission District 2 candidate Adrián Pedroza recently put it, the issue of Santolina became “front and center” when lawyers and developers behind the controversial planned community inserted themselves into the race by creating a political action committee. Pedroza, one of three candidates running to fill the term-limited Art De La Cruz’s seat, is vocally opposed to the development. Of the more than 1,000 people in the district that Pedroza says he’s talked to since beginning his campaign last year, he contends only one of them voiced support for Santolina. “They can’t imagine how the county would be supporting and thinking about putting public resources towards a new city with 40,000 homes in an area that doesn’t exist,” Pedroza, a development director at the South Valley-based Partnership for Community Action, said. “When people try to get sold on, ‘This is jobs for the district,’ they say, ‘Well, we want jobs in our existing communities, not jobs in a community that doesn’t exist.’”
Robert Chavez, one of Pedroza’s opponents in the upcoming Democratic primary, argues this type of outspokenness by Pedroza might bar him from actually voting on Santolina issues as a commissioner.
A political action committee’s support of Steven Michael Quezada for Bernalillo County Commission is leading to questions because of the donors behind it—including from Quezada himself. Last month, the New Mexicans for New Mexico PAC paid for billboards that reference the actor and comedian’s most well-known credential—his supporting role as DEA Agent Steven Gomez in the cable TV drama “Breaking Bad.”
“Elect Breaking Bad’s good guy,” read the billboards, which also feature a picture of smiling Quezada and his name written in a font reminiscent of the opening credits of the popular TV series. The funders behind New Mexicans for New Mexico PAC, which is independent of Quezada’s campaign, are developers and lawyers with ties to Santolina, a controversial planned development of residences that the county commission approved zoning changes for last year. Santolina’s backers say the planned development could be home to as many as 90,000 people over the next 40 to 50 years. But the issue has sparked outrage from critics who call it sprawl development and point to British-based multinational bank Barclays, which owns the land Santolina is set to be built on, as the corporate driver behind it.
A response by an Albuquerque school board member to a candidate questionnaire appears to be directly lifted from a website without any attribution. And after speaking to those involved, it’s unclear who exactly copied the answer. When Steven Michael Quezada ran for his current spot on the Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education in late 2012 and early 2013, he submitted answers to a candidate questionnaire with information ranging from basic personal information to his overall thoughts about education. Quezada’s answer in response to a question regarding the role of individual board members is identical to language from the National School Boards Association. Quezada, who is now a candidate for Bernalillo County Commission, told NM Political Report he wasn’t the one who copied the information but that he is ultimately responsible for the final result.
“At the end of the day, I signed off on it,” Quezada said.