A progressive political action committee and the nonprofit that started it spent about $3,100 to influence the Las Cruces municipal election earlier this month.
The money went to ProgressNow NM PAC’s efforts to help Kasandra Gandara and Jack Eakman win seats on the city council. They won by narrow margins and have been sworn in. A recount of both races is being held Wednesday.
ProgressNow NM PAC’s spending may be the only money from an independent group that helped progressive-backed candidates in Las Cruces’ Nov. 3 election. No other group backing those candidates has registered or filed a finance report with the City Clerk’s Office, and NMPolitics.net has learned of no other spending by independent groups to aid them.
Meanwhile, independent groups spent a great deal of money in an unsuccessful attempt to elect the progressive-backed candidates’ opponents — Richard Hall in the District 4 council race that Eakman won, Eli Guzman in the District 1 race Gandara won, and Miguel Silva, who Ken Miyagishima easily defeated to win a third term as Las Cruces’ mayor.
We won’t know how much was spent until the next finance reports are due in early December. But as of Oct. 19 — about two weeks before the election — independent groups had already spent big in support of Silva, Hall and Guzman:
- GOAL WestPAC had spent $22,509.38 and had almost $60,000 left to spend. It worked to elect Silva, Hall and Guzman.
- The National Association of Realtors Fund had spent $14,383.91 to help Silva.
- Advance Las Cruces spent money to help elect Silva. It reported no spending on its first finance report but NMPolitics.net is aware of at least one mailer the group sent after its Oct. 19 report attacking Miyagishima and praising Silva.
Miyagishima, meanwhile, appears to have won without any financial support from independent groups and despite a barrage of negative attacks from GOAL West and others. He largely self-financed his re-election bid.
Lucas Herndon, Las Cruces organizer for ProgressNow NM, said all the PAC’s fundraising and spending related to the election is included in the report it filed Nov. 4.
Explaning PAC’s fundraising, spending
ProgressNow’s PAC sent one mailer attacking Guzman and praising Gandara. The PAC also made phone calls and bought Facebook ads in support of Gandara and Eakman and set up a website.
The PAC had three sources of funding that added up to $3,111.94, according to its finance report:
- Forty-four New Mexicans — some Las Crucens, others from as far away as Santa Fe and Los Alamos — gave a combined $1,464.90 to the PAC. That included five donations of $100 apiece.
- ProgressNow’s other PAC — called Better NM PAC — gave ProgressNow NM PAC $400. Better NM PAC focuses on state races, while ProgressNow NM PAC was set up specifically for the Las Cruces election.
- The nonprofit that started both PACs — ProgressNow NM, a 501(c)(4), donated $1,247.04 in “staff support” to the Las Cruces PAC for work related to the city election. Herndon, the group’s Las Cruces organizer, is employed by the nonprofit.