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Primary Victory Cost $99,000

SANTA FE – Democratic state Sen. Phil Griego spent $99,000 fending off his primary election challengers in a hard-fought northern New Mexico race, according to a post-primary report filed with the secretary of state.

Thursday was the deadline to report contributions and spending by state candidates and political committees from May 30 through June 30.

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez’s organization, Susana PAC, reported having $183,000 in the bank as of last week to push her agenda and help GOP candidates in November.

Susana PAC took in more than $55,600 over the month, boosted by $10,000 from United Healthcare Services, $5,000 from Molina Healthcare and $2,500 from Presbyterian Health Plan.

An independent expenditure group run by Martinez’s political adviser, Jay McCleskey – called Reform New Mexico Now – still had $104,000 on hand after pumping more than $145,000 into last-minute spending in eight Democratic contests in the June 5 primary.

Griego, of San Jose, defeated two Democratic challengers in Senate District 39, including former Santa Fe County Commissioner Jack Sullivan. Sullivan reported spending nearly $53,000, with the candidate lending his campaign $17,770 of the total, according to the report. The third candidate, Nicole Castellano, reported spending $11,500.

Griego, who chairs the Senate Corporations and Transportation Committee, got last-minute help from ranching, racetrack, automobile, banking, corrections, health care, oil and gas and other business interests, according to his report. He took in more than $27,000 in the closing weeks of the primary campaign.

Griego faces Lincoln County rancher and ex-banker Aubrey Dunn in the November general election.

The legislative reports cover what candidates’ campaigns raised and spent during the 2012 primary season. They do not include the money spent on candidates’ behalf – but not coordinated with their campaigns – by independent expenditure committees such as Reform New Mexico Now, which helped Griego.

Sen. David Ulibarri, D-Grants, spent nearly $30,200 on his unsuccessful effort to keep his seat. A recount began Thursday in Cibola County to determine the winner of the four-way Democratic primary in Senate District 30, in which Ulibarri came in third. Official returns showed Clemente Sanchez winning by only nine votes over lawyer Maxine Velasquez, triggering the recount.

Velasquez, a lawyer from Laguna Pueblo with backing from conservation groups, ran the most expensive campaign of the four District 30 candidates, spending nearly $42,350 to Sanchez’s $12,600 and lawyer Randolph Collins’ $29,400.

The Democratic winner runs in November against Republican Vickie Perea of Belen.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith of Deming spent nearly $44,200 to defend his District 35 seat against Democratic primary challenger Larry Martinez, whose campaign reported spending $11,202. Smith runs against Las Cruces businessman Russell Allen, a Republican, in November.

Republican rancher Pat Woods spent nearly $77,000 in an eastern New Mexico state Senate race to defeat Angie Spears, the newcomer who had the backing of the governor and the help of McCleskey. Spears reported spending nearly $52,000.

With no Democrat on the ballot in the general election, Woods appears headed to the Senate from District 7.
— This article appeared on page C2 of the Albuquerque Journal