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Democratic State Senators Start PACs

SANTA FE – With fewer than 100 days remaining before New Mexico’s general election, a few Democratic state senators have started political committees to counter the financial clout of Gov. Susana Martinez.

Two fundraisers for the fledgling political groups have been held – one in Albuquerque and one in Las Cruces – and another is scheduled this week in Santa Fe.

Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, is chairman of New Mexicans for Working Families PAC. It’s one of at least four organizations created in recent months by Senate Democrats who are unopposed in the November election, when all 112 seats in the Legislature – and possibly the future of Martinez’s legislative agenda – are up for grabs.

New PACs on the block
In addition to the political committees headed by longtime legislative leaders like House Speaker Ben Lujan, D-Nambé, and Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, several Democratic lawmakers have created political committees in advance of the November general election. They include:
⋄  New Mexicans for Working Families – Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, chairman.
⋄  New Mexico’s Promise – Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, president/treasurer.
⋄  True Blue PAC – Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, chairman.
⋄  Homegrown PAC -Sen. Howie Morales, D-Silver City, chairman.

Ortiz y Pino said the Democratic Legislature groups were created after seeing the amount of cash pulled in this year by a pair of groups headed by Martinez’s political adviser, Jay McCleskey.

“We’re not going to match the governor’s fundraising, that’s clear, but we’re trying to level the playing field,” Ortiz y Pino said. “We better be prepared to defend ourselves, or we’re just going to get wiped out.”

Ortiz y Pino and other Democratic senators said money raised by the fledgling PACs will be given to Democratic candidates in contested races for the Senate.

Democrats currently outnumber Republicans 28-14 in the Senate, but Republicans are hoping to pick up seats in November. Nine incumbent Democrats have general election opponents and eight are either not seeking re-election or were defeated in the primary election.

Much of the money given to the fledgling Democratic political committees, which also include groups headed by Sens. Howie Morales of Silver City and Linda Lopez of Albuquerque, comes from labor groups and trial lawyers.

The Committee on Individual Responsibility, the political action committee of the New Mexico Trial Lawyers , gave contributions of $5,000 each to three of the four PACs, while the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union made $5,000 contributions to two of the political committees.

However, the new political organizations had raised less money than a number of other political committees, including Martinez’s Susana PAC, at the most recent campaign finance reporting deadline. True Blue PAC had about $23,000 on hand, while New Mexico for Working Families PAC had a balance of $5,000, according to reports submitted with the Secretary of State’s Office.

Meanwhile, Susana PAC reported giving more than $30,000 to GOP legislative candidates during the primary election cycle and had $183,257 on hand as of July 5. Much of its donations have come from oil and gas companies in southeastern New Mexico and Texas.

In addition, an independent expenditure group run by McCleskey, who also runs Susana PAC, called Reform New Mexico Now still had $104,000 on hand after pumping money into eight Democratic contests in the June primary as part of $150,000 in total spending.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal