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CD1: The Race Is On

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Hours after primary votes were tallied early Wednesday, Republican 1st Congressional District nominee Janice Arnold-Jones launched her general election campaign with a critique of Democratic nominee Michelle Lujan Grisham’s political experience.

Arnold-Jones got little attention during the primary election season because she had no opposition for the GOP nomination, but she wasted little time seeking the limelight the morning after by calling a news conference.

The four-term former state representative from Albuquerque criticized Lujan Grisham’s 16 years in state government administration, including tenures as secretary of aging and secretary of health, as little more than lobbying.

“My job as a legislator was to listen to everyone to make sure that I had a very broad view,” Arnold-Jones said Wednesday. “My opponent was a Cabinet secretary. A Cabinet secretary, to me, is akin to a single-issue lobbyist.”

Lujan Grisham, who also has served on the Bernalillo County Commission the past 18 months, stayed out of the public eye Wednesday after her hard-fought victory in a three-way race with Sen. Eric Griego and former Mayor Marty Chávez.

“I think we’ve proven that we know how to run a proficient campaign, that we have a message that’s resonating with the middle class that we’re focusing on jobs and the economy, and I really think there’s momentum behind this,” Lujan Grisham said after clinching the Democratic nomination around midnight.

Despite Arnold-Jones’ criticism of Lujan Grisham’s background, the Republican nominee insisted she intends to stay away from personal attacks and wants to focus her general election campaign on issues like the economy that are affecting voters in the 1st Congressional District.

“I have a relationship with my opponent, and respect, and I believe there is a chance for the first time in a very long time to have two candidates actually talk about the issues,” Arnold-Jones said.

Lujan Grisham’s campaign responded Wednesday with a prepared statement, saying it would also focus on the issues in the general election contest to differentiate Lujan Grisham from her Republican opponent.

“We welcome the opportunity to have a debate with Janice Arnold-Jones about her allegiance to Republican special interests in Washington. Michelle Lujan Grisham is very clear about her own allegiance to working families, her opposition to Republican cuts to Medicare and her promise to end the Bush tax cuts for the rich,” Lujan Grisham spokesman Gilbert Gallegos wrote in an e-mail statement.

The exchange between Lujan Grisham and Arnold-Jones came before the dust finally settled on Tuesday’s contentious Democratic primary election.

Lujan Grisham maintained a 5 percentage-point margin of victory over Griego after all the district polling places were counted just after midnight.

On Wednesday, Lujan Grisham’s campaign said it had not received a phone call from Griego conceding the race.

But Griego campaign manager Ed Yoon told the Journal on Wednesday afternoon, “We accept the election outcome.”

Griego, a former Albuquerque city councilor who gave up the chance to seek re-election to his state Senate seat to run for the U.S. House nomination, plans to back Lujan Grisham in the general election after taking some time away from politics, Yoon said.

“He’s going to be committed to making sure the Democrats win in November,” Yoon said.

The tight Democratic primary race in the Albuquerque-based 1st Congressional District was influenced by a low voter turnout in Bernalillo County.

Twenty-three percent of registered Democrats in Bernalillo County cast ballots in the contested congressional primary.

On the Republican side, where Arnold-Jones was unopposed, 18 percent of registered Republicans in Bernalillo County voted in Tuesday’s primary.

Twenty-two percent of Bernalillo County voters are registered as independents or with a third party and were not eligible to vote in the Democratic or Republican primaries because of New Mexico’s “closed” primary election system.

But the Democratic candidates showed an ability to raise – and spend – large amounts of money for the competitive primary bout.

Lujan Grisham, through late May, reported raising more than $600,000, much of which was spent on heavy TV advertising in Albuquerque both promoting Lujan Grisham’s experience and attacking Griego.

Griego reported raising more than $850,000 through late May. His campaign claimed to have raised at least $100,000 in the final weekend of the campaign.

A California-based political action committee, Progressive Kick, claimed to have spent another $100,000 on Griego’s behalf.

Republican Arnold-Jones, through May, reported raising about $173,000 for her campaign.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal