The campaign to unseat longtime state Sen. Phil Griego, D-Los Alamos, is heating up with allegations that Griego used campaign contributions for illegitimate purposes—NFL tickets, golf, personal credit card bills and new tires for his car. In 2010, Griego didn't even have an opponent—yet according to challenger (and former Santa Fe County Commissioner) Jack Sullivan, he raked in and then spent tens of thousands of dollars.
On April 27, Sullivan filed a complaint with the New Mexico Secretary of State's office requesting a ruling on Griego's expenditures, but as of press time, the issue had not yet been resolved.
"The public has every reason to know why Bronco tickets are 'constituent events' or why a citizen legislator spends…83K in a two year period when no election is taking place," Sullivan campaign manager Neri Holguin writes in an email to SFR. "[Griego is] spending his campaign account as his personal piggybank and he can't explain it." Griego did not return calls for comment, but writes in a letter to the Secretary of State's office that "our campaign contributions and expenditures are aboveboard," adding that he is "reviewing the complaint" and intends to respond "as soon as possible."
That race aside, campaign finance reports filed May 14 show that even candidates who are so far unopposed (minor party candidates have until June 26 to file) are raking in—and spending—big bucks. State Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, has raised a total of $77,350 and spent more than $35,000 this election cycle, despite having neither a primary nor general election opponent. Compare that with the NM House Dist. 50 race, where four candidates—two Democrats and two Republicans—have raised a total of $10,770 and spent just under $6,000 to campaign in one of the state's largest and most diverse districts. Unopposed incumbent Public Education Commissioner Jeff Carr (Dist. 10) also offers a model of low-budget campaigns, spending just $617.55 on his 2012 reelection bid.
Here, see a selection of how unopposed candidates are spending their money.