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Cash flow to DA candidates indicates heated race


This article was updated with a response from one of the candidates.

One candidate collected thousands as a salaried employee of Doña Ana County. Another has been getting her contributions from donors in Santa Fe and Albuquerque. A third is taking out loans. 

As the race to be southern New Mexico’s top prosecutor heats up, so do donations. Voters – especially those with money to donate to political causes – are watching the race for 3rd judicial district attorney closely as Las Cruces and New Mexico grapple with anxiety around crime and safety.

The latest documents show that the five candidates have raised about $120,924 and spent about $61,542 combined. Most of the money flows to just two candidates: Fernando Macías and Ramona Martinez.

Campaign finance records, such as cash donations or expense receipts, reveal who’s backing whom and with how much. They illuminate the dynamics shaping the race, which is expected to draw high turnout and has already featured a half-dozen debates. 

Ebb and (cash) flow

In the first two reporting periods, from October 2023 to May 2024, the two Democrats with the longest-standing ties to the party raised the most. And it wasn’t close.

Fernando Macías, former county manager and former district judge, and Ramona Martinez, a Las Cruces defense attorney and former Bill Richardson staffer, raised $42,129.63 and $39,815.00, respectively. 

Read more about each candidate’s background here.

Shaharazad Booth, another Las Cruces defense attorney and former Deming prosecutor, raised $28,740. Gerald Byers, the incumbent district attorney, raised $10,240.74, mainly through taking out loans. 

Michael Cain, a defense attorney and the lone Republican in the field, raised just $2,700 in an uncompetitive primary. 

Macías has also spent the most. Campaign finance records show he’s shelled out $28,587.28. Martinez spent $16,658.30. Booth spent $12,646.32. Byers spent $3,650.80. 

Macías money 

According to Macías’ campaign finance records, the former county manager began fundraising in February, about three months after the Board of County Commissioners voted to end his contract. Macías remained employed until April 30, meaning he raised his $42,129.63 while salaried with the county. 

In an interview with the Bulletin, Macías said he did not fundraise while on county time. 

“My sense is that county manager is an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.,” Macías said. “And at that point (when he started fundraising in February), I already knew that I was leaving county government.”

Macías added, “Anyone who's holding any kind of position, and they know that they're transitioning out, they certainly have to be preparing for the next step.”

Macías also felt that the total raised was smaller compared to other elections. 

“That amount of money is relatively small in comparison to, you know, larger campaigns. And a lot of it is basically from individuals. I'm assuming almost all of it is from individuals who know me very well,” Macías said. 

From Feb. 9 to May 1, Macías received 82 donations at an average of $518 per donation. His top donors were: 

  • Evangeline Lindberg, a longtime Macías supporter and local businesswoman, who gave $5,500;
  • Ken Miyagishima, former Las Cruces mayor and insurance titan, who gave $4,059.63 across several donations;
  • Oscar Andrade, the owner of Pic Quik, who gave Macías $2,500;
  • Lynn Underwood, an author and former Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs chief, who gave Macías $2,000.

Macías also received $1,000 donations from Heidi Moccia, wife of New Mexico State University’s Athletics director; Kim Hakes, a home developer in Las Cruces; and Edward Avalos, former Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

Macías has spent most of this money with two El Paso-based print shops and Las Cruces-based marketing and consulting firms to produce campaign signs and other materials. 

Lastly, all but 12 of Macías’ donations have come from people in Doña Ana County. The same cannot be said for one of his competitors. 

Martinez moolah

Ramona Martinez started fundraising for her run in October 2023, but not in Las Cruces. Of the 123 donations Martinez has received, 31 have come from Doña Ana County residents. The other 75 percent has come from northern or central New Mexico residents. On average, each donor has given about $312.

Martinez, who was born in Tierra Amarilla and spent much of her career in northern and central New Mexico, was unavailable for an interview. Instead, she provided an emailed statement. 

“I have been fortunate to be supported by donors both large and small from across the state. I continue to meet with voters in Doña Ana and listen to concerns and ideas from the community by going door to door, attending local events, and participating in forums,” Martinez wrote.

Her top donors are: 

  • Matt Ancieux, theowner of a Las Cruces-based IT solutions firm, who gave $2,750; 
  • Bob Pitre, an Albuquerque-based car dealership owner, who gave $2,500; 
  • Rudy Guzman, of Guzman Construction based in Albuquerque, who gave $2,500;
  • Joseph de La Rosa, a New Mexico Department of Transportation administrator, who gave $2,100; 
  • Dennis Malouf, an Albuquerque-based real estate developer, who gave $2,000. 

Martinez also received $1,000 donations from William Fietz, an Albuquerque realtor; Sandy Jones Contractor, a construction firm in Williamsburg; and Southwest Designs, a Santa Fe-based interior design firm. 

Like Macías, Martinez has spent most of her money on ads and campaign consultants. 

Martinez’ campaign finances records also presented donations around several anonymous donations the candidate received. Records show Martinez received $1,200 from 11 anonymous donors, including two that exceed $100. 

State law prohibits this. The law states that anonymous contributions may not exceed $100 and that the aggregate number of anonymous contributions received by a candidate in an election cycle may not exceed $500. 

Any contribution received in excess of this “shall be donated to the state general fund or an organization to which a federal income tax deduction,” the law says. Martinez said she would donate the excess money to La Casa.

Martinez is not the only candidate with at least one donation that may violate the state election code. 

Booth bucks

Shaharazad Booth also has one donation that may violate the state election code. She received a single anonymous donation of $200.

Booth said this was an error on her reporting form and would be fixed. She said the $200 donation was actually two $100 donations, which is in compliance with state law. 

Otherwise, Booth received 66 donations with an average contribution of $402. Her top donors include:

  • Cynthia and Jeremy Settles, a pediatrician and tech entrepreneur who gave $6,600 in two donations; 
  • Oscar Andrade, the owner of Pic Quik, who gave Booth $2,500;
  • Rob Atchley, president of a Las Cruces building supplies firm, who gave $2,500;
  • Mollie McGraw, a Las Cruces attorney, who gave Booth $1,500. 

Two other Las Cruces lawyers, Victor Poulos and Jessica Kane, contributed $1,000 to Booth. Angelica Rubio, a state representative for central Las Cruces, also gave Booth $1,000. 

While Rubio gave the most, Booth received small contributions from other local politicians. Las Cruces Public School board members Teresa Tenorio and Patrick Nolan gave her $100 and $50, respectively. Las Cruces City Councilor Becky Corran also donated $50. 

Booth was not available to comment on her finances. Like Martinez, Booth said she was preoccupied at court when the Bulletin inquired. After the story was published, Booth responded to emailed questions about her finances. 

“Unlike other candidates who have raised substantial sums from large donors outside of Doña Ana county, the majority of my contributions have been smaller sums from Doña Ana county residents. I am honored to stand with the residents of Doña Ana county who have supported my bid to bring safety and justice to our community,” Booth said.