Please join us for a panel discussion with New Mexico experts about the influence of money on the 2018 election. In addition to the free event at Zimmerman library, we’ll be live streaming the event on our Facebook page. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
New Mexico voters are sending the nation’s first Native American woman, Deb Haaland, to Congress. In what was arguably the hottest statewide race, voters also for the first time chose a woman, Stephanie Garcia Richard, to lead the State Land Office. And after electing the nation’s first Latina governor in 2010, voters again elected another Latina on Tuesday night, selecting Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham over Republican Steve Pearce to replace outgoing GOP Gov. Susana Martinez. That wasn’t all. Women appeared poised to take eight of 10 spots on the state’s second-most powerful court where females have never held a majority.
Voters could make New Mexico history tomorrow. Yes, the state likely will make U.S. history, too, sending the first Native American woman to Congress. But New Mexico could join more than 40 other states if voters approve constitutional amendment question No. 2 that would create an independent state ethics commission. Approval, which would come after more than a decade of unsuccessful attempts, might be viewed as New Mexicans’ response to the state’s long-suffering reputation for corruption.
It’s no surprise that candidates in New Mexico’s two hottest statewide races brought in the most money in October. Campaign reports were filed with the Secretary of State yesterday, and once again Democratic gubernatorial candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham left every other candidate in the dust when it came to fundraising, including her rival, Republican Steve Pearce. And in the race for state land commissioner, Republican Pat Lyons continued to have a slight edge over Democratic opponent Stephanie Garcia Richard. That said, while Lujan Grisham outstripped Pearce in fundraising, he spent almost as much in October. And numerous other statewide candidates and a swath of Court of Appeals candidates outspent Lyons and Garcia Richard.
Feel bombarded by political advertisements? There’s a good reason. Political action committees have spent $19.6 million this election cycle. Reports filed with New Mexico’s Secretary of State yesterday show a little under half of that — $8 million — has been spent just in the past month. Most of that is on advertising on television and radio, online and in your mailbox.
Everyone knows by now that outside groups are spending big to influence the outcome of New Mexico’s southern congressional district. Republican Yvette Herrell and Democrat Xochitl Torres Small are campaigning to represent the district. Getting a handle on how much cash is pouring in can be tricky. Fortunately, there are a couple important tools. One, the Federal Elections Commission requires a lot more timely reporting of campaign finance data than does New Mexico.
During an election year, the public — including University of New Mexico students — is bombarded with political advertising, online, television radio, in the mail, or over the phone.
The messages are easy to understand: stay away from — or vote for — this person. Less easy is tracking contributions for advertising, because in the current system donors are able to obscure their identities through so-called “dark money.”
This article was published by both New Mexico In Depth and the Daily Lobo at the University of New Mexico. Anthony Jackson is a Fellow for NM in Depth and a beat reporter for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted on Twitter: @TonyAnjacksonDark money is untraceable contributions that can come from unions, corporations, nonprofits or any group registered with the Internal Revenue Service as 501(c)(4) and also 501(c)(6) to make it more complex. Donations from these groups can go directly to candidates or to political groups.
One of the stories that’s emerged during the 2018 election is a surge of online small donors crossing state lines to power insurgent Democratic candidates who the party hopes will lead to a takeover of the U.S. House of Representatives. One of those campaigns is in southern New Mexico’s 2nd congressional district. Democratic candidate Xochitl Torres Small has built a war chest that includes significant small donor support in a race against Republican Yvette Herrell that the Cook Political Report has rated a “toss-up.”
But Torres Small and other Democratic congressional candidates aren’t the only ones benefiting. New Mexico gubernatorial candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham’s small donor contributions reported with a month left in the campaign have notably outpaced not just her rival, Republican Steve Pearce, but also candidates in the last two gubernatorial campaigns. And a much larger share of her small donations, those that are $200 or less, come from outside New Mexico.
Lujan Grisham’s ability to rake in so many small donors from other states may say less about her positions and more about her ability to tap a national network of Democratic small donors giving small amounts, often multiple times.
A new internet ad featuring five Hispanic activists from rural northern New Mexico is taking aim at the progressive wing of the Democratic party. Invoking land, culture and heritage, the speakers urge viewers to not support Democratic candidates just because they’re Democrats. Phrases appear in writing as each person is talking that lead the viewer through a series of statements that progressives are intolerant, divisive, that they are attacking tradition and want to control the land. From there, the ad states that progressives have taken over the Democratic party and that it’s time for “traditional New Mexico Democrats” to stand against them, concluding with “Vote People over Party.”
The kicker? The internet ad is funded by New Mexico Turn Around, a group with a political action committee largely funded in recent years by Republican New Mexico oilman Harvey Yates.
A campaign fundraising letter that public land commissioner candidate Patrick Lyons sent ranchers who lease land from the State Land Office is raising legal and ethical questions a month before voters decide whether to return him to the job he held for eight years. Should Lyons win the seat this November, he will be in charge of renegotiating leases with companies seeking to renew those agreements. About 30 percent of the money Lyons has raised so far in his run has come from lessees, according to a review of campaign finance records. A copy of the letter was shared with New Mexico In Depth and is addressed “dear agricultural lessee.” It goes on to describe Lyons’ record as a rancher and farmer, and as previous land commissioner. It then states, “I am running for Commissioner of Public Lands in 2018 and need your help to get elected so that the agricultural lessees have a voice at the State Land Office.” The letter asks the reader to consider donating $100 to $1,000 before concluding, “Let’s make sure agriculture has a voice in the Land Office.”
Lyons used a list from his previous time in office to reach out to ranchers, and didn’t duplicate the effort for the oil and gas industry.