Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal
This year’s race is shaping up to be one of the most expensive ever for an attorney general contest in New Mexico, with more than $2.5 million raised so far by candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for the open seat. The winner of the June 7 Democratic primary faces Republican Jeremy Gay of Gallup in the fall general election. Gay has no primary opposition.
Given that the AG serves as the state’s top lawyer, it’s not unusual that campaign coffers for candidates Raúl Torrez and Brian Colón are being buoyed by contributions from attorneys and law firms. Colón, who is state auditor, reported contributions of about $1.509 million, while Torrez, who is the 2nd Judicial District attorney in Bernalillo County, has raised $1.079 million, according to the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office website.
Current Attorney General Hector Balderas is term limited, but his political committee contributed a total of $10,000 to the campaign of his friend and political ally, Colón.
Colón is also drawing sizeable financial support from out-of-state law firms and attorneys in national firms, according to the most recent campaign finance reports filed May 9.
Torrez, who is in his second term heading the state’s largest DA’s office, has attracted significant contributions from in-state lawyers.
Albuquerque pollster and political analyst Brian Sanderoff said because there is no incumbent running this election year, “you are more likely to have a competitive race between strong candidates.”
Both Colón and Torrez, he added, “are capable of raising significant funds in a competitive race, where contributors are picking sides and funding it well.”
“Here, because it’s an open seat, no one candidate can expect to get a free ride for such a strong position,” said Sanderoff, who is president of Research & Polling Inc.
Moreover, given the fact that only four Republicans have won the seat in New Mexico’s 110-year history, he said, “the winner of the Democratic primary typically wins the general election.”
According to the latest campaign finance reports, Colón, a former state Democratic Party chief, collected more than $1 million of his campaign funds between April and October of last year.
Torrez reported contributions of $636,772 during the same period.
Both men each contributed more than $300,000 left over from campaign committees associated with their current elected positions.
Torrez contributed $323,238 from his DA’s political committee to his AG race. Colón, who was elected as state auditor in 2018, transferred $379,938 from his auditor’s race funds to his current campaign.
Colón’s top contributors include national firms that have represented or are currently representing the AG’s Office in complex civil litigation under Balderas.
For instance, his campaign reported receiving a total of $23,333 from five attorneys with the national firm of DiCello Levitt Gutzler, which is representing New Mexico in a state district court case against pharmaceutical company AbbVie Inc. and its affiliates, which are accused of deceptive marketing of a testosterone replacement drug.
Other out-of-state contributors include the Delaware-headquartered law firm of Grant & Eisenhofer, which contributed $5,000, with three of its attorneys contributing $20,000. The national firm, Robins Cloud, contributed $10,400, with partner Bill Robins of Houston adding $10,400.
Energy company Chevron contributed $10,400 to Colon’s campaign and Santa Fe attorney Dan Perry contributed $10,000. Colorado attorneys Franklin and Margeaux Azar contributed a total of $20,000.
Torrez’s top contributors included: Sector Solutions LLC, of Santa Fe, $10,400; Marrs Griebel Law and attorney Patrick Griebel, for a total of $10,400; James and Emily Pluhar, $10,000; and Bob Pitre, $5,200. SSIG LLC, an investment company in Washington state, contributed $10,400, according to finance reports.
As of May 9, Torrez’s expenditures totaled $694,511, while Colón reported spending $589,242. Most of the spending by the candidates went for political consultants and media buys in a race that has featured mostly hard-hitting television commercials.
Colón had $911,546 cash on hand at the end of the May 9 reporting period, while Torrez’s campaign reported having $382,305.
Meanwhile, Republican Gay reported contributions of $102,443, with $31,761 in expenditures, as of the May 9 reporting period. This year marks the first time since 2006 that Democrats have had a choice of candidates in a primary election. Back in 2006, then former legislator Gary King emerged from a three-way battle for the nomination to win the AG seat in the general election. He was reelected in 2010.