Pearce Sues State to Use Campaign Cash for Governor Run

Can currently use only $5,500 from congressional campaign funds

Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., argues in a lawsuit that New Mexico's Secretary of State is acting in a partisan manner in limiting how much of his congressional campaign funds can be used in his run for governor. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Republican Rep. Steve Pearce is suing New Mexico’s Democratic Secretary of State to use his $1 million congressional campaign war chest for his gubernatorial bid. 

Maggie Toulouse Oliver told Pearce the state’s campaign contribution limits allow him to use only $5,500 from his federal campaign for his primary race, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.

But Pearce is arguing in his lawsuit that the secretary is acting in a partisan manner and restricting the use of his campaign money was a violation of the First Amendment.

“We are only left to conclude that the secretary of state is bending the rules to benefit candidates from her own party,” Pearce’s campaign said in a statement.

Toulouse Oliver’s predecessor, Republican Brad Winter, said Pearce could use the money only if he abided by the contribution limits.

Pearce said he interpreted this as meaning he could use his congressional campaign cash to run for governor.

But Toulouse Oliver’s office disagreed with the interpretation of the letter, saying Pearce’s committee could make a donation that would be seen as a contribution like any other committee’s donation.

“For Congressman Pearce’s team to now make any claims of partisanship is self-serving, disingenuous and flat-out wrong,” said Deputy Secretary of State John Blair.

Democratic Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who is also running for governor, took only $5,500 from her committee and gave the rest to Democratic Party organizations.

Roll Call/Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the New Mexico governor’s race Lean Democratic.

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