Michelle Lujan Grisham and Mark Ronchetti. (Images courtesy of the candidates)




Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham narrowly outraised Republican Mark Ronchetti over a key two-month stretch this summer, bolstering her cash advantage in her bid to win reelection as New Mexico’s governor.

The incumbent governor reported raising nearly $2.6 million, bringing her total fundraising haul for her reelection campaign to slightly more than $10 million – or more than the $9.7 million raised when first running for governor in 2018.

Currently, Lujan Grisham has roughly $3 million in her campaign account with less than two months until Election Day.

For his part, Ronchetti reported raising about $2.4 million during the reporting period. He spent roughly $1.4 million on TV ads and other expenses, leaving about $2.4 million in his campaign war chest.

While Ronchetti outraised Lujan Grisham during a monthlong period spanning the June primary election, the latest report shows both candidates raked in hefty sums of campaign cash this summer in a hotly-contested race that’s drawn national attention.

A Lujan Grisham campaign spokeswoman said the governor’s fundraising total shows both voters’ confidence in the governor and Democrats’ concerns about what a Ronchetti victory would mean for abortion access and other issues, claiming the GOP candidate would “undo” Lujan Grisham initiatives like tuition-free college for an estimated 35,000 students.

“This record fundraising period puts Governor Lujan Grisham’s reelection campaign in a strong position coming down the stretch,” Lujan Grisham campaign spokeswoman Delaney Corcoran said.

In a written statement, the Ronchetti campaign said Lujan Grisham has been backed by left-wing special interests while he enjoys support from New Mexicans writing small checks “at dining room tables throughout the state.”

“From crime to education to out-of-control costs for gas and groceries, there’s a better way,” Ronchetti said. “It’s time for change and we have unbelievable momentum with just two months left.”

While reflecting candidates’ fundraising chops, the reports also shine a light on which individuals and businesses are backing each campaign.

Organizations affiliated with labor unions and health care companies were among the largest contributors to Lujan Grisham’s campaign during the reporting period.

Labor groups poured at least $50,000 into her campaign. Organizations involved in health care or the pharmaceutical industry also contributed at least $50,000.

Among the individuals who donated the maximum $10,400 to Lujan Grisham for the general election cycle were philanthropist and former Microsoft general manager Melinda French Gates; Thomas Secunda, a billionaire and vice chairman of Bloomberg LP in New York; and John D. Arnold, a philanthropist in Houston.

As for Ronchetti, donors with ties to the oil and gas industry or ranching and farming were some of the largest contributors to the GOP candidate’s campaign during the recent reporting period.

People or companies connected to energy production – largely oil and gas – donated at least $170,000 to Ronchetti. Large ranching and farming donors contributed at least $62,000.

Among the individuals donating at least $10,000 each were James Pallotta, a Massachusetts private investment executive, and Ricky Caplin, an entrepreneur from Jacksonville, Florida.

This year’s race for governor could play a significant role in determining how New Mexico handles hot-button issues like abortion, taxes, criminal penalties and the environment over the next four years.

Given those stakes, both leading candidates have already launched a slew of TV ads, with Lujan Grisham questioning Ronchetti’s experience and touting her own record on health care and education issues.

For his part, Ronchetti has accused the governor of failing to keep New Mexicans safe amid rising violent crime rates, saying in one recent ad, “It doesn’t have to be this way – we all deserve to feel safe.”

Meanwhile, outside groups have also played an active role in this year’s election, with both the national Democratic and Republican gubernatorial committees airing TV attack adds and a political committee affiliated with Planned Parenthood also launching ads on the governor’s behalf.

Stronger New Mexico, a political committee affiliated with the Democratic Governors Association, reported Monday having spent more than $2.2 million during the reporting period, primarily on television advertisements.

The group got its funding from the DGA and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees labor union. It is not subject to the state’s campaign contribution limits, but is prohibited from coordinating directly with a candidate’s campaign.

On the other side, a political committee affiliated with the Republican Governors Association spent more than $1.4 million on TV ads and other expenses. The PAC got all its direct funding from the RGA, which is currently co-chaired by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, who stumped for Ronchetti in Albuquerque last week.

Lujan Grisham and Ronchetti are not the only candidates running for governor; Libertarian Karen Bedonie has also qualified for the November ballot.

All other statewide offices, including attorney general, secretary of state, treasurer, auditor and land commissioner, are also up for election this year, as are all 70 state House seats.