SANTA FE — With a new campaign season on the horizon, a national Republican governors group is ratcheting it up its criticism of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.
In a new digital ad scheduled to run over the next two weeks, a state political committee affiliated with the Republican Governors Association spotlights Lujan Grisham’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and several episodes that drew scrutiny.
The “five-figure” ad campaign features television news footage about Governor’s Office staff raises, a remote jewelry purchase from an Albuquerque store and a settlement with a former campaign staffer who had accused Lujan Grisham of sexual mistreatment during a staff meeting.
Lujan Grisham, who is seeking re-election next year and is the chairwoman of the Democratic Governors Association, has staunchly defended her handling of the pandemic, including New Mexico’s efforts to provide widespread COVID-19 testing and vaccines.
State health officials had reported 4,302 deaths related to the virus since March 2020 as of Monday, making New Mexico’s death rate the nation’s 12th highest, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But Lujan Grisham and state health officials have argued New Mexico was at higher risk than many other states due to prevalent underlying health conditions, an elderly population and limited health care access in many parts of the state.
“I think it’s going to be really hard to attack this administration, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen,” the governor said in response to a question about political criticism during a news conference last week.
RGA spokesman Will Reinert described the Lujan Grisham administration as a “dumpster fire” that has embarrassed New Mexico.
“Sadly, the only thing voters can count on from Michelle Lujan Grisham is an unfathomable arrogance being put on full display with every denied request to explain the scandal of the week to her constituents,” Reinert said in a statement.
In response, a Lujan Grisham campaign spokeswoman touted the governor’s record on public health and economic issues, citing specifically her efforts to pass pandemic relief measures and a bill legalizing recreational cannabis for adult users.
“The Republican candidates for governor are far-right extremists who spread dangerous misinformation, are at odds with New Mexican values, and have no plan to lead this state,” Lujan Grisham campaign spokeswoman Kendall Witmer said in a statement. “Republicans’ radical views are bad for business and would destroy New Mexico’s economy.”
Three Republicans have so far announced campaigns for the 2022 gubernatorial race — Greg Zanetti of Albuquerque, Jay Block of Rio Rancho and Karen Bedonie of Farmington.
Lujan Grisham, who was elected governor in 2018 and is seeking a new four-year term, is the only Democrat currently running.