A conservative political committee tied to state GOP leaders has given cash to three House Democrats’ primary challengers – and House Democratic leaders aren’t happy about it.
The New Mexico Independent is reporting that the PAC, called New Mexico Turn Around, gave $4,000 each to primary challengers of Reps. Eleanor Chavez, D-Albuquerque, Miguel Garcia, D-Albuquerque, and Richard Vigil, D-Ribera.
One of the PAC’s board members is Ryan Cangiolosi, executive director of the state GOP. Harvey Yates, the party’s chairman, was on the PAC’s board when it was founded.
Chavez was among the Democrats who criticized her primary opponent, Matthew Archuleta, for taking the money.
“I don’t understand how any Democrat can take money from the Republican Party,” Chavez said in a Friday statement. “I’m amazed that my opponent is financing his appeal to Democratic voters with thousands of dollars from the Republican Party chairman. What does this say about his values and the sincerity of his message?”
The Chavez campaign also released statements from House Speaker Ben Lujan, Majority Leader Ken Martinez, Rep. Mimi Stewart and Rep. Kiki Saavedra condemning Archuleta’s acceptance of the contribution.
Lujan said any Democrat who took money from the PAC should donate it to charity. And Martinez called the acceptance of the contributions “disappointing.”
“This is a Democratic primary race, and as Democrats, we stand for very different things than Republicans,” Martinez said. “I think it is improper for a Republican PAC to insert itself in a Democratic primary race, and even more disappointing that a Democratic candidate would take those funds and use them in a negative campaign against a fellow Democrat.”
Update, 12:10 p.m.
Garth Simms, who heads the board for New Mexico Turn Around, said the PAC’s board and funders are a mix of Democrats, Republicans and independents. The focus is on making New Mexico friendlier for small businesses, he said.
The PAC has been around for about a decade – long before Cangiolosi and Yates held their positions in the state GOP – and it has backed Democratic challengers in primary races in the past.
Simms said the hope is to help candidates who are more conservative on business issues.
“Our focus is just to get the Democrat Party representation mainly a little back more toward the center instead of just being controlled by the progressive wing of the party,” Simms said. “That’s where we’re coming from. There’s nothing nefarious about it.”
A prior version of this posting incorrectly stated that Cangiolosi is the PAC’s executive director.