Feb. 13, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Marty Chavez Lags, Mud Flies in 3-Way New Mexico Primary

Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Former Albuquerque Mayor Marty Chavez was one of the expected frontrunners in New Mexico’s 1st district Democratic primary, but he trails heading into Tuesday’s contest.

“Eric Griego has taken full responsibility for his traffic tickets,” Griego campaign manager Ed Yoon said. “But in light of her personal attacks, we think it’s time voters heard the truth about her record when she was in charge of New Mexico nursing homes.”

It was always assumed that the frontrunners heading into the homestretch would be Chavez and Griego. But Lujan Grisham, who was endorsed by EMILY’s List, hit the airwaves first with an ad highlighting her work on behalf of seniors, followed soon after by Griego, who has the support of national liberal organizations and labor unions.

“We made a conscientious decision to be the first on TV, and we were,” Lujan Grisham spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said. “And I think we stayed a step ahead throughout.”

Despite plenty of earned media for his clever ads, Chavez, who is backed by President Bill Clinton and is seen as the most moderate of the three, didn’t spend big on TV until this week. An ad running now features Chavez getting punched in the gut by a professional boxer in the corner of a boxing ring.

The Chavez campaign said its plan all along was to come in with a late media push. But he’s trailing his opponents, and the question remains whether the campaign should have been on the air to combat negative headlines about his relationship with Loretta Mares, a former city contractor charged with fraud.

However, Chavez is not the target of negative ads in the final week, a development his campaign does not mind.

“Voters are really learning about the records of our opponents right now, and that’s important,” Chavez campaign manager Alan Packman said. “Marty’s record is an open book. Anything that’s good or bad that you want to say about Marty has been said. People are just learning about Eric Griego and Michelle Lujan Grisham now.”

Griego has raised $851,000 for the campaign, about $200,000 more than his two opponents. But he ended the pre-primary fundraising period on May 16 with just $87,000 on hand. Lujan Grisham had $122,000 left to spend and Chavez had $168,000 still stashed away for his late push.

Monahan said the campaign is finishing in a negative phase, and the only surprising result would be if Chavez overcame his lag in the polls.

“You know this is the pivotal moment,” Monahan said. “You just don’t know which way for sure it’s going to turn out.”

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