NM 2016 primary recap: Money matters, most of the time

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Hillary ClintonNew Mexico voters spoke in Tuesday’s primary election, rendering their judgment on candidates from president on down.

But before that, the money weighed in on New Mexico races, coming from small donors up to billionaires.

Here’s New Mexico In Depth’s morning-after look at where the money and the voters aligned and where they didn’t.


Democratic voters chose former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Tuesday’s presidential primary, even though Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders was the favorite of New Mexican donors when it came to totals and especially number of donations.

Clinton took 51.5 percent of the vote to Sanders’ 48.5 percent.

Meanwhile, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump wasn’t a favorite among New Mexico donors.

But Trump definitely won over the state’s GOP voters, garnering almost 71 percent of the vote. Ted Cruz, the donor favorite in the state, took 13 percent of the vote even though he withdrew from the race in early May.

Still, more than twice as many Democrats as Republicans voted in the state’s presidential primary Tuesday – 214,000 to 104,000 – and Sanders received more total votes than Trump.

Such numbers would seem to bode poorly for the GOP candidate in New Mexico come November.

Bernalillo County District Attorney

One wouldn’t think Raul Torrez needed much help in his decisive win over Edmund Perea Tuesday.

Torrez outraised Perea $352,000 to $91,600, with most of his funds coming from smaller donors in the $100 to $500 range, and aired plenty of TV ads.

But billionaire investor and philanthropist George Soros, known for his staunch support of liberal causes, stepped in with $107,000 worth of polling, radio and TV ads via a state-level super PAC last month to support Torrez.

The support does not come as a huge surprise: Soros has long supported reforming the criminal justice system by, among other things, emphasising treatment over incarceration for low-level drug offenders and people living with mental illness. Those are among Torrez’ campaign promises.

Now that Torrez won, will the Soros primary support be used against him in the general election by Republican opponent Simon Kubiak? Or is Bernalillo enough of a Democratic stronghold to guarantee another Torrez win? And given that the two see eye-to-eye on several key issues, will Soros come with more financial support for Torrez in the fall?

Public Regulation Commission District 1

Conservation Voters New Mexico’s Verde Voters Fund spent nearly $48,000 in TV, radio and digital advertising to defeat incumbent PRC Commissioner Karen Montoya.

And Cynthia Hall, endorsed by the group, defeated Montoya Tuesday with 57 percent of the vote in the Albuquerque district.

With no Republican opponent, Hall will take over when  Montoya’s term ends this year.

The conservation group’s ads accused Montoya of being too cozy with those she regulates, telling NMID that it opposed her support for coal and nuclear power.

Another group, Victory for New Mexico, stepped in late last week to support Montoya.

That group reported raising $13,650 through May 31 and spending $9,500 on TV ads on cable and satellite. Federal Communications Commission filings indicate the group spent almost $15,000 more in recent days.

Among Victory’s donors are CYRQ, a Salt Lake City-based energy company, and Hull Consulting, the firm of uber lobbyist Art Hull. But with all that spending, it’s possible the group’s July 7 filing will include other donors.

Bernalillo County Commission District 2

Breaking Bad actor and Albuquerque Public Schools board member Steven Michael Quezada won a narrow victory with a plurality of almost 36 percent of the vote in a heated three-way primary.

The controversial Santolina development west of Albuquerque provided the undercurrent to this race, both in terms of issues and money.

A state-level super PAC, New Mexicans for New Mexico, fueled by those with ties to Santolina, showed up with billboards and mailers in the three-way race last month.

But Adrian Pedroza, who opposed the development and finished second to Quezada, raised plenty of money on his own.

In a Sunday news conference, Pedroza supporters slammed the super PAC and Santolina developers.

Quezada will face Republican Patricia Paiz in November.

Legislative contests

Perhaps the hottest political question in New Mexico this fall will be whether or not Democrats can regain control of the State House of Representatives, after losing their majority for the first time in 60 years in 2014.

Last month, Governing magazine rated control of the New Mexico House a tossup. The magazine listed the state Senate as leaning Democratic.

Republicans have a 37-33 majority in the House now; Democrats have a 24-18 majority  in the Senate.

Some of Tuesday’s results will play into who controls the Legislature come 2017.

Primary results in a few races that will be key to legislative control:

Senate District 39: Santa Fe County Commissioner Liz Stefanics won the four-way Democratic race to take on Sen. Ted Barela, R-Estancia, who was appointed when longtime Sen. Phil Griego resigned amid corruption allegations.

Stefanics, who held the Senate seat in the 1990s, raised more than $70,000 while former San Miguel County Commissioner Hugh Ley, who finished fourth, raised nearly that amount. Ambrose Castellano, of Serafina, raised more than $27,000, while former Santa Fe County Commissioner Mike Anaya raised more than $16,000.

The district leans Democratic. Barela is sitting on nearly $59,000, and is likely to get plenty of help from the various PACs raising money to assist Republican lawmakers.

Senate District 36: Las Cruces Democrat Jeff Steinborn gave up his House seat to aim at incumbent Republican Sen. Lee Cotter.

He took the first step Tuesday by defeating former Dona Ana County Commissioner Oscar Vasquez-Butler in the Democratic primary.

Steinborn raised nearly $57,000 to Vasquez-Butler’s $7,625. Cotter, meanwhile, has nearly $52,000 in the bank.

Senate District 9: Incumbent Sen. John Sapien, D-Corrales, defeated challenger Jodilynn Ortiz of Placitas on Tuesday.

He also outraised her, with $68,000 to her $400.

But his Republican challenger, Diego Espinoza, of Rio Rancho, has raised more than $79,000.

House District 24: In one of the few Republican primaries Tuesday, Christina Hall defeated Ryan Boyle in an Albuquerque seat left open when GOP Rep. Conrad James opted not to run.

Hall outraised Boyle with more than $40,000 to his $1,730.

But Hall could face an uphill battle in November. Former Democratic Rep. Elizabeth Thomson, who lost her seat to James in 2014, has raised more than $90,000.

House District 32: Democrat Candie Sweetser may face Vicki Chavez Nov. 8, in what’s expected to be a competitive contest to replace Democratic Rep. Dona Irwin of Deming.

But Republican Chavez may first go through a recount after defeating J. Scott Chandler by only 12 votes.

Sweetser overcame a fundraising deficit to opponent Frederick Sherman who raised nearly $11,600 to her $6,000.

Chavez raised more than $32,000 to nearly $8,000 for Chandler.

House District 35: Angelica Rubio came out on top in the three-way Democratic race to replace Steinborn in this Las Cruces district.

Rubio led in fundraising at almost $21,000, followed by Paul Martinez with more than $13,000 and Ray Jaramillo with almost $13,000.

She will face Las Cruces Republican Joseph Bishop, who has raised $3,500.

House District 38: Republican Rebecca Dow likely will face Mary Hotvedt to replace outgoing GOP Rep. Dianne Miller Hamilton, of Silver City.

Hotvedt may face a recount in her 31-vote defeat of Karen Whitlock.

Dow raised $50,000 to Daniel Galindo’s $1,900. On the Democratic side, Hotvedt raised nearly $19,000 to Whitlock’s more than $17,000.

Races won

In 10 other races Tuesday, the primary was the race.

Here’s a look at 10 of Tuesday’s winners who don’t face opposition in November. For them, the race is won.

Senate District 22: Former state Rep. Sandra Jeff, of Crownpoint, failed in her effort to unseat Sen. Benny Shendo, of Jemez Pueblo, in the Democratic primary.

Jeff reported loaning her campaign $1,000 and receiving in-kind legal fees of $2,800, after amending reports from previous campaigns numerous times, restating a prior campaign debt as a personal loan.

Shendo reported raising nearly $33,000. New Mexicans for Working Families bought radio ads supporting Shendo, according to NM Political Report.

Senate District 17: Appointed Democratic Sen. Mimi Stewart, who replaced now-State Auditor Tim Keller, fended off a challenge from former Sen. Shannon Robinson in this Albuquerque district.

Stewart raised more than $59,000 to Robinson’s $3,175, most of which Robinson contributed to himself.

Senate District 4: Democratic Sen. George Munoz, of Gallup, easily defeated two challengers to retain his seat.

Munoz raised more than $75,000 compared with Felicia Adams’ $6,768 and Jordan Johnson’s $6,010. Adams provided much of her campaign’s money.

House District 5: Democratic Rep. Doreen Wondo Johnson, of Gallup, defeated Challenger Kevin Mitchell, of Tohatchi.

Johnson raised more than $14,600 compared with Mitchell’s $2,287. He failed to file a June 2 report.

The National Education Association of New Mexico spent $2,500 on radio ads supporting Johnson; New Mexicans for Working Families also supported her.

House District 21: In this three-way Democratic race in Albuquerque, Democrat Debra Sariñana defeated appointed Rep. Idalia Lechuga-Tena and Amanda KinKaid.

Lechuga-Tena was appointed to her seat last year by the Bernalillo County Commission to fill the position after Rep. Stephanie Maez resigned. Sariñana also competed for that appointment.

Lechuga-Tena raised more than $43,000 to Sariñana’s $24,157 and KinKaid’s $2,800.

House District 25: Incumbent Rep. Christine Trujillo defeated challenger Chris Berkheimer in the Democratic primary for this Albuquerque seat.

Trujillo raised $33,245 to Berkheimer’s $17,747. Berkheimer spent the final days of the campaign in the Bernalillo County Detention Center for violating terms of the community custody program.

House District 34: Democratic Rep. Bealquin “Bill” Gomez, of La Mesa, defeated challengers Paul Maxwell, of Santa Teresa, and Raymundo Lara, of  Anthony.

Gomez raised $19,240 to Maxwell’s $14,585 and Lara’s $2,665. Maxwell loaned his campaign more than $11,000.

House District 48:  Santa Fe school board President Linda Trujillo defeated Jeff Varela and Paul Campos to succeed Rep. Lucky Varela, Jeff’s father, in this Santa Fe district.

Trujillo raised $38,335 to Campos’ $28,198 and Varela’s $14,585.

House District 65: Darryl Madalena won’t succeed his father, Rep. James Roger Madelena, in the state House.

Derrick Lente, of Sandia Pueblo, defeated the Jemez Pueblo resident. Lente will take office in January.

Lente raised $12,959 for the campaign, compared with only $900 for Madalena, who failed to file a June 2 disclosure.

House District 69: Harry Garcia, of Grants, will succeed former House Speaker Ken Martinez, who lost that leadership role when the GOP took over the House after the 2014 election.

Harry Garcia, of Grants, raised $11,152. Former Navajo Nation President Bennie Shelly, of Thoreau, raised $6,000, failing to file a June 2 report. And Terry Fletcher, of Grants, raised $5,200, while Lloyd Felipe, of Acoma,raised $1,400.

Jeff Proctor and Marjorie Childress contributed to this report.

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