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Unions pack PAC with election cash

SANTA FE – New Mexico political committees are building their bank accounts in advance of the state’s Nov. 4 general election.

Labor unions have contributed $625,000 in the past two months to a Democratic-leaning political group that has been a top spender in New Mexico’s legislative races.

The political committee, Patriot Majority New Mexico, reported receiving $350,000 in July and August from the National Education Association and a political committee affiliated with the teachers’ union; $250,000 from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; and $25,000 from the Communication Workers of America.

With the latest contributions, Patriot Majority has raised about $805,000 since May – all of it from unions, with AFSCME providing $330,000 so far.

A newly formed GOP-leaning political group, Advance New Mexico Now, raised $227,500. That included $100,000 each from Texas real estate investor and developer Marcus Hiles and a national GOP group, the Republican State Leadership Committee.

Giving $10,000 were Denver developer and homebuilder Larry Mizel and EnerVest, a Houston-based oil company with operations in New Mexico. Hiles and Mizel have contributed to Martinez’s re-election.

The group had a cash balance of $221,727 at the start of this month, after spending about $5,800.

Patriot Majority reported cash-on-hand of $574,033, after spending nearly $164,000. Its expenditures included $131,790 for research by a Denver-based firm and about $31,500 for “strategic services” by a consulting firm formed by David Contarino, who was former Gov. Bill Richardson’s chief of staff and top political adviser. Contarino lives in Louisville, Kentucky.

Both committees are super PACs that aren’t bound by New Mexico’s campaign-contribution limits because the group independently advocates the election or defeat of candidates. Such PACs typically air advertisements and send out mailings for or against candidates.

Patriot Majority was among the biggest spenders in New Mexico legislative races two years ago when Democrats retained majorities in the House and Senate.

All 70 seats in the House are up for election this year, and Republicans are trying to pick up enough seats to gain a majority for the first time in 60 years.