Where’s the money coming from?

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By Jay Miller

SANTA FE — The good news for Republican gubernatorial candidate Susana Martinez is that she out-raised her Democratic opponent, Diane Denish, $611,000 to $188,000 last month.

The bad news is that Denish has $2.2 million in the bank and Martinez has $300,000. A big chunk of that was a $250,000 contribution from the National Republican Governors Association. In May, Martinez got $450,000 from Texas developer Robert Perry. Before that, much of her money was coming from oil interests.

Those sources will continue to help Martinez but there is only so much they can do. New Mexico’s economy is not sufficient for Martinez to close her fundraising gap with Denish.

That means Martinez will have to continue hitting up large out-of-state donors. And as she does, her claims of cleaning up Democratic pay-to-play lose some of their impact.

You can bet Denish is not going to give Martinez the rest of the summer to fatten her checkbook. Many were surprised and disappointed to see Denish begin negative ads the day after the primary election

But Denish’s action forced Martinez to immediately start spending down her bank balance in order to fire back. Martinez still has momentum remaining from her impressive primary election victory but she may be hard pressed to keep it while spending large amounts of her time on the phone raising money.

Reports indicate that Martinez is getting on conservative national talk radio shows where she can energize the faithful. That can help but to keep them, she will have to remain as conservative as she was during the primary.

Steve Pearce tried that against Democratic Sen. Jeff Bingaman two years ago and lost badly. Republicans and Democrats both tend to run toward the middle in general elections in order to appeal to a wider segment of voters.

Blogger Joe Monahan speculates that Martinez may have to cede the TV field to Denish for awhile to build up money for the fall. If she has to do that, Denish can go positive during that period and perhaps pick up some of the support lost because of going negative so quickly.

The National Republican Governors Association will continue its financial support of Martinez to the extent it can. New Mexico is a target because winning the gubernatorial race is the only way to prevent Democrats from controlling the redistricting of our state Legislature and Congress.

Continued financial support from Rob Perry over in Texas will come with another cost to Martinez. With the revelation she was born in Texas and is getting significant money from there, some New Mexico prejudices may come into play.

Some hard feelings about Texas have continued ever since our neighbor to the east twice invaded us unsuccessfully and then used its power in Congress to grab over a half million acres along our shared border.

The Associated Press ran a national story in March, which said that New Mexico is one of the states that will pick up another congressional seat from the 2010 reapportionment.

That is not true. Our neighbors will pick up some seats but there is no more time for Arizona to send us enough of its illegal immigrants to affect the census count.

One place Martinez won’t get any financial help is from prominent Republican attorney Turner Branch of Albuquerque. Branch was state liquor director during Republican Dave Cargo’s administration.

Since then Branch has become an extremely successful trial lawyer and a big donor to both Republicans and Democrats. Branch was a major supporter of Allen Weh in the GOP gubernatorial primary. Branch and Weh served together in the Marines.

But Branch said he can’t support Martinez and will support Denish. He said over the past 40 years, he has given more to Republicans than Democrats. Some Republicans report that hasn’t been the case recently.

The Martinez and Weh camps don’t appear to have healed many rifts since the primary election.

Jay Miller is a syndicated columnist. E-mail him at insidethecapitol@hotmail.com.