SANTA FE – Gov. Susana Martinez came under fire Monday for campaign contributions received last year by her re-election campaign from a Texas man with a conviction for domestic abuse.
Specifically, Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, called on Martinez to return more than $20,000 the Republican governor received in June 2014 from Marcus Hiles, a luxury home developer who has given large sums of money to many Republican candidates, and his wife.
However, a spokesman for the Republican governor told the Journal the criminal history of Hiles was not known until recently and that returning the money in question would not be feasible.
“The campaign has long since ended, and you can’t return money that’s already been spent,” Martinez spokesman Enrique Knell said.
Marcus Hiles pleaded guilty in 2013 to a misdemeanor domestic abuse charge, stemming from an incident in Las Vegas, Nev., in which police alleged he choked a nightclub dancer into unconsciousness, according to the Dallas Morning News.
The revelation has prompted prominent Texas GOP officials to return political donations from Hiles. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick reportedly said last week they would give more than $700,000 they had received from him to domestic violence shelters and services.
In a Monday statement, Senate Democratic floor leader Sanchez said violence against women is a problem in New Mexico.
“What kind of message does that send to the people of our state?” Sanchez said, referring to the Hiles donations. “Now that the incident has come to light, the right thing to do is for the governor to return those contributions.”
In addition to the $20,800 given to Martinez’s 2014 re-election campaign, Hiles gave an even larger sum to a pro-Republican political committee active in last year’s election cycle.
Advance New Mexico Now reported receiving $100,000 from Hiles in August 2014. The group ended up spending more than $1 million during last year’s election cycle, most of it on mailers and fliers targeting House Democrats.