ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) — The race to replace Democratic Sen. Jeff Bingaman is shaping up to be the most expensive race ever in New Mexico.
Former Congresswoman Heather Wilson is expected to easily win the Republican nomination over Las Cruces businessman Greg Sowards. Wilson announced on Thursday she's raised $760,000 in the last three months, raising more than $2.4 million overall with $1.45 million cash on hand.
Lt. Gov. John Sanchez bowed out of the Republican primary in February, saying he didn't want to divide the Republican party. NM politico Joe Monahan said it helped Wilson come up big in the money game.
"It had an effect because there was no longer a competitive race so to speak," said Monahan.
But that's not the case for the Democratic front-runner Congressman Martin Heinrich. He raised $490,295 in the first quarter, with $2.46 million overall and $1.55 million cash on hand.
But Heinrich has an opponent in the June primary - State Auditor Hector Balderas. Balderas won't say yet how much he's collected so far this year, but according to FEC reports, Balderas raised $776,115 last year.
Monahan said some of that cash could have gone to Heinrich. And it's not just the competition over Democrats' dollars.
"If these two candidates start attacking one another and sparring, the Republicans would just love that and Heather Wilson could just sit back and say, 'gee this is a good show,'" said Monahan.
A recent Rasmussen poll shows Wilson and Heinrich are in a tight race. Heinrich leads 46-42.
"Now that Wilson is so close to Heinrich, you'll probably hear some grumbling, 'come on Hector, you're holding back Heinrich,'" said Monahan.
News 13 asked the Democratic Party of New Mexico if it's worried that Heinrich has to compete with Balderas when he could be focusing on Wilson. Communications Director Matt Ross said it's not a concern because the race won't really start until after the primary.
"The fact that we're going to have a little bit less time to make our case is not going to impact this election," said Ross. "What's going to impact this election is where New Mexicans stand on the issues of the day."
At this time four years ago, all the Senate candidates had raised $6 million. This year, they're at $6.1 million and that does not include what Balderas has raised over the last few months. Balderas' campaign said it will release its first quarter fundraising reports on Friday.
In 2008, Democratic Sen. Tom Udall spent $7.8 million to win the election over Republican Rep. Steve Pearce, who spent $4.6 million. Pearce beat Heather Wilson in the Republican primary. All three candidates spent a combined $15 million in the 2008 Senate race.
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New Mexico is located in the southwestern region of the U.S. Inhabited by Native American populations for many centuries, New Mexico has also been part of Imperial Spain, part of Mexico, and a U.S. territory.