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Lawmaker Seeks Campaign Dollars, Finally

By Thomas J. Cole
Journal Staff Writer
      State Rep. Karen Giannini, the accidental legislator, says she's starting to raise campaign contributions.
    Giannini says she needs money to show potential election challengers, other lawmakers and interest groups that she is serious about the job of legislator and getting re-elected.
    "But I don't expect hundreds of thousands of dollars," the Albuquerque Democrat says.
    Giannini ran the most remarkable of campaigns last year.
    She reported raising just $675 in donations and spending no money in unseating two-term Republican Justine Fox-Young of Albuquerque in the November general election.
    "I really didn't campaign, to be honest about it," Giannini says.
    Her campaign wallet didn't get any fatter in the months immediately after the election. She reported raising no money from Nov. 29 to May 4.
    Giannini says that while she's starting to raise political funds, she still doesn't believe in spending a lot of money on a campaign.
    Giannini, a software quality assurance engineer at Honeywell, is a single parent and has been active in public schools, serving as a regional director the New Mexico Parent Teacher Association and head of a Citizens Advisory Committee for Albuquerque Public Schools.
    She attributes her election in part to her work in the schools and in part to the coattails of other Democrats in what was a big year for the party at the polls.
    Giannini was unopposed in the Democratic primary. She says she was endorsed by labor organizations but didn't mail any literature to voters or put up signs in the district for the general election.
    Her campaign came to a halt in September when she needed to travel to Colorado to be with her father, who had become ill and needed surgery. He later died.
    On Election Day, Giannini says, she was hoping just not to be embarrassed. She was losing by about 100 votes to Fox-Young but not disappointed when she went to bed on election night.
    Then, as more votes were counted on the day after the election, Giannini took the lead.
    "I didn't put out the effort, then I won. It was a shock," she says.
    Giannini was the only candidate in the general election not to spend any money and still win.
    By comparison, those who won contested House races in November raised an average of more than $32,000 and spent an average of more than $17,000 on their general election campaigns.
    GOP gives big
    Giannini was one of 25 legislators who reported zero campaign contributions on their May reports. This isn't an election year for any of the Legislature's 112 members.
    Lawmakers collected an average of $1,921 in contributions in the reporting period, but some legislators took in substantially more.
    House Minority Whip Keith Gardner, R-Roswell, was tops in donations, with $30,150, with $30,000 of that coming from the Republican Party.
    Gardner's major expenses included polling and other research on voter sentiment toward issues confronting the Legislature, he said.
    Sen. John Ryan, R-Albuquerque, who received a $17,000 donation from the GOP to finance a poll of Albuquerque voters, was No. 2 in contributions, with $17,850.
    New reports
    Because of a law passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Bill Richardson this year, elected county and state officials are required to file their next reports on campaign contributions and expenditures on or before Oct. 12.
    This is the first nonelection year when officials have been required to file two reports.
    The goal of the new law is to make it possible for voters to keep more up to date on political donations and spending.
    Without the law, elected county and state officials wouldn't have had to file new campaign finance reports until May.
    UpFront is a daily front-page opinion column. Thom Cole can be reached in Santa Fe at (505) 992-6280 or at tcole@abqjournal.com

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