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.
Delegates for the Democratic Party of New Mexico chose their preferred candidates for statewide and federal races Saturday afternoon at the state pre-primary convention. But before candidates finished their stump speeches, a brief protest and an alliance between two gubernatorial candidates caused some excitement. The Democratic convention showed higher numbers of both the number of candidates and convention attendees than the recent Republican and Libertarian state parties. Six state and federal candidates emerged from contested races as party favorites for the Democratic primary election in June. While he denied rumors that he was dropping out, gubernatorial candidate Peter DeBenedittis used his speech to encourage delegates to cast votes for another candidate in the race, Jeff Apodaca.
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.
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.
A national outlet says New Mexico has a very good chance of flipping from a Republican governor to a Democratic one. In fact, National Journal predicted this week that New Mexico is the second-most likely state to elect a governor from a different party than the incumbent in the coming year. Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican, cannot run for a third consecutive term because of term limits. From National Journal (story is behind a paywall): Martinez’s favorability has faded as the economy stagnates in the Democratic-trending state. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a former state Cabinet official backed by EMILY’s List, is the front-runner for the Democratic nomination and general election next year.
New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas announced Tuesday that he will not run for governor next year, ending months of speculation. Balderas, a Democrat, made the announcement in a statement to media where he highlighted work he has done in his first term as attorney general. “It has been an honor to serve New Mexico and I plan on running for re-election next year in order to continue to fight for our state,” he said. In addition to mentioning prosecuting “more than 100 cases of internet crimes against children and human trafficking” and recovering more than $6 million in Medicaid fraud cases in 2016, Balderas noted his more recent efforts against the Trump administration. “Since the November election, my office has a new responsibility—to stand up for New Mexico against President Trump,” Balderas said.
Another New Mexico Democrat announced his run for governor. Peter DeBenedittis issued a press release Monday detailing his campaign platform. One major point DeBenedittis highlighted in his announcement is that he is a political outsider. “Year after year we’ve seen Democrats talk like they really want to help people during the primaries, then they run to the center for the general election,” DeBenedittis said. “And then if they win, many completely forget what they’ve campaigned on.”
Last year, DeBenedittis gained some attention with his campaign to raise state alcohol taxes to increase state revenue.
There isn’t a date for the special session yet, but one non-profit that says increasing an alcohol excise tax increase can help solve the budget deficit is stepping up efforts to get it on the session’s agenda. Dr. Peter DeBenedittis, director of Alcohol Taxes Save Lives and Money, hand-delivered a letter to the governor’s office in Santa Fe asking that she put the proposal on the agenda for a special session. A special session is necessary to deal with a budget deficit nearing $500 million. Spokesmen for Gov. Susana Martinez’s office did not respond to an email seeking comment. Her public information officers typically do not respond to requests for comment from NM Political Report.
TAOS — An advocacy group pushing for an increase in alcohol taxes in New Mexico encouraged lawmakers Tuesday to bring the issue to the upcoming special session. Alcohol Taxes Save Lives Director Peter DeBenedittis presented his findings to the Legislative Health and Human Services Committee that show many likely voters in the state are in favor of increasing taxes on alcohol by 25 cents a drink. DeBenedittis’ group recently released a poll showing 75 percent of New Mexicans are at least somewhat in favor of an increased alcohol tax. The poll also showed how many likely voters in New Mexico said they would cross party lines and vote for someone who supported raising the excise tax. In all, the poll found 28 percent said they are “at least somewhat likely” to do so.
There’s still no word on if or when Gov. Susana Martinez will call a special session to address the state’s money shortfall, but one nonprofit group wants lawmakers to consider a tax increase on alcohol sales as a way to increase state revenues. Peter DeBenedittis, director of the group Alcohol Taxes Save Lives & Money said he’s been speaking with lawmakers as he tries to increase taxes on alcohol sales in order to supplement public substance abuse treatment programs. While DeBenedittis said he has been working with lawmakers for a while, he wants to gain support from the general public now. “Were just trying to start the conversation publicly,” DeBenedittis said of the campaign. Key players in the legislature said in recent weeks there is a need to shore up the state budget before the next regular session in January. DeBenedittis said the state can save serious money by holding those who abuse alcohol accountable for treatment costs.