Gubernatorial candidates launch dueling attack ads

October 13, 2018

The homestretch will indeed be heated.

New Mexico’s gubernatorial candidates made that clear Friday in releasing dueling new attack ads, with Steve Pearce blasting his Democratic opponent’s “history of failure” in state government and Michelle Lujan Grisham for the first time linking her Republican rival to the “lying” president he supported in 2016.

Punch, counterpunch: Expect a lot more where that came from.

Pearce’s ad, distributed early Friday, amplifies his argument that Lujan Grisham’s track record marks her as untrustworthy, centering his latest salvo on Lujan Grisham’s stints working at the state level, where she served as both the head of the state’s Agency on Aging — which was later elevated to a Cabinet-level department — and as secretary of the Department of Health.

The ad claims Lujan Grisham “failed miserably” in the latter post, “quitting in disgrace.” A review of news articles from the time of her 2007 resignation shows she left to explore running for office and was praised upon her exit by a spokesman for then-Gov. Bill Richardson; she finished third in the Democratic primary for the Albuquerque-area congressional seat the next year.

The 2007 stories describe Lujan Grisham’s management style at the health agency as having led to some internal difficulties. “When you bring about accountability … people can find that a difficult work environment,” Lujan Grisham told a reporter at the time.

The Pearce ad also references the case of an Albuquerque nursing home that was allowed to “operate without a license,” the ad states, citing a 1997 column in the Albuquerque Journal that delved into a dispute between Lujan Grisham and the state’s long-term care ombudsman in which the ombudsman accused Lujan Grisham of trying to stifle his complaints about the home.

Lujan Grisham cracked back with a new ad of her own Friday afternoon, seeking to rebut Pearce’s claims in previous ads and likening him to President Donald Trump.

The narrator in the Lujan Grisham ad mockingly intones that Pearce’s previous attack ads, about her work with the state and in owning a company that helped manage the state’s high-risk health insurance pool, “look credible, don’t they?”

Seeking to rebut a Pearce claim about her “incompetent and negligent management” at a Grant County medical center, the Lujan Grisham ad cites a U.S. Department of Justice memo about its investigation into the medical center in which Lujan Grisham was complimented for her assistance.

“The report wasn’t talking about Michelle,” the narrator states.

Lujan Grisham on the campaign trail has vigorously criticized the Trump administration, in particular what she has called the “racist” policy of separating families arriving at the southern border.

But the campaign ad Friday was the first time she publicly referenced the president, whose job approval rating in New Mexico is less than 40 percent, in relation to Pearce.

The ad, citing the political analysis site FiveThirtyEight, states Pearce votes “90 percent with Donald Trump.

“But just because Donald Trump gets away with lying — don’t let Steve Pearce do it too,” the ad states.

Pearce has sounded an ambivalent note when asked about Trump during the general election.

“To me, they’re kind of irrelevant,” he said in a recent interview, referring to Trump and recent past presidents. “None of them have been central to my campaigns.”

The candidates will meet for the second of three televised debates Tuesday. The debate will air on KOB-TV.

The final head-to-head confrontation will air Oct. 24.

Early voting has begun at county clerks’ offices. Election Day is Nov. 6.

Update hourly