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SANTA FE – A political committee created by an Albuquerque city councilor and a former state Public Regulation Commission member is emerging as a player in New Mexico primary election races.
The group called Working Together New Mexico PAC will report Monday spending about $57,000 during a recent four-week period, primarily on mailers targeting Democrats in two primary races – the attorney general contest and a race for a northern New Mexico-based state House seat, according to information provided to the Journal.
The political committee raised $65,500 during that time period, with $50,000 of that amount coming from a Texas-based political committee called New Mexico Strong that got its funding from oil giant Chevron.
Contributions were also made by Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima, lobbyist Vanessa Alarid,Albuquerque City Councilor Louie Sanchez and former PRC commissioner Karen Montoya.
The Working Together New Mexico PAC was established this year by Sanchez and Montoya and is focused on trying to elect “commonsense” Democrats to seven state House seats, two Bernalillo County Commission seats and two statewide offices: attorney general and state auditor.
“As proud Democrats, we founded Working Together New Mexico to elect candidates who will support the private sector, attack crime to keep our children and families safe and put our people first by moving to the middle for bipartisan results,” Sanchez and Montoya told the Journal in a joint statement.
The fledgling group’s financial flex comes after progressive Democrats ousted more conservative Democratic incumbents in several 2020 legislative primary races.
Moderates are attempting to turn the tables this year, targeting progressive incumbents in four House districts.
One of the races the Working Together New Mexico PAC is targeting is the House District 40 seat currently held by Rep. Roger Montoya, D-Velarde.
Montoya is facing a primary election challenge from fellow Democrat Joseph Sanchez of Alcalde, who previously held the seat but relinquished it in 2020 to launch an ultimately unsuccessful bid for Congress.
A recent mailer sent by the political committee highlights Montoya’s appearance in adult films several decades ago.
That prompted Montoya to describe the PAC as “despicable” to the Santa Fe New Mexican, while also accusing the group of bullying.
Meanwhile, the Working Together New Mexico PAC has also sent out mailers supporting the attorney general campaign of Brian Colón, said the group’s executive director James Hallinan.
Colón, who is currently state auditor, is vying against Bernalillo County District Attorney Raúl Torrez for the Democratic nomination in the race to be New Mexico’s next top prosecutor.
The Working Together New Mexico PAC is registered as an independent expenditure committee, meaning it can accept campaign contributions in excess of the state’s contribution limits but cannot coordinate directly with candidates or fund their campaigns.
Several candidates have already sought to distance themselves from the group, with House District 26 candidate Cherise Quezada of Albuquerque denouncing the PAC last month and saying she would stand up for labor unions and women’s access to abortion.
In addition, several progressive Democratic candidates asked Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver last month to investigate why Working Together New Mexico PAC did not file a campaign finance report in advance of a previous reporting deadline.
But Hallinan said the group did not have to previously file because it did not meet a spending threshold that triggers mandatory reporting.
All candidates and political committees who eclipse the threshold must file new campaign finance reports by Monday with the Secretary of State’s office.
The primary election will take place June 7, with absentee voting set to begin Tuesday.