New Mexico GOP governor hopefuls spend big to connect with voters | Local News

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It takes a lot of gas to run a gubernatorial campaign.

The five Republican gubernatorial candidates racked up thousands of dollars in fuel bills — and thousands of miles on their vehicles’ odometers — as they crisscrossed the state on the campaign trail in course of the last six months.

“The car I bought in August was nine miles when I got it. It just passed 49,000, and it’s on its second set of tires,” said state Rep. Rebecca Dow of Truth or Consequences, which reported $6,400 in mileage reimbursements.

While high, candidates’ fuel costs pale in comparison to other major expenses listed in their latest campaign finance reports, filed Monday.

Since October, the five hopefuls have spent $1.36 million trying to connect with Republican voters — and voters in general — ahead of the June 7 primary.

The winner of the five-man race will face Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, who has nearly $3.8 million in cash, and a Libertarian candidate.

Political consultants in New Mexico and across the country have been among the biggest beneficiaries of spending by Republican candidates.

Big fundraiser, big spender

Mark Ronchetti, a former TV weatherman who has raised $2.1 million in the past six months, more than all of his Republican rivals combined, was also the top spender.

Ronchetti said nearly $584,000 in expenses.

The largest expense for Ronchetti, which aired statewide television commercials, was $158,724 in media advertising.

It was followed by over $132,000 to McCleskey Media Strategies for a wide variety of services, from media production costs to design and printing. The president of the Albuquerque-based political advisory firm is Jay McCleskey, who led former Republican Gov. Susana Martinez’s gubernatorial campaigns and also served as her top political adviser during her two terms.

Asked about the campaign’s decision to work with McCleskey, Ronchetti’s campaign spokesman Enrique Knell said the campaign doesn’t typically discuss strategy or spending.

“Mark’s campaign is about listening to New Mexicans and talking about his vision for transforming New Mexico after four years of a disastrous administration that devastated family budgets and our freedoms,” Knell wrote in an email. mail.

Ronchetti listed dozens of fuel charges totaling more than $4,900.

“Mark travels to every corner of New Mexico to meet with constituents and talk about the issues New Mexicans face,” wrote Knell, who called the price of gas an “absolute disaster” for families. and small businesses.

Knell argued gasoline prices would climb even higher if the legislature had passed a proposed clean fuel standard that Lujan Grisham backed during the 30-day session earlier this year.

Boost name id

Dow, which has raised more than $751,000 since October, was second in spending with just over $406,000 spent.

An ad buy of $112,500 was the biggest expense for Dow, which ran two TV ads. This was followed by some $99,000 in political consulting services and approximately $35,000 in mailings and other campaign materials.

“I started this race with 3% name ID, so you see a lot of senders because we’re targeting voters and letting them know who we are, what we stand for, and how we’re going to move New- Mexico,” she mentioned. “I am, everywhere I go, handing out business cards, palm cards, putting up signs in windows, ‘Small Business for Dow’ and ‘Parents for Dow.’ ”

In addition to driving 49,000 miles on her new car, Dow said she drove at least an additional 11,000 miles on her other vehicles as she traveled the state.

“Just this week, for example, we went from Angel Fire to Española to Santa Fe to Albuquerque, T or C and [Las] Cruces and Socorro,” she said. “We’re going to be at Dulce and Aztec and Farmington next week, as well as Carlsbad.”

Dow also brought in nearly $10,000 in campaign t-shirts.

“We can’t keep T-shirts in stock,” she said. “Our most popular t-shirt says ‘Green Chili, Guns and Freedom’ and the second most popular t-shirt says ‘We stand with Dow’ and it has cacti on it.”

Dow, which loaned his campaign $40,000, has nearly $684,000 in cash.

“I think we’re in good shape,” she said. “We receive contributions daily.”

Dow said she feels “comfortable” with her campaign finances with less than two months until the primary, adding that the candidate with the most money doesn’t always come out on top.

“I am Seabiscuit”

Ethel Maharg, a former Cuba Village mayor who is now executive director of the Albuquerque-based New Mexico Right to Life Committee, said she isn’t worried about her campaign’s fundraising numbers.

After raising just $12,999 in the last reporting period, Maharg has less than $800 in cash.

“You have to understand, I worked for [two nonprofits] over the past 10 years,” Maharg said. “There were times when they would ask the executive committee whether or not we could literally wait for [cash] our checks. For me, not having that money doesn’t scare me. it’s probably scary [the other primary candidates]but that doesn’t scare me.

The largest portion of Maharg’s expenses — $4,129 — was for campaign advice. Next is fuel at over $2,000, or about 15% of his fundraising.

Maharg is undeterred, saying money corrupts. She pointed to a candidate forum in Santa Fe last week in which some of the contenders filed potshots against their rivals.

“Have you seen the madness display?” she asked. “That’s what that money buys you, so I’m not going to do attack ads and all that other nonsense that’s going on. I’m not doing that.

Maharg said she was running a “really grassroots” campaign.

“I don’t need $10,000 so I can stand there and pontificate on how much money I got because every email I get [from the other primary candidates] is like, ‘I raised a million dollars.’ Well, good for you,” she said. “How does this help New Mexico? I’m really here for the sake of people, not for the sake of raising a million dollars.

Maharg continues to be called the “Seabiscuit” of the Republican Governor’s Primary, in reference to the little racehorse that upset the 1937 Triple Crown winner, War Admiral, in 1938.

“Come out the door slowly, but I’m going to win in the end,” she said.

“Always in this fight”

Jay Block, a Sandoval County commissioner who was the top vote-getter at the Republican pre-primary nominating convention, heads into the primary with a lackluster $20,000.

Like Maharg, Block is optimistic.

“We didn’t spend a lot of money on the convention, and we won the convention, while other campaigns contributed tens of thousands of dollars in direct mail and other resources,” he said, claiming that his campaign was also a grassroots campaign.

“The message we’re sending out in the state resonates, and we certainly don’t believe Mr. Ronchetti’s polls conducted by the wife of his consultant Jay McCleskey. If those polls were correct, he would have won the convention hands down.

Block, which has raised nearly $119,000 in campaign contributions since October, reported just over $128,000 in expenses. The largest portion — $80,476 — went to McShane LLC, a media and political strategy consulting firm in Las Vegas, Nevada.

“They have a lot of experience and a winning record with races from city council to the US Senate,” he said.

Block also reported a $5,000 payment for “legal defense” work, which was related to a legal challenge to his nomination petition signatures. The challenge was rejected for technical reasons.

Block said his fundraising efforts continue.

“Today we got a check from a big donor for over $5,000,” he said on Friday. “Were fighting. Other campaigns are part of the swamp, and this one is popular, and we’re still in that fight.

“A lean operation”

Investment adviser Greg Zanetti, who has about $172,000 in cash, reported $169,396 in contributions over the past six months.

Zanetti has spent $237,000 since October, including about $157,000 for the services of three political consulting firms for digital marketing and other expenses.

“We’re running a lean operation,” said Ryan Lynch, who is Zanetti’s campaign manager, spokesperson and political director.

Zanetti loaned his campaign $185,135 at the start of the primary race.

“In a perfect world, we’ll raise so much money that at the end of the day we’ll have that and then some in the bank and he’s been elected governor and we can pay off his loan,” Lynch said. “But he’s also committed to spending what it takes, so if it doesn’t happen, it won’t happen.”

Lynch said “it’s definitely a possibility” that Zanetti will lend more money to his campaign.

“We have a five-way primary. Anytime you have a crowded pitch like that, it’s harder to fundraise and, well, our fundraising certainly reflects that,” he said.

In addition to the loan, Zanetti said $31,396 in in-kind contributions from him for travel, publicity and rent. Lynch said he didn’t know exactly how much the fuel cost, but imagines it’s a “big chunk” of the total.

While Zanetti is happy with his fundraising efforts so far, Lynch said the campaign wants it to be better.

“It’s one of those things that no matter how hard you do, it could always be better,” he said.

“We’re doing this kind of old-school, handshake-to-handshake method, and it’s been proving effective so far,” Lynch said. “There’s more we need to do in terms of traditional marketing, television and such. But, you know, we’re happy with where we are right now, and we’re just going to keep our foot on the gas until June 7th. »

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