NM Supreme Court candidate going big on TV this fall

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A hotly contested NM Supreme Court race is the first in the state to attract fall TV advertising.

Judith Nakamura, a Republican appointed by Gov. Susana Martinez in November 2015 is being challenged by Michael Vigil, the chief judge of the New Mexico Court of Appeals.

Vigil, a Democrat who was a finalist for the 2015 appointment, has reserved more than $103,000 in TV ad time for the fall. Vigil’s campaign reserved time on several Albuquerque stations last week, including KLUZ, a Spanish-language channel.

In New Mexico, judicial campaigns often fly under the radar because most are uncontested elections. When a judicial seat becomes open, candidates must run a contested race in the first general election. The winner of that race thereafter runs unopposed in a “retention” election, which ask voters whether or not the judge should be retained.

This process holds true for candidates who are serving the remainder of another judge’s term through appointment by the governor, as is the case with Nakamura.

Her opponent, Vigil, will run more than 400 campaign ads on five stations from Oct. 17 through Nov. 8, according to contracts filed with Federal Communications Commission.

New Mexico’s judicial elections are funded publicly by the Voter Action Act. Vigil has received $218,882 in public funding while donating $5,000 to his campaign.

Nakamura has received $205,180 in public funding, while receiving 50 individual contributions ranging from $5 to $100 for an additional total of $4,475.

Public financing allocations are based on the number of registered voters in a candidate’s party.

Vigil is the first candidate to reserve fall TV time in New Mexico for the general election. Democratic Secretary of State candidate Maggie Toulouse Oliver aired ads for a few days immediately after the June primary.

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