Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
Democratic congressional candidates head into general election campaigns with large fundraising advantages.
But whether that translates into victory in November may depend on the race, according to political observers.
The biggest fundraising gaps are in the two races that are drawing the most attention nationally: the 2nd Congressional District race and the race for the open U.S. Senate seat.
In the 2nd Congressional District, Democratic incumbent Xochitl Torres Small had $3.1 million cash on hand as of May 13, compared to Republican nominee Yvette Herrell with $70,000, according to the Federal Election Commission.
In the U.S. Senate race, Democratic U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján had $2.7 million cash on hand, compared with Republican Mark Ronchetti’s $430,000. In the 1st Congressional District, Democratic incumbent Deb Haaland had $302,000 to Republican Michelle Garcia Holmes’ $128,000.
In the 3rd Congressional District, Democratic nominee Teresa Leger Fernandez had $482,000. Republican nominee Alexis Johnson’s cash on hand was not listed by the FEC, but Openrecords.org had her raising more than $9,700.
“Fundraising is just one of the many areas where Democratic candidates are seeing unprecedented enthusiasm this year,” Democratic Party of New Mexico Chairwoman Marg Elliston said in a statement to the Journal. “We’re proud to see so many Democrats speaking out, donating and volunteering their time.”
But state Republican Party Chairman Steve Pearce said money is not as big a factor as it used to be.
“People are paying so much more attention to the issues on social media,” he told the Journal. “The candidates who raised the most money (in races with opposition) didn’t win the primary. (Democrat) Valerie Plame raised a lot of money and those were very expensive ads she was running.”
None of the top fundraisers in the Republican races won.
And pollster Brian Sanderoff believes the candidate who faces the largest gap, Herrell, may be a candidate who can make up lost ground, especially with help from national Republican-affiliated groups.
“I think Yvette Herrell is just getting started,” he said. “She was in a hotly contested primary. … Her campaign coffers will grow very rapidly from here on out, both in terms of campaign contributions to her individual campaign as well as expenditure groups forming PACs and super PACs to support her candidacy.”
But he thinks that will also be the case for Torres Small in what he believes will be “one of the most competitive races in the nation.”
“We’re going to see some tremendous campaign money being raised and spent in that race,” Sanderoff said.
He said that could be the case in the other races if campaigns can convince national conservative and Republican groups their races can be competitive.
“We saw what happened two years ago where a Republican was running against an incumbent when Mick Rich was taking on (U.S. Sen.) Martin Heinrich,” he said. “Republicans weren’t willing to risk investing in that race and Mick Rich was left out there on his own.”
He wonders what Republican special interest groups will do with a candidate like Ronchetti, who has name recognition from his time as a television meteorologist in Albuquerque.
“What will Chevron do? Will they form a PAC and spend $2 million like they did to assist legislative candidates recently?” Sanderoff said.