Alibi V.23 No.22 • May 29-June 4, 2014 

News Feature

Primary Fight 2014

Both parties gear up for November’s battle royale

CC BY DonkeyHotey
Just in case you can't tell by the television ads and political signs jutting out of the xeriscape lawns, it's election season here in the Land of Enchantment. In a few short days, New Mexico voters will head to the polls to decide which hopefuls will represent the major political parties in November's general election.

Registered Democrats and Republicans will cast their votes to nominate their favorite candidates for offices ranging from the powerful US Senate to the practically obsolete county probate judgeship in the State's June 3 closed primary election. Only registered Republicans and Democrats can participate in the election according to state law.

A primary election is held to allow political party members an opportunity to choose candidates for political office.

Most notably Republican voters will have to decide if entrenched Republican US Senate hopeful Allen Weh has a better opportunity than his opponent, newcomer David Clements, to unseat Tom Udall (D-NM) in the general election.

If the amount of money each candidate has thus far is any indication of the outcome, Clements doesn't stand a chance.

Weh, the state's former Republican Party chairman, raised $583,372; more than $217,000 came from the retired colonel's personal bank account in the form of loans and campaign contributions. He spent slightly more than $377, 600 to stave off his challenger.

By comparison, his opponent, Doña Ana County’s Republican Party chairman, Clements raised $40,578 and spent nearly every cent. According to the Federal Election Commission website, Clements failed to file a May 14 campaign finance report.

Both men, if elected, have vowed to ward any further infringement on Second Amendment freedoms.

Republican candidates Michael Frese and Richard Priem are vying for a chance to challenge first-time US Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham for the US House of Representatives District One seat this November.

Registered Democrats and Republicans will cast their votes to nominate their favorite candidates for offices ranging from the powerful US Senate to the practically obsolete county probate judgeship in the State's June 3 closed primary election.

Democrat Robert Blanch hopes to snatch the Democratic nomination from US District Three Rep. Ben R. Lujan. Blanch is in for a battle; his fundraising pales in comparison to Lujan's. The deep pocketed incumbent has amassed $775,108, compared to Blanch's $28,093. Blanch spent nearly $26,700.

Many New Mexicans in Albuquerque and across the state are paying close attention to the five-way battle to gain the Democratic Party nomination for governor. The winner will challenge Republican Gov. Susana Martinez this November.

Alan Webber
Alan Webber
New Mexico Attorney General Gary King, State Sen. Linda M. Lopez of Albuquerque, Santa Fe businessman Alan Webber, State Sen. Howie Morales and longtime government administrator Lawrence Rael are all running for the nomination.

All of the five candidates participated in the KRWG debate. The gubernatorial hopefuls answered questions, such as “Would you support universal-state funded pre-kindergarten in New Mexico: yes or no and why?”

Not surprisingly, all five candidates overwhelmingly support universal childhood education initiatives with very little deviation in the candidates' responses. In fact, the candidates answers didn't differ much regardless of the questions. When asked “What is your proposal for an imminent solution for the lottery scholarship?” The candidates asserted that the scholarship should be fully funded, though none gave many details as to where the money would come from.

Howie Morales
Howie Morales
Morales and Webber thought it best to come up with a way to offer alternatives other than four-year degrees to help reduce the fund's expenditures. Lopez and Rael asserted the money should come from somewhere, anywhere.

So far the the Democratic hopefuls have dropped more than a combined $1,167,000, hoping for a shot to go one-on-one with the governor in November. Webber has raised and spent more than any of his four opponents. To date, the Santa Fe businessman has clocked upwards of $927,000 in campaign gifts, including a $150,000 loan from his personal finances. Out of the almost $927,000 campaign wallet, Webber doled out $470,000-plus on expenses and ads that tell voters he won't follow in Martinez' footsteps and be a flunky for the Koch brothers.

Gary King
Gary King
King spent the second most money hoping to face his political foe Martinez in the fall election. Like Webber, King lent himself a large sum of money to further his cause. King raised $240,000 to go with the $142,000 he had from his campaign efforts as attorney general. King spent about $335,000 of $482,000 in his election account.

Lawrence Rael
Lawrence Rael
Rael out-raised King but kept his spending at bay. Rael collected approximately $380,000 in campaign contributions and spent about $171,000. Morales raised $198,000 and spent about $150,000, while Lopez raised and spent a fraction of what her opponents spent. She raised $55,000 and spent $42,000.

Linda Lopez
Linda Lopez

The crowded Bernalillo County Sheriff race requires both a Democratic and Republican primary. Democratic candidates Sylvester Stanley and Manuel Gonzales III will square off in the primary against whoever wins the three-way contest that pits incumbent Sheriff Dan Houston against two Republican challengers: James Scott Baird and Jason K. Nufer.

Baird served as Bernalillo County Deputy Chief, but resigned last August in what has been reported as a move that aligned Baird with the powerful Legacy Church, an organization which had once supported Houston. Earlier this year, the Bernalillo County Code of Conduct Review Board rejected a complaint against Sheriff Dan Houston that accused the sheriff of using county employees and offices to further his election aspirations.

Shortly after that ruling, Bernalillo County officials settled a pair of lawsuits for $570,000 after a former Sheriff's Office employee Jennifer Vega-Brown filed a lawsuit alleging she experienced discrimination while employed at the sheriff's office.

Houston isn’t the only sheriff in the state who faced legal challenges. Rio Arriba County Sheriff Tommy Rodella is up for the Democratic nomination battling a former sheriff's deputy who recently sued the County for wrongful termination. Rio Arriba Democratic candidate James Lujan recently received $105,000 following a wrongful termination lawsuit against his former boss, Rodella. During the lawsuit it was revealed that the sheriff exercised his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination for 50 of 62 questions regarding a scholarship fund that the Sheriff allegedly fixed traffic tickets to fund, according to court records. But before he was a sheriff and after he was a state police officer, Rodella was appointed to the magistrate court and then permanently banned for driving to the Rio Arriba County jail and releasing an acquaintance. His campaign doesn't seem to be affected by his past and current shenanigans.

If County Commissioner Wayne Johnson is to keep his seat, he must best challenger John Madrid.

County Assessor Tanya Giddings has to hold off two Democratic Primary challengers, Francisco Apodaca and Jerry Larranaga. The winner will face Republican George E. Torres.

Other notable races: Democrats Marie Julienne and Debra Haaland are seeking the nomination for lieutenant governor. The winner will face incumbent John Sanchez. The state treasurer's race is proving contentious with three battling for the Democratic nomination. Tim Eichenberg, John Wertheim and Patrick Padilla are jockeying for an opportunity to face Republican Rick Lopez in the November statewide election.

For voting information, visit the New Mexico Secretary of State’s website at sos.state.nm.us.