SANTA FE – An outside group has stirred up New Mexico’s gubernatorial race, as a political committee affiliated with the Democratic Governors Association on Tuesday launched a $275,000 television ad buy targeting Republican Steve Pearce.
The 30-second ad, which will air in the Albuquerque market for the next several weeks, is paid for by Stronger New Mexico, an independent expenditure group that was created in February and has received funding from the DGA.
The national Democratic group has identified New Mexico’s governor’s race – which pits Pearce against Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham – as a priority in this year’s election cycle as it seeks to chisel into Republicans’ big advantage in governor’s mansions held.
There are now 33 GOP governors – compared with 16 Democratic governors and one independent.
The ad marks the first outside attack ad in this year’s New Mexico race. It claims Pearce is in the “pocket of Big Oil” and describes him as being named one of the most corrupt members of Congress a decade ago by an independent watchdog group.
Pearce, a Hobbs resident, has received hefty campaign contributions from oil and natural gas executives – including millions of dollars in the current campaign cycle – but the corruption allegation was based at least in part on the 2003 sale of his oil field service company’s assets to a different company.
A House ethics panel later determined that Pearce did not violate any rules during that transaction, according to FactCheck.org, a nonprofit group.
“Michelle Lujan Grisham and her special interest allies are panicking and now running knowingly false ads,” Pearce campaign adviser Kevin Sheridan said Tuesday.
Pearce’s campaign sent out a fundraising appeal Tuesday that expressed concern the negative ads would hurt the campaign’s momentum if allowed to go unanswered.
And state Republican Party Chairman Ryan Cangiolosi said in a statement that the allegations amount to “outright lies.”
Both Lujan Grisham and Pearce have also launched television ads of their own in recent weeks, but the ads have largely focused on policy issues, and the candidates have largely refrained from attacking each other.
The head of the Republican Governors Association hosted a fundraising event for Pearce last month in Santa Fe during a meeting of the National Governors Association, but the RGA has not aired any television ads in New Mexico’s governor’s race.
The general election is set for Nov. 6.