SANTA FE — New Mexico’s gubernatorial race is getting spicy.
Republican Steve Pearce launched a new television ad today that blasts Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham for being “dishonest and dirty,” prompting Lujan Grisham to respond quickly with an ad of her own.
Pearce’s attack ad marks a shift in the race, which had up until now featured primarily positive, issue-focused TV spots from the two candidates.
His 30-second focuses on Lujan Grisham’s ties to a company that has a state contract to help run New Mexico’s high-risk insurance pool.
The ad’s narrator accuses Lujan Grisham of “shady self-dealing,” citing news reports that Delta Consulting was paid more than $2 million to run the state’s high-risk pool between 2014 and 2017.
Lujan Grisham has defended her work with the company, which she co-founded in 2008, as a critical way to help New Mexicans who had been denied health care coverage.
And her campaign quickly launched a response ad today that features Diego Zamora, a Santa Fe resident and pancreatic cancer survivor who says he got health care coverage through the high-risk pool.
A Lujan Grisham campaign spokesman also described the Pearce ad as a “new low” for the Republican congressman.
“Michelle has never helped ‘fleece poor patients,’ and Michelle’s work advocating for patients and managing the Insurance Pool saved lives,” campaign spokesman James Hallinan said. “We’re going to continue to run a positive campaign focused on Michelle’s record and vision for New Mexico.”
Lujan Grisham’s ties to Delta Consulting also came under scrutiny during a three-way Democratic primary race earlier this year.
While the three-term Albuquerque congresswoman divested her interest with Delta Consulting in June 2017 — six months after announcing her bid for governor — the company is still run by Rep. Deborah Armstrong, D-Albuquerque, who is Lujan Grisham’s former campaign treasurer.
New Mexico’s Governmental Conduct Act allows elected officials and legislators to contract with state government, but only if the contract is issued after a competitive bidding process and if the elected officials publicly disclose their interest.
While those conditions appear to have been met, at least in recent years, by both Lujan Grisham and Armstrong, Pearce said New Mexicans are tired of self-serving politicians.
“This kind of corruption is exactly what holds New Mexico back,” he said in a statement. “Politicians rigging the system for their own gain while fleecing taxpayers.”
“This November, we can change that,” he added.
The Pearce campaign is paying $135,000 to air the new ad statewide on cable and network channels, his campaign adviser said.