Inside the Capitol

Saturday, April 21, 2012

4-27 Battle brewing in one U.S. House race

42712 fed races
SANTA FE – With the filing of first-quarter campaign fundraising results now available, it appears there will be only one major primary election battle this year. The Democratic race in the Albuquerque-area 1st Congressional District features three candidates raising big money.
Leading the pack is Bernalillo County Commissioner Michelle Lujan Grisham, with a campaign war chest of $345,000 to get her through the last two months of her campaign. She was the last to get into the race, so had been playing catch up until April 1.
Lujan Grisham tried the race in 2008 but the presence of former Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil Giron meant they were drawing from similar groups of voters, giving the contest to Martin Heinrich. This year, she has received strong support from women's groups such as Emily's List. U.S. Rep. Manuel Lujan, who held the seat for 20 years, is a relative.
Lujan Grisham was the first director of the state Agency on Aging. When that became cabinet level, she was named secretary of the Aging and Long Term Care Department. In 2002, she was named secretary of the Department of Health, the state's largest department.
Coming in a very close second in cash on hand was state Sen. Eric Griego with $321,000. Griego jumped in the race very early and got a head start on fundraising and endorsements. Those endorsements have come largely from unions and environmental groups.
Reportedly Griego has received more money from out of state than the other candidates so the money may be coming from the national offices of the groups endorsing him. Griego is said to be the most liberal of the three candidates.
The third candidate is former Albuquerque Mayor Marty Chavez. He's having trouble raising money and has resorted to a type of raffle that might be illegal.
Chavez is the most moderate of the candidates. That worked for him in his non-partisan races for mayor but doesn't work well in Democratic primaries.
Chavez has long been known as an environmentalist. He tried to make Albuquerque the greenest city in the nation. But he also worked hard to develop Albuquerque's West Mesa.
He worked for an environmental organization after leaving the mayor's office. But Griego has picked off major environmentalist endorsements. Chavez and Griego are old political rivals so these next several weeks should be lively.
In contrast, the GOP primary in the 1st Congressional District hasn't generated any excitement. Former state Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones is the last person standing.
Early favorite Dan Lewis withdrew as a result of a poor nominating convention showing and the other candidate was knocked off the ballot because of inadequate signatures.
Arnold-Jones presently has only a $38,000 bank account but she won't need it until the general election. An efficient corporate executive in real life, she says fundraising is the third step in her victory plan.
The first step was to put together a strong organization. The second step was to win over 50 percent of the delegates in a three-person nominating convention race. The surprising accomplishment of that goal grabbed the attention of any doubters. Fundraising should be much easier now.
But Arnold-Jones still will be the underdog once the general election campaign begins. That's a little surprising considering that until 2008 the seat had been held by Republicans ever since its creation. But Democrats held onto the seat during the GOP landslide of 2010 and are expected to make a good showing nationally in 2012.
In the U.S. Senate Republican primary, former U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson has a $1.45 million kitty, most of which she can save for the U.S. Senate general election.
U.S. Rep. Martin Heinrich has $1.55 million but will have to use a big chunk for the Democratic Senate primary contest with state Auditor Hector Balderas.
In the congressional races for districts 2 and 3, incumbents Joe Skeen and Ben Ray Lujan have no primary competition.


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