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Candidates raking in campaign cash

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – It’s not an election year in New Mexico, but that hasn’t stopped candidates and political committees from raising big sums of campaign cash over the past several months.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who is not up for reelection until 2022, reported Tuesday collecting more than $602,000 during a recent six-month reporting period, while recently approved legislative caucus committees ramped up their fundraising with a key election season on tap in 2020.

A U.S. Senate seat is also up for election in 2020 due to Tom Udall’s decision not to seek reelection, and U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., has a sizable fundraising advantage over his Democratic primary rival, New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver.

Luján raised more than $1 million for the second straight quarter, according to figures filed in advance of a Tuesday deadline, with more than $1.6 million on hand at the end of the third quarter of the year. Toulouse Oliver raised almost $205,000 but ended the quarter with only about $85,000 cash on hand.

“We’re humbled to have a massive outpouring of support from the state and will continue working hard to meet every voter and earn their support,” Luján campaign manager Brad Elkins said.

Luján’s campaign reported more than $508,000 in online donations. It said the average online donation was about $20. Toulouse Oliver reported raising more than $151,000 online through the Democratic organization Act Blue.

“The Washington Establishment will always have more money than a mom from New Mexico, but the D.C. insiders are still no match for a mom who’s fighting for her kids and all New Mexicans,” Toulouse Oliver campaign manager Heather Brewer told the Journal.

On the Republican side, Mick Rich’s campaign said that it was filing its report but that about $190,000 was raised in the Albuquerque contractor’s first quarter since announcing his candidacy for Udall’s seat. The campaign reported having about $150,000 on hand.

“We are gaining fundraising momentum, and we are on target for a much bigger fourth quarter,” Rich said.

He faces former New Mexico State University professor Gavin Clarkson in the GOP primary, although other candidates could still enter the race. Clarkson’s campaign reported raising more than $160,000, with the candidate lending himself an additional $8,000. His campaign reported more than $178,000 cash on hand.

Meanwhile, Lujan Grisham’s contributions during the most recent state fundraising period – from April 2 through Oct. 7 – included $24,700 from seven individuals or producers involved in the state’s medical cannabis program.

The first-term Democratic governor also reported getting hefty donations from several New Mexico tribal groups, $10,000 from the Washington, D.C.-based political committee for a labor union for engineers and a $5,500 contribution from the oil giant Chevron.

In all, Lujan Grisham reported spending roughly $304,000 during the reporting period – mostly on travel, salary and bonuses for campaign staffers and political consulting – and has a balance of about $307,000 in her campaign account.

No Republicans have announced gubernatorial campaigns for 2022, when Lujan Grisham intends to run for a second four-year term.

Reports were also filed for the fledgling legislative caucus committees, which are specialized political committees that can collect more cash than other PACs and were approved earlier this year after being added into a campaign finance disclosure bill that was signed into law by Lujan Grisham.

The New Mexico House Republican Campaign Committee reported raising roughly $120,000, with about half that amount coming from individuals or companies in the oil and natural gas industry.

On the Democratic side, a committee designated by House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, reported taking in more than double that amount – or slightly more than $290,000 in all – with sizable contributions from labor unions, lobbyists and several health care groups.

The legislative caucus committees can make unlimited non-cash contributions to political campaigns and collect five times more cash per donor – up to $25,000 compared with up to $5,000 – than traditional political committees.

All 112 state House and Senate seats are up for election in 2020. Democrats will enter the election cycle with majorities in both legislative chambers, after picking up eight House seats in 2018.

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