Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – Republican Mark Ronchetti outraised Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham by more than $450,000 during a recent monthlong period, setting the stage for an expensive and pugnacious general election showdown.
Lujan Grisham, the incumbent governor, held a big financial advantage over Ronchetti entering the June 7 primary election, but reports filed Thursday showed Ronchetti has narrowed the cash gap due to a fundraising bump after winning a five-way GOP primary race.
Specifically, he raised roughly $1.2 million during the reporting period that ended July 2, while the governor got $755,000 in contributions during the same time period.
“You can feel how energized New Mexicans are for a new direction, and I’m truly humbled by the support we have from New Mexicans in every corner of the state,” Ronchetti said in a statement. “People are ready for change and are supporting our campaign in record numbers, with their time, their energy, and their financial contributions for the movement we’re creating.”
However, a Lujan Grisham campaign spokesman pointed out that Lujan Grisham, who was unopposed in the primary election, still has a significant cash-on-hand edge over Ronchetti – with more than $2.7 million in her reelection account compared to about $1.4 million in Ronchetti’s account.
“Gov. Lujan Grisham continues to be in one of the strongest positions an incumbent governor in New Mexico has ever been in – she’s one month into the general election and has nearly twice as much in the bank as her GOP opponent,” Lujan Grisham campaign spokeswoman Kendall Witmer told the Journal.
Both candidates in this year’s high-stakes race for governor also accused their opponent of supporting policies that would hurt New Mexico residents.
Lujan Grisham’s campaign blasted Ronchetti as “out of touch” and said the governor has been working to help New Mexicans affected by wildfires, while Ronchetti accused the governor of funding her campaign via out-of-state dark money groups and “political elites.”
Among Ronchetti’s big donors were farmers, ranchers and energy executives. Donors who listed the oil and gas industry as their occupation contributed about $58,000.
That included two donations of $10,400 – totaling $20,800 – from H. Lee Harvard of Roswell and the Harvard Petroleum Co. LLC of Roswell in July. Ronchetti also received a $10,400 donation from Doug Peterson, an Albuquerque business owner who has been critical of the governor.
Ronchetti, a former television meteorologist, spent about $263,000 during the reporting period on campaign workers and consultants; travel to Aspen, Colorado, for a campaign event; polling and other costs. The spending included about $78,000 to McCleskey Media Strategies for campaign literature, production of campaign commercials and postage.
As for Lujan Grisham, the governor’s $755,000 in contributions included big donations from New Mexico tribal governments and a political action committee affiliated with PNM employees.
Specifically, a half dozen pueblos and the Mescalero Apache Tribe poured in $59,500 in a series of donations to the governor’s campaign.
In addition, Lujan Grisham received a $10,400 contribution from the PNM Responsible Citizens Group and a $5,000 donation from Brent Layton, the president of Missouri-based Centene Corp., which holds several state contracts to provide Medicaid and behavioral health services.
Altogether, the governor spent about $1.1 million on campaign salaries, consultants, travel to Houston and other expenses, including about $447,000 to produce and air campaign advertisements.
This year’s race for governor could have a major impact on New Mexico policies dealing with abortion, taxes and the environment.
Given the high stakes, Lujan Grisham launched one TV ad shortly after the primary election that questioned Ronchetti’s experience, asking specifically what a “weatherman” knows about reducing violent crime rates.
In response, Ronchetti accused the governor of being condescending, saying in a television ad of his own, “What Governor Lujan Grisham is really saying is we’re not smart enough to understand.”
Meanwhile, national Democratic and Republican groups are also expected to play an active role in this year’s election, as a political committee affiliated with the Republican Governors Association has already reported spending $200,000 on polling and TV ads targeting Lujan Grisham’s use of a discretionary fund to purchase food, alcohol and other supplies.
Lujan Grisham and Ronchetti are not the only candidates running for governor; Libertarian Karen Bedonie has also qualified for the Nov. 8 general election ballot.
All other statewide offices, including attorney general, secretary of state, treasurer, auditor and land commissioner, are also up for election this year, as are all 70 state House seats.