Sometimes doing it yourself is the best way

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By Jay Miller

SANTA FE — A new trend has emerged in political campaign financing. It’s called doing it yourself. Digging into your own pocket. Needless to say, it helps if those pockets are deep.

A basic rule of politics is that if you can’t raise money, you won’t be any good at rounding up votes either. But in an era when the rich are getting richer, many candidates are finding it possible to dig deep enough to find sufficient money for a victory.

Former Gov. Gary Johnson started it in New Mexico. He turned a handyman business into lucrative construction contracts, mostly at Intel in Rio Rancho, and made millions. That got boring so he decided to use some of that money to run for governor.

Johnson wasn’t a great campaigner. He didn’t care for large crowds where he was expected to shake every hand and remember nearly everyone’s name.

His opponent, Gov. Bruce King , was the master at that. King was one of the biggest landholder’s in the state and could have personally financed his many campaigns, but I feel supremely confident guessing that he never spent a penny of his own money on a campaign.

Many factors entered that gubernatorial campaign of 1994 but it was in part a test of whether a guy who didn’t like raising campaign funds and who didn’t like retail campaigning, could buy enough television ads to beat a popular incumbent.

It worked. Of course, the ads had to hit the right issues, be well produced and part of a well conceived campaign strategy. Johnson’s campaign manager Doug Turner took care of that.

Sixteen years later that same Doug Turner is trying the strategy himself, loaning his campaign around $400,000 so far. But this time, he has company. Other GOP gubernatorial candidates are digging in their pockets too.

Candidate Allen Weh has laid out some $750,000 of money he pulled in from government defense contracts. He is currently leading the TV race. Candidates Pete Domenici, Jr. and Janice Arnold-Jones have made about $70,000 and $54,000 in loans to their campaigns.

The only GOP gubernatorial candidate depending solely on raising funds from others is Dona Ana County District Attorney Susana Martinez. She notes that if personal loans from her opponents are discounted, she is the top fundraiser among Republicans.

Will that make a difference? If old-style politics still has any validity, maybe it does. It means that Martinez has gotten out there and touched a lot more lives than her opponents.

In the GOP lieutenant governor race, roofer John Sanchez, the Republican gubernatorial nominee in 2002, has personally contributed $274,000 of his $279.000 war chest.

This is a guy who cultivated supporters throughout the state eight years ago and has chosen not to use those contacts for fund raising purposes this time.

Candidates who have to rely on raising all their own campaign funds complain about the amount of time fund raising takes away from making other campaign contacts. Sanchez doesn’t have to worry about that.

Early in the campaign GOP lieutenant governor candidate Brian Moore, of Clayton, put $100,000 into his campaign, thereby serving notice that he is in the race to win. Moore is a former state representative and is expected to do well in rural New Mexico.

On the Democratic side of the ledger, Lawrence Rael is reported to have put $105,000 into his campaign. He is considered to be the principal challenger to former state Democratic Chairman Brian Colón, who has raised the most money so far.

Colón’s lead in money raising is somewhat to be expected since he is the former state Democratic chairman and hit up the big money donors for contributions to the state party during those years.

   Rael made his name by getting the Rail Runner commuter train up and going in record time.

The champions at self financing campaigns are U.S. Rep. Harry Teague and former Rep. Steve Pearce. Both wealthy from the oil business, they are capable of contributing whatever is necessary to win.

E-mail Jay Miller at insidethecapitol@hotmail.com