Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

NM Senate candidates spend more than $1 million – at times on each other

Three tight primaries, payments to campaign consultants, and donations from leadership are driving spending in campaigns for state Senate as the June 4 primary election date approaches. 

While early voting has already kicked off, spending in April heated up, according to the latest campaign finance reports filed May 13. Candidates across the state spent more than $1.1 million in the last several weeks.

Six of the top 10 spenders are running against one another in three primary elections, in far-flung corners of the state. 

The top spending race reported is the fight for District 42 in southeast New Mexico between incumbent Sen. Steve McCutcheon II (R-Carlsbad) and challenger Larry Scott, a Republican state representative from Hobbs. 

McCutcheon spent more than $114,000 since April 2, while Scott is the second-highest spender last month at just under $88,000. 

A sliver of the West-central portion of the state has two top spenders vying for Senate District 30 spanning from Bernalillo to McKinley County.

 District 30 will no longer be represented by Republican Sen. Joshua Sanchez, who is now running for Senate District 29, held by the outgoing GOP Sen.. Greg Baca from Belen.

 State Senator Clemente Sanchez, a Democrat who held the District 30 seat from 2013 until 2020, is looking to retake it. 

Top 10 spenders between April 2 and May 6:

  • Steve McCutcheon (R-District 42): $114,845 spent
  • Larry Scott (R-District 42): $87,909
  • Clemente Sanchez (D-District 30): $68,330
  • Greg Nibert (R-District 27): $56,749
  • Antonio “Moe” Maestas (D-District 26): $51,028
  • George Muñoz (D-District 4): $37,231
  • Daniel Ivey-Soto (D-District 15): $35,017
  • Angel Charley (D-District 30): $33,462
  • Heather Berghmans (D-District 15): $32,332
  • Mimi Stewart (D-District 17): $31,664

Clemente Sanchez faces Angel Charley (Laguna/Zuni/Diné), the former Executive Director of the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women, in the primary. Clemente Sanchez spent more than $68,000 and Charley spent more than $33,000, ranking third and eighth, respectively. 

The third-highest spending primary is District 15 in the Albuquerque Heights, between incumbent Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto and challenger Heather Berghmans, a former policy and financial advisor at the Roundhouse. 

For three other senators, it’s not neck-and-neck spending with their primary challengers, but payments to campaign consultants and advertising driving up their spending numbers.

Sen. Greg Nibert (R-Roswell), spent the majority of his April expenses – more than $44,000 – on Campaign Marketing Strategies based in McLean, Virginia. Overall, he reported spending more than $56,000. Nibert faces Larry Marker in the Republican primary for Senate District 27, who only spent $1,821 in the last month. 

Sen. George Muñoz (D-Gallup), the powerful finance chair for the Senate, is the third-highest fundraiser in the state, with more than $287,000 on hand to spend. Much of that comes from donations from a  wide-range of industries such as oil and gas, health care and other businesses. 

Muñoz faces Gallup transportation director Keith Hillock, who has entirely self-funded his campaign, donating $4,200 to his campaign. Muñoz spent more than $37,000 in April, with $9,700 on campaign consulting and more than $6,000 on billboard signs. 

Records show fundraising flurry among state legislative candidates over last month

Muñoz made a $2,000 contribution to the campaign for Las Vegas Democrat Sen. Pete Campos. 

Otherwise, Muñoz spent on challengers in down-ballot races, such as $1,000 for McKinley County Treasurer candidate Carol Bowman-Muskett, $500 to Joanne Martinez for the Cibola County Treasurer, and $1,000 for the Eleventh District Attorney candidate Grant Birtcher.  

Sen. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, a Democrat from Albuquerque, spent nearly half of his expenditures in April – $21,525 – on campaign consulting from two Albuquerque firms, Strategies 360 and Roadrunner Strategies. There were also two $8,000 expenditures for a poll and a campaign strategist. The rest was split between paraphernalia and signs, canvassing and food for volunteers and campaign events. 

Maestas faces South Valley teacher Julie Radoslovich in the primary. Radoslovich spent just over $6,700 in April.

Rounding out the last of the top-10 list of spenders is Sen. Mimi Stewart (D-Albuquerque), whose biggest donations include $10,000 to the New Mexico Senate Democrats committee. She also donated to several candidates seeking election for the first time to the Senate, like challengers like Charley in District 30, Tina Garcia in District 29 and Cindy Nava, who is competing in a four-person race for the open seat in District 9 in Valencia County. 

Candidates will have to file updated financial reports May 30, less than a week before the primary. 

See the chart below for more details on where things stand in statewide Senate races:

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