It’s still more than a year before the primary election for U.S. Senate, but words from two prominent Democratic candidates Friday may provide a glimpse of a coming fight.
U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján early in the day released a statement saying he would not accept campaign contributions from corporate political action committees.
“This decision is at the core of the kind of campaign I’m running. A campaign run on New Mexican values that is built by the people, not corporations,” Luján said in an opinion piece published by the website NM Political Report.
The congressman said he was upset by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, declaring as dead-on-arrival a campaign finance reform bill passed by the Democrat-controlled House.
“McConnell’s refusal to address our broken campaign finance system is stifling the voices of the American people,” Luján said.
Later in the day, the campaign manager of one of his primary opponents, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, gave Luján some backhanded praise.
“We’re excited to see the congressman following Maggie’s lead and finally saying no to corporate PAC money,” Heather Brewer wrote in an email. “We think it would be a show of genuine commitment to these progressive values if the congressman would return the nearly $200,000 he has already accepted from oil & gas, pharmaceutical companies, telecomm and other big corporations since the beginning of the year.”
She went on to list more than $180,000 in contributions Luján took in between Jan. 1 and March 31.
These included $30,000 from drug companies and pharmaceutical PACs; $22,000 from telecommunications PACs; $18,000 from insurance company PACs; $15,500 from banking PACs and $14,500 from committees for large retail companies.
Luján’s campaign didn’t take the bait. Asked if she cared to comment, his campaign spokeswoman Lauren French, replied with one word: “Nah.”
In the brief time she’s been running for Senate, Toulouse Oliver has made not accepting contributions from corporations a hallmark of her candidacy. She pledged early in her campaign to take no money from corporations.
Even before Toulouse Oliver formally announced, Brewer indicated the candidate will try to paint Luján as an establishment figure beholden to big money interests. Brewer told The New Mexican in late April she expects Toulouse Oliver to get support from people who “want to see someone who’s not the candidate of the establishment and corporations and the usual suspects.”
Luján and Toulouse Oliver are competing to replace retiring Sen. Tom Udall. Giovanni Alexander Haquani, who sought an Albuquerque seat in the state Legislature in 2016, also is running. Gavin Clarkson of Las Cruces is the only Republican who has formally announced.