Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Campaign money flows in two NM district attorney races • Source New Mexico

Primary elections for district attorneys for Albuquerque and Santa Fe are the state’s most expensive races, according to the May 30 campaign filings showing last-minute spending as early voting wraps up.

The winners in both Democratic primaries will decide who holds the 4-year term in office, as Republicans did not field candidates in either race for the First and Second Judicial District.

These two races in particular have seen higher spending, and are tightly contested over issues such as the high-profile charges on the set of “Rust” and concerns over public safety slated for a July special session at the legislature.

The state’s two top earners overall are incumbent district attorney for Bernalillo County Sam Bregman and his challenger Damon Martinez, a former U.S. Attorney General. The two attorneys are vying for the top prosecutor spot for about a one-third of the state’s population in Albuquerque and the outlying county.

Mary Carmack-Altwies rounds out the top three earners. She’s the current First Judicial District Attorney, overseeing cases from Santa Fe, Los Alamos and Rio Arriba counties. Marco Serna, wants to regain the seat from Carmack-Altwies after he did not run for re-election in 2020. His campaign finance reports show he’s ranked eighth in top ten earners of candidates statewide.

Another reason these cases are so high-spending may be a lack of other competitive races in the legislative and local level, said Dede Feldman, a retired Democratic state senator and advocate with nonprofit Common Cause New Mexico.

“I think the real story is that there in general are not that many contested races on the ballot. So the few that are contested are attracting a lot of money and that the most high-profile of these is the DA’s race, you know, here in Bernalillo County and in Santa Fe,” she said.

The blind spot in the state’s most expensive election so far this year

Battle for Bernalillo County

Bregman raised more than $33,000 from 49 donations in May.

Bregman spent $218,530 over the same timeframe. The vast majority – more than $205,000 – was used for production for cable and digital advertisements buys, with $104,375 reported as his campaign’s largest one-time purchase.

He spent a little over $9,500 on mailers, another $486 on a fundraising event at Sobremesa Restaurant and Brewery, and nearly $2,000 on text messaging services.

Martinez raised a little over $19,000 from 26 donors in May. Martinez spent $77,169, a little under one-third of Bregman’s total spending.

Martinez’s largest single purchase was a $44,483 production and cable airtime buy for commercials, which amounted to most of his spending at $68,010 in total.

Martinez did not take out any additional personal loans in May. He’s financed $177,500 for the campaign.

Fighting for the First Judicial District

District Attorney Carmack-Altwies hauled in $171,744 from about 60 donors in May, more than doubling what she received in April. She spent $162,500 in May, mostly on cable ad buys. The largest single expense was nearly $45,000, according to her latest campaign finance reports.

She lent an additional $160,000 to the campaign last month, totaling $220,000 in personal loans over the course of this election.

Serna held the district attorney’s position previously in 2016, then left and made a failed bid for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2020, where he lost in the primary.

Serna raised $21,632 from about 35 donors in May, about one-fifth of the $100,000 he reported to have raised in April.

Of Serna’s $133,581 spent in May, the focus has been on campaign fliers, mailers and radio ads. He also spent $25,000 on a texting campaign.

Serna has not lent any money to the campaign, according to the filings.

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