PACs spend on NM House District 4 candidates

Hannah Grover

FARMINGTON — The New Mexico House District 4 race has become a focus for Democrats and Republicans as the parties fight for control of the state House of Representatives in the 2016 general election.

Incumbent state Rep. Sharon Clahchischilliage is trying to reclaim her District 4 seat by fending off a challenge from Democrat GloJean Todacheene.

That focus is reflected in the money raised by two candidates who want to represent the district. The first campaign finance reports for the general election were due Monday.

The candidates for District 4 — incumbent Rep. Sharon Clahchischilliage, R-Kirtland, and Democratic challenger GloJean Todacheene — have raised more while campaigning for the general elections than other local legislative candidates in this area.

Felicia Salazar, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Party of New Mexico, said the seat — which represents Shiprock and Kirtland — is needed for the Democrats to win the majority in the New Mexico House of Representatives, which is currently controlled by Republicans.

The House currently has 37 Republican and 32 Democratic representatives with one seat vacant.

"The balance of the New Mexico state house is at risk this election," Salazar said.

That sentiment was echoed by Tucker Keene, spokesman for the Republican Party of New Mexico.

"It's very important that we maintain our house majority," he said.

Clahchischilliage reported a balance of nearly $73,600 in her campaign coffer, which included a carry over from the primaries of a little more than $58,350. For the most recent reporting period, which started July 3 and ended Sept. 5, she detailed nearly $23,900 in contributions with expenditures of nearly $8,700.

Todacheene reported a balance of nearly $39,400, with a carry over of nearly $29,700. In the most recent reporting period, she raised a little more than $20,800 and spent a little more than $11,100.

Democrat GloJean Todacheene is hoping to unseat incumbent Sharon Clahchischilliage in the race for the District 4 seat in the state House of Representatives, and both candidates are raising relatively large amounts of money.

The reports show that Clahchischilliage outpaced Todacheene in contributions from political action committees.

Clahchischilliage received nearly $12,730 from PACs, with the largest contribution — $4,325 — coming from the Don Tripp Speaker PAC, which was created by New Mexico Speaker of the House Don Tripp, a Socorro Republican.

Tripp said he has been impressed with Clahchischilliage while serving as speaker.

"She's just been a real quality legislator," he said.

Todacheene received $8,700 from PACs, with the largest contribution — $5,400 — coming from the Emily's List Federal Fund in Washington, D.C.

On its website, the group states that it hopes to pick up "three seats to flip the New Mexico state House from red to blue."

Flipping the house from "red to blue" is part of the political action committee's "Focus 2020" project, which aims to elect pro-choice Democratic women as governors and state legislators this year and during the 2018 and 2020 elections.

Clahchischilliage received at least $4,750 from oil and gas interests, including $1,000 from Process Equipment & Service Co., $1,500 from Basin Well Logging Wireline Service, $1,000 from ConocoPhillips Co. and $1,000 from Peyton Yates, an oilman from Artesia.

Clahchischilliage also reported nearly $3,000 in in-kind contributions, including $1,769 from the Affordable Energy PAC. That PAC was created by three Republican representatives including James Strickler and Rod Montoya from Farmington.

Todacheene collected numerous contributions — totaling $3,750 — from current and former Democratic politicians, the largest of which was $1,500 from "Debbie Armstrong for New Mexico." Armstrong is a state representative from Albuquerque. Todacheene also received $250 from Jeff Bingaman, a former U.S. senator who represented New Mexico, and $250 from Jerry Sandel, a former state senator from Farmington.

Todacheene also received two contributions totaling $1,250 from unions.

When it comes to expenditures, both candidates spent most of their money on food and events for donors, supporters and campaign workers.

In other expenses, Todacheene spent nearly $2,755 on signs and stickers, while Clahchischilliage spent $1,719 on T-shirts. Clahchischillage spent $1,211 paying for cellphone and data charges, while Todacheene spent $1,257 to pay for vehicle mileage.

Todacheene also spent nearly $1,129 on campaign literature, in English and in Navajo, and $1,000 for a parade float entry in the Northern Navajo Nation Fair that will be held in Shiprock in October.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.