House hopeful makes six-figure contribution to own campaign

campaingPosted: Monday, May 12, 2014 8:45 pm | Updated: 10:48 pm, Mon May 12, 2014.

“Because I have such a belief in the area, I’ve got skin in the game,” he said Monday in a telephone interview.

Clawson was a Republican until last fall. He said he switched to the Democratic Party because it was “more in line with where I was politically.” For instance, he says, he supports the Affordable Care Act that was favored by President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress.

Clawson is one of four candidates competing for the Democratic nomination in House District 9, which includes parts of McKinley and San Juan counties. Clawson, 38, the married father of five, has nearly three times as much money as all the other candidates combined.

He said he resigned from his job as a deputy director of the city of Gallup’s utilities division to campaign full time so he could unseat Lundstrom. He said he had other sources of income, such as dividends from investments, allowing him to quit working.

Seven appears to be Clawson’s favorite number. He listed $77,777.77 in personal campaign loans in the last two weeks.

Clawson previously loaned another $31,500 to his campaign. He reported using other contributions to offset $5,000 of his personal loans.

Lundstrom on Monday reported raising a total of $36,267, none of it her own money. A state representative for 14 years, Lundstrom said she was “very, very surprised” that Clawson had made a six-figure donation to his campaign. She said she had never seen that level of spending in a legislative race in her district, which includes parts of the Navajo Nation.

The other two candidates running in the District 9 Democratic primary are Yolanda Ahasteen-Azua and Jordon Johnson. Johnson reported that he had $1,885 for his campaign. Ahasteen-Azua listed no campaign money at all.

No Republicans are running in the district, so the winner of the Democratic primary will take office.

Lundstrom said that among her challengers, Clawson alone had engaged in a negative campaign. She began on the defensive after an audio recording surfaced in which she said she would cut off funding for a Navajo veterans group if it didn’t support her.

In an interview Monday, Lundstrom said the recording was doctored to alter the context of her comments and make her look bad. “The last part of the tape was completely cut out,” she said.

But Clawson said her explanation did not add up. He said that, even if Lundstrom’s claim that the recording was purposely abbreviated were true, she still appeared to threaten funding cuts of organizations that did not support her.

The House race between Clawson and Lundstrom will be one of a handful that will be closely watched by people across the state. No state Senate seats are in play this year.

Democrats control the House of Representatives 37-33. Republicans, though, say they have a chance to take the majority for the first time since 1953-54.

Democrats hope to hold the House by defeating Republican Rep. Kelly Fajardo of Belen and a handful of other GOP incumbents.

Fajardo skipped a vote last winter on a proposal to raise New Mexico’s minimum wage, inaction that has made her an even bigger target in this year’s general election.

Two Democrats, Teresa Smith de Cherif and Andrew Barreras, are competing in the primary for the chance to run against Fajardo in the fall.

Fajardo is completing her first term in House District 7 in Valencia County. She was one of four Republicans and one Democrat who skipped the minimum-wage vote. House Speaker Kenny Martinez, D-Grants, publicly criticized the lawmakers who refused to vote, saying they were wrong to sit on the sidelines.

The proposed constitutional amendment to raise the minimum wage failed in the House on a 33-29 vote. Thirty-six “yes” votes were needed for it to advance to the general election ballot.

As a political newcomer in 2012, Fajardo defeated Barreras by less than 1 percentage point. Democrats saw her as vulnerable even before she avoided the vote on the minimum wage.

Barreras, a former two-term state representative, has lost the last two general elections for the seat that Fajardo now holds.

Court records show that, in between those races in 2010 and 2012, Barreras filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Barreras, of Tomé, is a businessman.

Smith de Cherif is a physician from Belen. She has served for five years on the board of the Valencia Soil and Water Conservation District.

Another primary of note involves Democratic Rep. Nick Salazar of Ohkay Owingeh, a member of the House for 42 years. He faces an aggressive primary challenge from Bengie Regensberg, a former House member, who is criticizing Salazar as ineffective.

Salazar is one of the longest-serving state legislators in America. He represents District 40, which stretches to the Colorado border. The winner of the race between Salazar and Regensberg will run against Republican James R. Gallegos of Cimarron.

No Republicans are running in House District 5 in the Four Corners area, but that race is significant because the Democratic incumbent has been thrown off the primary ballot.

Rep. Sandra Jeff failed to file the 78 valid signatures required to qualify for the primary. A state district judge removed Jeff from the ballot last month and the New Mexico Supreme Court affirmed that decision.

Jeff, who lists her residence as Crownpoint, says she will run as a write-in candidate in the fall. On numerous occasions, Jeff has voted with Republicans on important bills, such as the state budget. And, like Fajardo, Jeff skipped the vote to increase the minimum wage.

Rep. Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, said he worked hard this year to make sure candidates in his party had no deficiencies with their nominating petitions. Gentry said the irony was that Jeff, a Democrat who was friendly to Republicans, then stumbled.

With Jeff off the ballot, Democrats voting in the District 5 primary will nominate either Doreen W. Johnson of Church Rock or Charles Long of Crownpoint.

Contact Milan Simonich at 986-3080 or msimonich@sfnewmexican.com. Follow his Ringside Seat column and blog at santafenewmexican.com.

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