Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – Republican Mark Ronchetti outraised Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham during a recent four-week reporting period, leaving him with a heftier campaign war chest to go after the incumbent governor during the final run-up to Election Day.
The reports filed Tuesday by both candidates show this year’s race for governor could be one of the most expensive – if not the most expensive – in state history, as Ronchetti has now raised more than $7.8 million for his campaign while Lujan Grisham has raised in excess of $11.1 million.
During the four-week period that ended Oct. 3, however, Ronchetti reported getting nearly $1.5 million in contributions – compared to roughly $1.1 million for the governor.
In a written statement, Ronchetti said his campaign has robust resources heading into the campaign’s final weeks.
“The outpouring of support from everyday New Mexicans continues to humble me,” he said, “and I will not stop fighting for them until we restore our public safety, catch our kids up in school, and provide sustained economic relief for the people of this state.”
Lujan Grisham spokeswoman Delaney Corcoran said the governor is in strong position.
The governor “had a strong fundraising period and the campaign has growing momentum heading into the final four weeks – bolstered by high polling numbers and enthusiasm from voters across the state,” Corcoran said in a statement. “The governor’s reelection campaign made early investments and has outspent Ronchetti’s campaign on TV to date.”
Both candidates have spent heavily in recent weeks – much of it on television ads – but Ronchetti has nearly $2.5 million left in his campaign account while Lujan Grisham has about $1.7 million in unspent campaign funds.
The high-dollar contributors to Ronchetti this period – each of whom donated at least $10,000 – included Ben Spencer of Albuquerque, who works in real estate development; An America United, an advocacy group affiliated with Republican Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland; and Ross Perot Jr., a Dallas real estate developer and son of the former presidential candidate.
Donors connected to hunting, ranching and the oil and gas industry were also among the big contributors to Ronchetti.
The GOP nominee also accepted a $10,000 donation from Deborah Maestas, the former state Republican Party chairwoman who signed a certificate two years ago intended to deliver New Mexico’s five electoral votes to Donald Trump, not Joe Biden, who actually won the race by 99,720 votes.
The document included a caveat – that it was signed in case a Trump-backed legal effort to overturn the election results proved successful. But Maestas is among several electors who were subpoenaed by the House committee investigating the U.S. Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021.
For her part, Lujan Grisham accepted big donations from labor unions, oil and gas companies, and cannabis businesses.
Among the donors who contributed at least $10,000 during the period were the California Democratic Party, the Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Conservation Voters New Mexico and Intel.
This year’s contest for governor has drawn national attention, as Republicans believe the race could be an opportunity to flip a Democratic-controlled governor’s office in a non-presidential election year.
Three GOP governors have stumped for Ronchetti in New Mexico over the last two months – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey – with crime, the economy and COVID-19 restrictions emerging as major talking points.
But Lujan Grisham has pushed back by seeking to portray Ronchetti, a former KRQE-TV meteorologist, as lacking the political and policy chops to tackle complex issues.
Meanwhile, outside groups have also spent hefty sums of money on the race, with Democratic-leaning groups blasting Ronchetti on his stances on abortion and climate change and a Republican-leaning group targeting the governor over her spending on alcohol, food and other expenses from a taxpayer-funded account.
Candidates will be required to file one more campaign spending report before the Nov. 8 general election – plus a final report after Election Day.
In addition to Lujan Grisham and Ronchetti, Libertarian candidate Karen Bedonie – who reported just $15,000 in contributions this period – is also on the ballot for governor.
Absentee and early in-person voting for the general election began Tuesday, with expanded early voting set to start Oct. 22.