Rep. Ben Ray Luján has pledged not to take corporate PAC money for his campaign to represent New Mexico in the US Senate.

Luján, a Democrat running to replace fellow Dem Sen. Tom Udall after Udall announced that he would not run for reelection, made his money promise in an op-ed published on the New Mexico Political Report website on Friday morning.

"This decision is at the core of the kind of campaign I'm running," Luján wrote. "A campaign run on New Mexican values that is built by the people, not corporations."

Luján, who formerly had a big fundraising role as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, had sharp words for those who take money from political action committees, using a recent example of deregulation that favors corporations at the expense of workers to make his point.

That and he played the family card.

The Trump administration rolled back worker protections related to beryllium, a known carcinogen. Luján's father, Ben Luján, longtime Speaker of the New Mexico House of Representatives, died of lung cancer in 2012, and doctors blamed exposure to chemicals like beryllium for his condition.

"Watching House Republicans vote against the health and safety needs of people like my father in order to placate special interests left me sick," Luján wrote in his op-ed.

Ben Luján died of lung cancer in 2012, and Ben Ray Luján said that chemical exposure was the cause.
Ben Luján died of lung cancer in 2012, and Ben Ray Luján said that chemical exposure was the cause. | Alexa Schirtzinger

The move comes in the wake of a new, more left-leaning wing of the Democratic party that eschews corporate donations for higher quantities of small donations. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, two members of Congress who identify as democratic socialists, have developed large donor bases from thousands of small-dollar donors. As of the last reporting date, Sanders, who is currently running for president, has brought in $18.2 million from 525,000 donors since he announced his campaign in February.

Candidates for national office must report their fundraising to the Federal Election Commission monthly and quarterly.

Luján joins competing Democrat and New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver in rejecting PAC money.

"In order to ensure that you always know that I am standing with you—and not with big money and corporations—I make you this promise: My campaign will not take money from corporate PACs," Toulouse Oliver said in a speech to the Democratic Party of New Mexico State Central Committee on April 28. "That means no money from oil and gas; big tobacco; the big pharmaceutical companies that are getting rich off the opioids that are killing New Mexicans; or the gun companies that are making a profit off devastating loss of life in America. I am not now nor will I ever be beholden to anyone except the people of the state of New Mexico."

A press release from Toulouse Oliver's campaign responding to Luján's announcement also listed corporate money that Luján had received prior to his announcement. The total raised from corporate donors totaled $188,000 between Jan. 1 and March 31, much of it from pharmaceutical, telecoms and insurance companies. SFR confirmed their numbers with FEC data.

"Maggie made this pledge several weeks ago," Toulouse Oliver's campaign manager, Heather Brewer, tells SFR. "We're definitely excited to see the congressman follow her lead."

Another candidate in the race, Republican Gavin Clarkson, took a different approach.

"No," Clarkson tells SFR through a spokesman when asked if he would make a similar pledge. "This is a typical base-pandering political stunt that media falls for all the time. Will [Ben Ray Luján] reject all contributions from lobbyists and members of the abortion industry? What about personal donations from middle management and up from corporations that have PACs?"

Candidates are already lining up to fill Luján's seat since he announced he will run for Senate.