Trujillo says “establishment” going after him; campaign records suggest that’s not the case


State Rep. Carl Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, has raised more money than any other state legislative candidate except for the chamber’s two top lawmakers — a majority coming from big industries, political action committees and professional lobbyists, groups often thought of as “establishment,” a review by New Mexico In Depth shows.

Trujillo, a three-term Democrat, is fighting for his political life after a woman working for an animal rights organization on Wednesday accused him of retaliating against her several years ago by stalling legislation after she rejected his sexual advances.

Laura Bonar’s allegations came in an open letter released Wednesday, five weeks before the June primary, and a week before early primary voting starts in the race for legislative District 46,which stretches from Santa Fe to Española. Whoever wins June 5 — Trujillo or his primary opponent Andrea Romero — will most likely represent the district in the 2019 Legislature, although it’s possible a write-in or independent candidate could prevail.

In two emails sent in response to Bonar’s letter, Trujillo said he barely knew Bonar, and described her as a tool of the establishment who is cynically using the #MeToo movement as a political weapon. He strongly intimated that the allegations are the work of Romero’s campaign.

Trujillo also told his constituents to “follow the money.”

NMID reviewed campaign records for both Trujillo and Romero and asked Trujillo if he had more information about how his opponent is funded than is publicly available. He did not respond to NMID’s questions.

A review of state campaign finance records shows the majority of the $100,290 Trujillo has raised comes from big legislative players who are often thought of as power-brokers, including oil and gas company Devon Energy and telecommunications giant CenturyLink. Showing up in his reports are a “who’s who” list of professional lobbyists, as well as contributions from other legislators and political action committees.

Explore the data: Trujillo and Romero Election 2018 Contributions

He also has strong small-donor support. About 40 percent of Trujillo’s bankroll comes from individuals who live in the Santa Fe and middle Rio Grande region.

A review of Romero’s records show her support looks very different. Two-thirds of her $29,000 campaign fund is from individuals and an additional $1,575 from businesses. The rest — about a quarter of all she has received — comes from six Pueblo tribes. Four of those tribes, Tesuque, San Ildefonso, Pojoaque, and Nambe, are within district 46.

The strength of Trujillo’s small-donor support and Romero’s fundraising from tribes provide a glimpse into simmering tensions among non-native community members affected by recent tribal actions.

Despite the damage Bonar’s allegations could do to Trujillo’s reelection chances, his war chest means he has the money to fight back and most likely will, said University of New Mexico political science professor Lonna Atkeson.

“That’s a lot of money for a small legislative race in New Mexico,” Atkeson said about Trujillo’s fundraising. “In today’s climate, these allegations could be very damaging, but he has the resources to fight.”

Only House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, and departing House Minority Leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, who is not seeking re-election, have raised more than Trujillo, according to NMID’s review.

Bonar’s attorney, Levi Monagle, said his client is not connected in any way with Romero’s campaign, despite what Trujillo is saying.

Monagle, who specializes in sexual harassment and abuse cases, said he isn’t involved in the campaigns for District 46, either.

“I don’t know anything about Romero, or Trujillo,” he said. “I live and work in Albuquerque, she ended up with me through the advice of assault victims advocates.”

Bonar is making the allegations public now, he said, because she doesn’t want to see Trujillo reelected.

“I’m fully convinced she is not doing this on Romero’s behalf,” he said. “Her organization has worked with Mr. Trujillo for years and years, he’s been a champion for them, and they are supporting her. And they have explicitly declined to endorse Ms. Romero.”

Bonar’s employer, Elisabeth Jennings of Animal Protection Voters, tweeted that she and the organization’s board of directors believe Bonar, and that Trujillo should resign his seat and not seek reelection.

Trujillo has had a working relationship with Jennings and her organization in the past, as Bonar indicated in her letter. He carried one of APV’s priority bills during the recently concluded legislative session, and Jennings can be seen serving as an expert witness for Trujillo in a legislative webcast of the House Business and Industry committee.

Bonar’s allegations come against the backdrop of a movement against sexual harassment and assault that has swept the nation since last fall. Nationally and locally, Atkeson said, allegations that have emerged since last year have gone far in dismantling the ability of some current and aspiring Democratic politicians to pursue their goals.

In New Mexico, the #MeToo movement has already brought down one aspirant to statewide office, with Sen. Michael Padilla withdrawing from the race for lieutenant governor late last year. At the statehouse, a prominent female lobbyist made similar allegations against a former lawmaker in the New York Times, causing the Legislature to update its sexual harassment policies and anti-harassment trainings for lobbyists and legislators.

Bonar alluded to the Legislature’s action as a reason for going public now with her allegations against Trujillo.

Bonar was encouraged, she wrote in her letter, “by the Legislature’s recent passage of a formal Anti-Harassment Policy which includes an anti-retaliation clause” and “I am convinced that the time is right to speak my mind.”

*This article has been updated to note that a write-in or independent candidate could conceivably prevail in the general election, over the winner of the primary election.