Published in the Santa Fe New Mexican

One of the state’s largest environmental advocacy groups on Wednesday endorsed U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham in the Democratic primary for governor, signaling that a major donor is picking a favorite early in the four-way race.

With the primary election about nine months away, the Conservation Voters New Mexico Action Fund said it was wading into the race so it could ensure its issues are “up front and center for Rep. Lujan Grisham’s winning campaign.”

Three other Democrats are seeking the party’s nomination to succeed Republican Gov. Susana Martinez when her second term ends next year: businessman Jeff Apodaca, state Sen. Joseph Cervantes and alcohol abuse prevention advocate Peter DeBenedittis.

The League of Conservation Voters, the group’s national affiliate, has given Lujan Grisham a score of 89 out of 100 for her votes on environmental issues since joining Congress in 2013. She scored 100 percent in 2016 and a low of 80 percent in 2015, cutting against the group on grazing on public lands and banning crude oil exports.

Environmental issues could be one issue where Lujan Grisham contrasts most sharply with the only Republican to jump into the gubernatorial race so far, U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce. The league gave him a score of zero last year.

A spokesman for the group said it spent more than $118,000 in the 2010 election and that an associated political action committee, Verde Voters, spent nearly $411,000 in the 2014 election.