Conservation Voters New Mexico’s Verde Voters Fund is spending more than $26,000 to defeat Democratic incumbent Public Regulation Commissioner Karen Montoya.
The group is criticizing her support of Public Service Company of New Mexico.
Montoya faces Cynthia Hall in the District 1 PRC race, which is based in Albuquerque, in the June 7 primary.
The conservation PAC spent $16,043 on digital ads, $5,231 on cable TV ads and $5,079 on radio ads, according to a report filed with the Secretary of State on May 6.
The ads all oppose Montoya, said Ben Shelton, legislative and political director for CVNM.
“The problem with Karen Montoya is that she has a very, very close relationship with the industry she’s supposed to be regulating,” Shelton said. “She’s been a very, very consistent vote for coal power, for nuclear power.”
The group has endorsed Hall in the Democratic primary. But the ads only address Montoya’s record, Shelton said.
Montoya disputes the allegations in the ads.
“It’s absolutely ridiculous what’s being said,” Montoya said of the ads. “It’s absolutely not correct.”
She noted the irony of an interest group accusing her of being cozy with special interest groups.
“They are a special interest group,” she said of Conservation Voters New Mexico. “I’m running a well-run grassroots campaign, which is publicly financed. I’ve won many races before.”
The PRC race is a bit of a rematch of the 2012 primary contest in which Montoya defeated Hall by 938 votes, as well as a third candidate, former state lawmaker Al Park. Montoya went on to defeat a Republican in the general election in 2012.
In that election, a federal super PAC opposed Park. Hall said she wouldn’t be surprised if she faces similar opposition as the June 7 election nears.
With no Republican on the ballot, the winner of the Democratic primary will essentially win the PRC seat. PRC commissioners are paid $90,000 annually.
Montoya is one of three primary candidates thus far who’ve reserved TV airtime. She’s scheduled to run 26 ads at a cost of $6,195 in the days before the June 7 election, based on a review of FCC filings.
She said she also has other campaign plans, but added, “I’d prefer not to let our opponent know exactly what we’re doing in the weeks ahead.”
Hall has loaned her campaign $36,000 after her request for public funding was denied because of a contribution in excess of campaign limits. Most of her spending thus far has been on printing and consulting. She said she doesn’t plan to air broadcast ads.
“We’re not going to do that,” Hall said. “I don’t have the funding.”
In other contests, Raul Torrez, one of two candidates for Bernalillo County District Attorney, hit the air this week with 72 spots costing $29,515 on four Albuquerque stations.
And Linda Stover, one of two Democrats running for Bernalillo County Clerk, will air 22 ads at a cost of $4,730 in the days before the election.
Hugh Ley, a Democratic candidate for the District 39 Senate seat, also has requested ad rates for several stations, though none have posted contracts for him.
This story is part of New Mexico In Depth’s examination of campaign messages meant to provide New Mexico voters with information about the campaigns, candidates and cash behind those messages during this year’s elections. That includes examining campaign spending and disclosures of television ad buys with the Federal Communications Commission.