ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A barrage of hard-hitting campaign mailers sent in the days leading up to this month’s primary election may have tipped the scales in a GOP contest in House District 32.
The mailers highlighted past abuse allegations against a youth program run by Tierra Blanca Ranch and were sent by Advance New Mexico Now, a Super PAC run by Gov. Susana Martinez’s political adviser, Jay McCleskey.
Scott Chandler, a Deming Republican who owns the Sierra County ranch, has decried the mailers as “bully tactics” by Albuquerque-based consultants in a southwestern New Mexico race.
“The ‘machine’ operatives spent thousands in a local primary where their presence was neither invited, wanted, nor appropriate,” Chandler said in a recent statement.
Chandler ended up losing the race by a 24-vote margin to Vicki Chavez, his Republican opponent, with 1,768 ballots cast in the race, according to unofficial results, though the margin of the contest is narrow enough it is expected to trigger an automatic recount under state law.
Chandler outpaced his opponent in absentee and early voting but lost decisively in Election Day voting, which suggests the campaign mailers may have swayed some voters, McCleskey said Tuesday.
The mailers did not mention Chandler’s opponent by name, instead focusing on the allegations against Tierra Blanca Ranch – they have led to at least four lawsuits being filed – and urging recipients to “Vote No” on Scott Chandler for state representative.
“We don’t believe Scott Chandler would be a viable general election candidate,” McCleskey told the Journal. “We were monitoring the race, and when it became clear he was likely to win the primary, we chose to remind voters of Scott Chandler’s controversial history so they could be fully informed.”
BOOST FOR DEMS: A political group formed last fall to help Democratic candidates for the state Senate has made a recent splash in New Mexico.
The group, called New Mexico Together, ran colorful ads on several newspaper and political news websites days after this month’s primary election.
Heather Brewer, a spokeswoman for the group, said the recent campaign ad blitz was intended to highlight policy issues, including the current standardized testing system put in place by Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration.
But she downplayed suggestions the group might be trying to offset pro-Republican political committees, including Advance New Mexico Now.
“This isn’t about competing with big-dollar special interest groups; it’s about building a brighter future for New Mexico,” Brewer told the Journal.
New Mexico Together was formed in October by Tim Padilla, an Albuquerque lawyer, according to records filed with the Secretary of State’s Office.
The filings indicate the group plans to operate as an independent expenditure group, or super PAC, meaning it does not have to abide by the state’s political donation limits but cannot coordinate directly with any candidates.
According to its most recent spending report, New Mexico Together had received $10,100 since being formed and spent just over $3,000. Those figures will likely change when a new report is filed next month.
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