Overlooked congressional candidate leads fundraising

2017-10-17 | The Santa Fe New Mexican

Oct. 17--A longtime law professor with less name recognition than some of her opponents in the crowded field of candidates vying for the Albuquerque-based congressional seat continues to lead the pack in fundraising.

Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, who taught at The University of New Mexico for nearly 28 years before becoming executive director of an anti-domestic violence agency, raised nearly $129,000 in the July through September reporting period. That brought her total to more than $330,000. Her campaign has nearly $240,000 in the bank.

"We're actually overwhelmed with the amount of support we've received," Sedillo Lopez said Monday of her campaign in the 1st District to succeed Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who is running for governor.

In the race for New Mexico's 2nd Congressional District, former Hobbs Mayor Monty Newman dwarfed the competition in fundraising. Newman, a former chairman of the New Mexico Republican Party, collected nearly $317,000 in campaign contributions since he joined the race to succeed Rep. Steve Pearce, who is also running for governor, six weeks ago.

"It is imperative we keep our 2nd District represented by a Republican to protect our values and fight for policies that will create jobs," Newman said in a statement. "I entered this race because I am confident I am the best advocate for our shared values and I can raise the necessary resources to ensure success."

The race in the 1st District drew eight Democrats and two Republicans. But one of the Republicans, immigration lawyer Michael Hendricks, announced Monday he would run for state attorney general instead, a decision assailed by the Democratic Party of New Mexico.

"It's concerning that the Republican Party would run a candidate with no criminal prosecution or fraud investigations experience," party Vice Chair Neomi Martinez-Parra said in a statement.

Hendricks said he expected the Democratic Party to criticize his decision.

"I know they'll come at me with everything that they have because they thought they had a secure seat," he said.

While Hendricks acknowledged he doesn't have criminal prosecution or fraud investigations experience, he said he is still qualified to be state attorney general.

"Although the AG does do fraud prosecution and criminal prosecution, the job of an AG is to make sure that the law of the land is being followed, to make sure that that is put into effect," he said. "In essence, it is not specifically a legal job as much as it is management."

The lone Republican now running for Lujan Grisham's seat, former state Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones, has raised $12,303 total, far less than some of her Democratic rivals.

Debra Haaland, a former state Democratic Party chairwoman and unsuccessful lieutenant governor candidate in 2014, has raised $262,000, including just over $110,000 in the third quarter. She has about $162,300 cash on hand.

Former U.S. Attorney Damon Martinez reported $211,000 in contributions in the third quarter. That's more than any other candidate in the race, though his fundraising total includes a $50,000 personal loan.

"He announced [his candidacy] on the first day of the quarter so he got the low hanging fruit," said Mario Semiglia, deputy campaign manager for another Democratic contender, Albuquerque City Councilor Pat Davis.

"That first quarter out, you're asking everyone," Semiglia added. "You're asking your mom, your dad, every uncle, every tia or prima that you have."

Davis has raised $138,550 in total, including nearly $70,000 in the third quarter.

"We're going to have the resources we need to effectively communicate and execute our campaign plan," Semiglia said. "The people [Davis is] calling aren't the people that are going to necessarily be the ones to write $5,000 checks. They're working 9 to 5, working 40 hours a week, and can give us $50, $25, 100 bucks at a time."

Sedillo Lopez said her campaign has received money from more than 1,600 donors.

"I've never held elected office, so money is very important to helping me get the word out about who I am and what I stand for," said Sedillo Lopez, who ran unsuccessfully for Valencia County treasurer at age 19. "But my grassroots support is also very meaningful to me because once people invest in my campaign, whether it's $5, whether it's $100, it translates into support, and I think that's very important."

Her campaign manager, Jason Rodriguez, said Sedillo Lopez has a long track record of social and economic justice that donors remember.

"She was traveling to the state Capitol over 20 years ago to be an expert witness advocating for domestic partnerships," he said. "She was writing about protecting reproductive rights in the late '80s when it wasn't even a part of the Democratic Party's litmus test, being pro-choice. This has been her calling. People remember her track record, her involvement on issues in this community."

Contact Daniel J. Chacón at (505) 986-3089 or dchacon@sfnewmexican.com. Follow him on Twitter @danieljchacon.