Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – Democratic gubernatorial nominee Michelle Lujan Grisham spent big bucks in the run-up to last month’s primary election and in the weeks after it, leaving her Republican general election opponent, Steve Pearce, with a hefty financial edge – at least for now – for their November showdown.
Pearce, who did not face primary opposition, reported Thursday that he had more than $1.9 million in his campaign war chest – more than double the $873,374 that Lujan Grisham reported having in her account.
Longtime New Mexico political analyst Brian Sanderoff, president of Research & Polling Inc., said Pearce’s edge in available campaign cash shouldn’t come as a surprise since Lujan Grisham had to weather a hard-hitting primary election contest while Pearce was able to hold back his spending.
“I see this as a snapshot in time,” Sanderoff said. “Over the next four months, both candidates will raise a ton of money.”
Lujan Grisham faced two Democratic rivals in last month’s primary election. While she won the three-way contest with more than 66 percent of the votes cast by Democratic voters, the intraparty competition prompted her to spend much of the money her campaign had raised.
In all, Lujan Grisham reported raising about $432,000 and spending roughly $693,000 – much of it on campaign ads – during a monthlong period that started just before the June 5 primary election and ended June 30. She has now spent nearly $3.9 million on her gubernatorial campaign and raised almost $4.8 million.
Since announcing her bid for governor in December 2016, Lujan Grisham has received contributions from more than 14,000 donors, with more than three-quarters of the donations being for $100 or less, according to her campaign.
“These numbers show incredible grassroots momentum behind Congresswoman Lujan Grisham in her run for governor,” her deputy campaign manager Victor Reyes said. “Since announcing her campaign, she’s built a network of grass-roots donors critical to any campaign’s success.”
He also predicted working families would back Lujan Grisham based on her record.
Meanwhile, Pearce reported spending roughly the same amount that he raised during the recent monthlong period. He took in about $320,000 in contributions and spent slightly more than $324,000, bringing his total amount spent since entering the race to just over $1.2 million.
Pearce’s campaign coffers have also been boosted by a transfer of $783,767 from his congressional campaign account. Pearce won a court order in November that allowed him to move the money over despite a state cap on campaign contributions.
“Our campaign is confident we’ll have the resources and the message about bringing jobs to New Mexico, fixing schools, attacking poverty, and stopping crime to win in November,” Pearce campaign spokesman Kevin Sheridan said Thursday.
Both Lujan Grisham and Pearce are currently members of the U.S. House and are forgoing re-election bids to run for governor. It’s believed to be the first time two sitting members of Congress have faced off for New Mexico governor in a general election.
This year’s race for governor is wide open because incumbent Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican, is barred from seeking a third consecutive term in office. She will step down at year’s end.
While Lujan Grisham currently trails Pearce in the fundraising battle, she could get help in the coming months from national Democratic groups that are looking to claim more governorships. Republicans now hold 33 of the nation’s 50 governor’s mansions, a historic high.
Lujan Grisham reported Thursday getting one such infusion of outside cash, a roughly $4,200 in-kind contribution from the Democratic Governors Association.
Pearce, for his part, reported receiving $7,500 in in-kind contributions from two Carlsbad-based oil and natural gas drilling companies – Capitan Energy and BMB Holdings.
In addition, the state Democratic Party blasted Pearce for taking a total of $11,000 in contributions last month from CSI Aviation and its president, former GOP gubernatorial candidate Allen Weh. CSI Aviation is an Albuquerque-based company that has in the past landed lucrative contracts from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an agency that’s been at the center of recent national immigration debate.