Gov. Susana Martinez can’t seek re-election, but her political action committee is raising and spending money like she is in a neck-and-neck race. And the bucks she has raked in could be a pretty good indication that Republican legislative candidates won’t have much trouble getting campaign funds next year.
The finance report that Martinez’s Susana PAC filed Tuesday with the Secretary of State’s Office showed her political action committee had raised more than $331,000 since April, spent about $288,000 and still had about $145,600 on hand.
State Republicans want to hang on to control of the New Mexico House of Representatives and try to capture the state Senate, where Democrats have been the majority party for about five decades.
Several Susana PAC contributors gave more than $10,000, among them former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who has a home in El Prado. He gave $10,800. His wife, Joyce Rumsfeld, gave an equal amount. The Rumsfelds were contributors to Martinez’s re-election campaign last year.
Others contributing to the PAC were Cliff Skiles of Dalhart, Texas ($10,800); Builders Trust of New Mexico ($10,800); and Frank Yates Jr. of Santa Fe ($10,500).
Alan Harper, president of Harper Oil & Gas in Arlington, Texas, gave $10,400. Patti Harper, an accounts processor listed at the same address, gave the same amount.
Other Texans named Harper made huge contributions to Martinez’s PAC. These include Linda Harper, owner of Harper Cattle in Mansfield, Texas ($10,400) and Stanley Harper, owner of L&M Services in Arlington, Texas, who gave the same amount.
The Western Refining company of El Paso gave the committee $5,000, while its chairman, Paul Foster, gave another $5,000, and an unnamed vice president of that company contributed an equal amount.
The report also said Michael Radosevich of Farmington contributed $10,000 to Susana PAC.
As for expenses, Susana PAC has paid consultant Jay McCleskey’s company $128,512 for professional services since April. McCleskey also made a media buy in June for $21,572 and was paid $5,350 for a radio production that same month.
The PAC paid $20,000 to the polling company Public Opinion Strategies, in which McCleskey’s wife, Nicole McCleskey, is a partner.
Fundraiser Jessica Perez of Las Cruces was paid $22,406 in the past six months.
In the state House of Representatives, Republicans fared well in the latest round of campaign finance reports.
House Majority Leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, is not expected to have serious opposition next year. But party leaders traditionally raise money for their respective party’s candidates in tight races. Gentry reported raising $216,870 in the six-month reporting period. He now has a little over $205,700 in his campaign committee’s bank account, according to his Oct. 13 filing.
Much of Gentry’s cash came from oil and gas interests, consumer lenders and casino developers. There also was a $5,000 donation from a Florida solar energy company, NextEra Energy, which plans to build a large solar array near Roswell. On the spending side, Gentry’s campaign reported a $5,000 payment to Paul Kennedy, a former state Supreme Court justice and Gov. Martinez’s lawyer, for “retainer for [miscellaneous] legal matters.”
Meanwhile, House Speaker Don Tripp, R-Socorro, reported receiving $30,775 in contributions, of which he had spent $3,500.
House Minority Leader Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, didn’t come close to Gentry’s total. Egolf reported raising $22,500 and spending $7,394.
Egolf several years ago started a political action committee for House Democrats. New Mexico Defense Fund raised about $48,650, according to its latest report. The PAC spent more than $29,000 and has a little under $25,000 cash on hand.
One bright spot for Democrats is that incumbent Republican state Sen. Ted Barela of Moriarty is trailing Santa Fe County Commissioner Liz Stefanics, a Democrat who is running for that seat, in fundraising. Martinez earlier this year appointed Barela to replace Democrat Phil Griego, D-San Jose, who resigned in the wake of an ethics probe.
Barela reported raising $6,300 for his campaign and said he spent none of it. His biggest contributor was Mountain States Constructors of Albuquerque, which gave $2,500.
Stefanics raised more than $10,040 and spent about $1,400, leaving her with more than $8,600 in the bank. Her biggest contributors were former state Democratic Party Chairman Earl Potter and Betty Chern-Hughes, a nurse practitioner from Dallas. Each gave $1,000. Stefanics gave her campaign $500.
But Republicans could be happy about how another Senate race is shaping up financially. In what’s bound to be one of the most closely watched legislative races next year, in Senate District 9, Republican challenger Diego Espinoza of Rio Rancho outraised incumbent Democrat John Sapien of Corrales by a more than 2-1 ratio.
Sapien, who won his last election by 161 votes, raised nearly $10,000 in the past six months, according to his report.
Newcomer Espinoza, who announced his candidacy in early September, raised more than $22,300, almost all in the past month. He has about $20,500 in cash on hand.
Espinoza, who is program director for CSI Aviation in Albuquerque, received $5,000 from Steven Maestas, the husband of state GOP Chairwoman Deborah Weh Maestas.
Espinoza also got $2,500 from CSI owner Allen Weh, a former party chairman and the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate last year. A political action committee called New Mexico Forward gave Espinoza $3,000. Espinoza loaned his campaign $4,000.
Sapien’s biggest contributor was the Committee on Individual Responsibility, a defense-attorney group that has been a major contributor to Democrats in recent years. The group gave him $5,400.
Sapien’s campaign reported it spent more than $8,000 in the past six months. The biggest single expense was $2,500 for the Abeyta & Associates consulting firm. His list of expenditures includes many “meetings with constituents at various restaurants in his district.” There also was a $69.31 expense at Indy’s Cleaners in Rio Rancho for “Legislative Session Laundry.”
Tuesday’s filings were the first batch of campaign finance filings since Secretary of State Dianna Duran was charged with 65 criminal counts, including falsifying campaign finance reports, allegedly to cover up thousands of dollars illegally transferred from her campaign to her personal bank account.
Duran, who cannot seek re-election to a third term, did not file a report by the 5 p.m. Tuesday deadline. But a possible contender to replace her did.
Maggie Toulouse Oliver — the Albuquerque Democrat who ran against Duran last year — took in a modest $2,753, according to a report she filed Tuesday. Almost all of that came in after the state attorney general brought criminal charges against Duran.
Oliver acknowledged Tuesday that she is interested in running again. “There are folks out there who are interested in me running for secretary of state the next time it’s on the ballot, in light of the current secretary’s legal problems,” she said.
The position could be on the ballot next year if Duran steps down or is impeached by the Legislature. Duran has insisted she won’t leave the job voluntarily. If Duran stays, the next election for the position would be in 2018.
Two top Democratic officials who are frequently mentioned as possible 2016 gubernatorial candidates are Attorney General Hector Balderas and state Auditor Tim Keller. While neither will be on the ballot next year, Balderas raised a respectable amount of cash during the past six months.
Balderas reported that he took in $77,013, spent $18,423 and has $318,297 in cash on hand.
His biggest contributor was Greg Lamantia, a McAllen, Texas, beer distributor who gave $5,000. But his best known contributor was former Gov. Bill Richardson, who gave $2,600. Richardson donated under the name of his company, W.B. Richardson LLC, and listed his profession as “consultant/professional speaker.”
Keller’s fundraising effort was far more modest. He has raised only $1,463 since April and spent $12,284. Keller has $23,890 in the bank.
Keller spent $19,425 on Young Presidents Organization dues, fees and conferences. The group is a worldwide organization of young chief executives. A spokeswoman said the payments were for dues and conference expenses for the next several years.
New Mexican reporter Justin Horwath contributed to this report.