SANTA FE — The gloves are coming off in New Mexico’s three-way Democratic gubernatorial race.
One of the candidates, Joseph Cervantes, launched a TV campaign ad today that targets Michelle Lujan Grisham, the perceived front-runner in the race, for making money off government contracts while a member of Congress and taking hefty out-of-state campaign contributions.
The 30-second ad features a picture of President Donald Trump waving goodbye to a New Mexico-bound airplane and opens with the line, “Who’s Michelle Lujan Grisham working for? Not us.”
It’s scheduled to run for the next week on three different Albuquerque-area network stations, according to public station files, and represents the first attack ad in the race for governor of the 2018 primary election cycle.
Cervantes, a state senator from Las Cruces, has loaned more than $2 million in personal money to his campaign and has vowed to spend it. He reported earlier this week having more than $1.6 million in his campaign account, which was slightly more than Lujan Grisham.
In a statement, Cervantes said Lujan Grisham has made money off governmental contracts and been linked with out-of-state “special interests,” though he did not specify which groups he was referring to.
“I believe the voters of New Mexico should be fully informed before making the important decision of choosing their next governor,” he added. “The stakes are just too high. I will be a governor who will always put the people of New Mexico first, and will never be beholden to out of state special interests.”
A former state Cabinet secretary, Lujan Grisham has been a member of Congress since 2013. She announced in December 2016 she would forgo a re-election bid this year to her Albuquerque-based congressional seat and instead run for governor.
On congressional financial disclosure forms, Lujan Grisham has in past years cited an annual income of between $15,000 and $50,000 from Delta Consulting Group, a health care firm that has done work for the New Mexico Medical Insurance Pool. The firm’s president is state Rep. Deborah Armstrong, an Albuquerque Democrat who is also the treasurer of Lujan Grisham’s gubernatorial campaign.
A Lujan Grisham campaign spokesman blasted Cervantes’ ad as “ridiculous and full of falsehoods.”
“Congresswoman Lujan Grisham ran a patient advocacy company designed to help people get affordable care,” campaign spokesman Victor Reyes said. “Her small business didn’t make a “bundle” on state or federal contracts.”
He also said the company helped patients —including those with cancer and AIDS — get health care after being denied coverage by insurance companies.
Absentee voting has already begun for New Mexico’s primary election, which will be held June 5.
Lujan Grisham and Cervantes are vying with former Albuquerque media executive Jeff Apodaca for the Democratic Party’s gubernatorial nomination.
The lone Republican running is U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, who is giving up his southern-New Mexico based congressional seat.