ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It isn’t unusual for candidates for public office to use campaign funds to pay spouses or other family members for election-related work such as gathering petition signatures or helping with political mailings.
But here’s an eye-catcher:
Democratic state Rep. Eliseo Lee Alcon of Milan in western New Mexico reported last month that he used campaign funds to pay son David Alcon a $500 “bonus for no primary opponent.”
Here’s Alcon’s explanation:
David Alcon, who is in his mid-30s, is his father’s campaign manager and advised the elder Alcon to run radio ads during the Legislature’s session this year on the lawmaker’s work in Santa Fe on behalf of his constituents.
Rep. Alcon ran the ads on a Gallup station, also paying for them with campaign funds. The population of the legislator’s district is overwhelmingly American Indian.
The son told his father that if the elder Alcon ended up without opposition in the primary or general election, it would be because of the ads. No Democrat filed to challenge Alcon in the primary, and no Republican filed for the general.
“I guess it worked,” Rep. Alcon said of the radio ads.
So, to reward his son for the advice to run the ads, the legislator gave him $500 out of his campaign fund.
Since 2010, Rep. Alcon’s candidate committee has paid son David a total of at least $8,600 for services and expenses, according to the committee’s reports on contributions and expenditures filed with the Secretary of State’s Office. The listed purposes of the services have include consulting, campaign management and computer work.
Rep. Alcon is a former state magistrate judge and disabled veteran who was first elected to a two-year term in the House in 2008. He said his son encouraged him to run for the seat and has been his campaign manager every election.
“He’s the only reason I’m in the Legislature,” Rep. Alcon said. “If it wasn’t for him, I’d be out hunting and fishing.”
The legislator had no opposition in the primary or general election when he ran for re-election in 2010 and had only primary opposition in winning a third term in the House in 2012.
Rep. Alcon said his son shares a post office box in Milan with his father but lives in Rio Rancho. David Alcon has done political consulting for others but currently isn’t doing so, the legislator said.
Rep. Alcon could still face opposition in the November election from a minor party, independent or write-in candidate.
For the six-month reporting period ended April 7, legislators and legislative candidates reported spending a total of more than $675,000, according to data provided by the Secretary of State’s Office.
All 70 seats in the House are up for election this year. None of the Senate members faces re-election this year. Still, senators reported spending more than $145,000 in the six-month period.
Legislators receive much of their campaign funds from corporations, unions and political action committees, and they aren’t limited to spending the money for election purposes.
Lawmakers can also use campaign funds for any expenditure reasonably related to their official duties (cellphones, travel and more), donations to the state and charitable groups, contributions to political committees or other candidates, and refunds to donors.
Democratic Rep. Henry “Kiki” Saavedra of Albuquerque, who isn’t seeking re-election after 38 years in the House, reported nearly $26,000 in campaign expenditures for the six-month period, the most of any legislator or legislative candidate.
Saavedra reported making more than $18,000 in donations to political committees and candidates, including a $2,400 contribution to son Randy Saavedra, who is in a three-way race in the primary election in June for the Democratic nomination to succeed his father.
Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, ranked No. 2 in spending with nearly $25,000 in campaign expenditures, and Rep. Patricia Lundstrom, D-Gallup, was No. 3 with more than $23,000.
Egolf, whose expenditures included $9,000 in donations to other candidates, faces no primary election opposition, and no Republican has filed for the seat. Lundstrom faces three challengers in the primary as she seeks election to an eighth two-year term in the House.
UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Thom Cole at email@example.com or 505-992-6280 in Santa Fe. Go to abqjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.