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Outgoing New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas is endorsing his friend and colleague Brian Colón in a big way in the final days of the Democratic AG primary campaign, contributing $100,000 from his past campaign coffers for television ads in which he is the narrator and co-star.
Colón, who is current State Auditor, is in a highly contested race with Bernalillo County District Attorney Raúl Torrez for the nomination in Tuesday’s primary election. Up until now, Balderas, who is term limited, hasn’t expressed his support so publicly.
He is listed as the sole contributor via his candidate’s AG campaign to a PAC called Protecting NM Families, which was formed May 23, according to campaign finance reports filed Thursday.
Torrez’s campaign, meanwhile, is benefiting from a different political action committee that has collected about $90,000 for commercials as of Thursday’s finance report filings.
That PAC, RNML (Real New Mexico Leadership), was formed in early May and so far has funded at least one advertisement slamming Colón without mentioning Torrez. The PAC has been funded by several high-powered New Mexicans, including personal injury attorney Bertrand Parnall and PNM Resources Chairman and chief executive officer Pat Vincent-Collawn, according to Secretary of State records. Parnall, who contributed $20,000, was one of more than a half-dozen lawyers who contributed to the PAC. Vincent-Collawn donated $10,000.
While Colón is backed by Balderas, Torrez is endorsed by U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., who announced his support more than a year ago on a social media post. With only days before Tuesday’s primary, Heinrich appeared with Torrez this week at a campaign event in Las Cruces.
As leading New Mexico Democrats, Heinrich and Balderas faced off as candidates for the Democratic nomination for the open U.S. Senate seat in 2012. Heinrich won the nomination with nearly 59% of the vote and was elected to the U.S. Senate seat in the general election that fall.
In this campaign season for AG, both Colón and Torrez have relied on personal appearances and television commercials to gain statewide exposure. Many of the ads have been critical of each other’s experience, record and qualifications for the $95,000-a-year job as the state’s top attorney and law enforcement officer.
The focus has been on crime fighting, with Torrez touting his experience as a criminal prosecutor in the state’s largest DA’s office. Colón, former state Democratic Party chair, has emphasized his broad range of experience in civil and consumer issues and has labeled Torrez a “failed” prosecutor.
Under state law, independent expenditures by political committees for the purposes of advertising are permitted. Though there are no caps on the amounts that can be contributed, donors must be identified.
Using the Protecting New Mexico Families campaign theme adopted by Balderas in his last AG campaign in 2018, the new PAC with the same name received $75,000 on May 27, and another $25,000 on May 31 of this year, finance reports show. The reports show the contributions came from Balderas through his campaign fund, and his “occupation” is listed as a candidate.
Secretary of State records show Balderas’s campaign from his last AG race had a balance of $661,034 as of April 11 of this year.
In his commercial for Colón, Balderas does a voice over while he is shown smiling while walking with Colón. He also appears speaking with law enforcement officers and others.
A prominent political figure in northern New Mexico Democratic circles and elsewhere, Balderas was elected to the state House of Representatives at age 29, and served two terms as State Auditor before running for AG in 2014.
Torrez, in campaigning for the nomination, has been critical of Balderas, claiming he has been steering lucrative AG legal work to a prominent Albuquerque law firm — Robles, Rael & Anaya. Both Balderas and Colón previously worked at the firm before assuming elected office.
Torrez contends that Colón is on track to continue that practice and Colón hasn’t ruled that out on the campaign trail.
Colón counters that transparency and hiring the best legal talent is key to obtaining maximum results for New Mexicans.
The winner of Tuesday’s election will face Republican attorney Jeremy Gay of Gallup in the fall general election.
In the most recently filed campaign finance reports, Gay reported total contributions of $120,456, with expenditures of $79,044 as of June 2.
The last campaign finance reports to be filed before the primary election show Torrez reported receiving $146,614 between May 3 and June 2. His total contributions as of June 2 were $1,226,431, with expenditures of $1,154,392, according to the Secretary of State.
Colon’s campaign reported a total of $1,593,798 in contributions, receiving $83,732 since May 3. His total expenditures were $1,308,639.