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Gov.’s campaign starts catering to lower-dollar donors

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$100 tickets offered after $10,000-per-couple event

Gov. Susana Martinez appears to be opening up some cheaper seats for her re-election campaign fundraising efforts.

After hosting a few high-dollar campaign fundraiser events earlier this year – including one exclusive event in April at a luxury Taos resort with a $10,000-per-couple price tag – Martinez now is offering tickets as low as $100 per person to her in-state fundraising events.

A Martinez campaign gala in Albuquerque on Friday is offering the option of joining the governor at dinner for $150 per person, according to an event invitation. Earlier this month, Martinez’s campaign greeted $100-per-person donors at a supporter’s home in Alamogordo.

Other events have started at $250 to $500 per person.

“The governor has a broad base of support, and so providing opportunity for people to become part of the campaign at lower dollar amounts is certainly a goal,” Martinez political adviser Jay McCleskey said. “It’s able to achieve more broad-based financial support.”

But the special perks still go to the big donors. At the Albuquerque event, top-dollar donors who give at least $2,000 can participate in an extra VIP party.

A $5,000 donation includes an invitation to join Martinez in a roundtable discussion that afternoon, according to the invitation.

Longtime New Mexico political analyst Brian Sanderoff said the governor’s campaign shift to welcome lower-tier donors is an effort to engage more supporters without appearing to cater exclusively to wealthy interests.

“The order makes sense to first go after the big-ticket spending and then start broadening the base and go after the smaller donors,” Sanderoff said.

“… You want to avoid any accusations of elitism and being accused of raising the bulk of your money from big-ticket lobbyists and major business industries,” he said.

Asked about a role of wealthy donors in Martinez’s campaign, the governor’s political adviser said donors giving $250 or less have accounted for a majority of Martinez’s donors since campaign finance laws capped contributions at $10,400 per election cycle.

“I think operating under limits now, our bread and butter has always been low- and mid-dollar donors,” McCleskey said.

Martinez reportedly raised about $200,000 this month from a VIP fundraiser in Washington, D.C., with a star-studded guest list that included U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell and Sens. Marco Rubio and Rand Paul.

Martinez is up for re-election in 2014. In early campaign fundraising, the first-term Republican governor has outpaced her announced Democratic challengers, Attorney General Gary King and state Sen. Linda Lopez.

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