Jay McCleskey

Jay McCleskey, Republican Gov. Susana Martinez’s political adviser, is probably the best known political consultant in the state. So it might not be surprising that, according to the most recent batch of campaign finance reports filed this week, he’s also the best paid consultant in New Mexico’s gubernatorial race this year.

Professional services fees the Martinez campaign paid to Albuquerque-based McCleskey Media Strategies between early October and early this month totaled $41,250. That figure doesn’t include the $41,000 Martinez spent through McCleskey’s company to buy television time for campaign ads or the $49,000 paid through McCleskey’s firm for a film shoot and media production for campaign spots.

McCleskey’s company received another $33,436 from SusanaPAC, the governor’s political action committee, that will be used mainly to fund legislative candidates favored by Martinez and GOP candidates in down-ballot statewide races. SusanaPAC raised more than $208,000 and spent about $268,500 between early October and early April. The PAC, which McCleskey runs, still has more than $68,000 in the bank.

Political consultants will tell you that they personally do not receive all the money you see on campaign expense reports. In many cases, the payment is made to the consultants’ companies, which have overhead such as staff, rent, equipment, utility bills, supplies and other costs.

McCleskey ran Martinez’s first gubernatorial campaign in 2010. He also ran the successful campaigns of Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry in 2009 and 2013.

The other major consultant payout by the Martinez campaign was $38,398 to Graham Advisors of Washington, D.C., which is run by DiAnne Graham, Martinez’s national fundraiser.

As for the five Democratic candidates for governor, the highest paid political consultant was Neri Holguin, an Albuquerque political consultant hired by Democratic contender Alan Webber of Santa Fe. Between early October and last week, Holguin got paid a couple of thousand dollars more than McCleskey.

Webber’s campaign paid consulting fees totaling $43,520 to Holguin Campaigns & Communications. That total doesn’t include a $5,492 payment for unspecified research.

Holguin has worked on numerous campaigns for Democrats in recent years, including that of new Santa Fe City Councilor Joe Maestas, who won his seat in March. She also worked for the successful 2008 state Senate campaigns of Tim Keller and Eric Griego — both of whom defeated incumbents in the Democratic primary that year.

Another political consultant working for Webber, Leanne Leith, received just over $20,000 from the campaign between mid-January and last week. Leith is the former political director of Conservation Voters New Mexico.

The Webber campaign also paid a Washington, D.C., company, Walsworth Landset Research, a total of $35,976. The company’s website said the firm “provides research, document collection and analysis and strategic communications services to campaigns, political organizations, corporations and non-profits.”

There are other Democratic consultants making money in the governor’s race.

The campaign of state Sen. Howie Morales of Silver City paid consultant Jon Lipshutz more than $27,000 in consulting fees during the most recent reporting period. Other consultants paid by Morales included Garrett Swenson of Phoenix, who took in just under $16,000.

The campaign of candidate Lawrence Rael of Albuquerque paid nearly $27,000 to Confluence Strategies & Innovations, an Albuquerque company run by consultant Jonathan Teeters.

The campaign of Attorney General Gary King paid PAD Consulting, a company in Des Moines, Iowa, $9,623 in fees.

The most money paid to a single consultant by the campaign of state Sen. Linda Lopez of Albuquerque was a single payment of $1,500 in March to Michelle Mares of Albuquerque.

Contact Steve Terrell at Read his political blog at

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