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Sparks Fly in Big-Dollar Shootout For New Mexico House Seat

The candidates—both with long careers in the oil and gas industry—are locked in a fierce, tight contest

By Elizabeth McGowan

Oct 27, 2010

“Can New Mexico really afford higher electric rates? Or $4 a gallon gas? Or lose thousands of jobs?” an announcer asks during the television spot. “We'll have to if Congressman Harry Teague gets his way. Teague was instrumental in passing Nancy Pelosi's new job-killing energy tax. Teague's vote would cost thousands of New Mexico jobs. We've been hurt enough. Tell Harry Teague, ‘Stop siding with Nancy Pelosi and costing New Mexico jobs.’”

Teague isn’t alone in being portrayed as a Pelosi “henchman.” The Chamber of Commerce has also spent millions slamming other House members who voted to pass the bill co-authored by Reps. Henry Waxman of California and Ed Markey of Massachusetts. Other Democrats also involved in nail-biter races who are on the attack list include Reps. Paul Hodes of New Hampshire and Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania, who are both vying for Senate seats, and Reps. Betsy Markey of Colorado and Alan Grayson of Florida, who are being challenged for their House seats.

Back in September, the conservative advocacy group Americans for Job Security also echoed Pearce’s campaign strategy by airing an ad whacking Teague for spearheading the effort to cap greenhouse gas emissions and offer incentives for the development of carbon-neutral energy. The ad claimed a cap-and-trade system would boost household electricity rates by up to $600 annually, raise gasoline prices by $1.35 a gallon and eliminate 12,000 jobs in New Mexico at a time when “the economy is in a tailspin.”

Figures from the Sunlight Foundation indicate the conservative organization spent upward of $54,500 on the ad.

Nonprofit Shines a Spotlight on Expenditures

In compiling campaign spending numbers for the Teague and Pearce campaigns, the Sunlight Foundation refers to money spent by the Chamber of Commerce and Americans for Job Security as “electioneering communications.” Thus far, the two groups have spent a total of $491,525 on anti-Teague efforts.

That total for “electioneering communications” is counted separately from other money the Sunlight Foundation is tracking in the Teague campaign. Those other two tallies include $62,188.94 in independent expenditures supporting the Democrat and $549,773.46 in independent expenditures opposing him. Not surprisingly, all of the money making up that latter figure came from the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Over on the Pearce side, the Sunlight Foundation had no records of any “electioneering communications.” Pearce’s total for independent expenditures supporting the Republican rang in at $33,907.16. Independent expenditures opposing him added up to $1,428,116.50. Besides the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund, other anti-Pearce funds came in the form of $478,225.79 from the , $115,000 from a group called Accountability 2010 and another $35,700 from .

Democratic Campaign Committee Cutting Cash Flow to Teague?

Mid-October reports from various media outlets in New Mexico indicated that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has recently reversed course by cutting back on the amount of money for ads it previously planned on buying to support Teague.

Despite the change, the committee chairman said the organization is still backing Teague 100 percent. Elected in 2008, Teague is the first Democrat to occupy the 2nd Congressional District seat in more than two decades.

“The DCCC regularly makes adjustments based on the level of outside group activity in the state,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland said in a prepared statement. “Based on our assessment on the level of TV advertising in the district, Harry Teague is in a strong position. We are fully invested in Harry Teague’s voter contact efforts and remain confident he will win on election night.”

As expected, the Pearce campaign had a different spin on the juggling of Democratic dollars.

“The DCCC is realizing what we knew all along,” spokesman Jason Heffley said. “Voters do not want the Teague-Pelosi agenda of out-of-control spending and lost jobs.”

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