Lujan Grisham’s stake in Delta remains a target
Primary challengers called out her ties to company; Pearce keeps up attacks
If opponents of Michelle Lujan Grisham have identified a potential weakness in the armor of the front-running Democratic gubernatorial candidate, consistently aiming email blasts and negative advertisements at a seemingly juicy target, it’s come in the form of three words: Delta Consulting Group.
That was true in May. It’s still true in October.
State Republicans and the campaign of Steve Pearce, the GOP candidate for governor, have sought to trim Pearce’s polling deficit by painting Lujan Grisham as “corrupt” for her role in owning a company that helps manage a health insurance program.
Lujan Grisham has dismissed the allegations out of hand. Her campaign has vigorously disputed the characterization and suggested Pearce’s camp has grown desperate in the home stretch, inflating an argument that originated with her erstwhile rivals in the Democratic primary race.
But the line of attack, likely to make up a significant part of Pearce’s closing argument in the gubernatorial contest, puts one part of Lujan Grisham’s résumé under the general election micro-
scope: Delta, a firm she co-founded in 2008 and left in mid-2017 six months after she launched her bid to succeed term-limited Gov. Susana Martinez.
Delta, beginning in 2009, has helped to run the New Mexico Medical Insurance Pool, which provides health insurance coverage to state residents who cannot buy insurance elsewhere.
Pearce and other critics have generally alleged Delta’s work with the pool stems from political influence — using florid language to paint the program as evidence of “corrupt business practices,” and Lujan Grisham as having employed “shady self-dealing” to make “millions of dollars overcharging sick New Mexicans.”
In turn, Lujan Grisham and others involved in the program have rebutted those claims as invented and grossly exaggerated, describing a much more prosaic situation in which Delta provides office management and leadership services to an insurance program that continues to fill a role for those whose needs are not addressed by the current health care framework.
In response to one particularly Delta-heavy attack, Lujan Grisham’s campaign manager, Dominic Gabello, called the claims “hateful, disgusting” and said it was “inexplicable [that the ad] be allowed to reach New Mexico voters with its lies about Michelle’s record of helping sick New Mexicans like cancer patients, hemophiliacs, AIDS patients and those with endstage renal disease get access to health care.”
Whether the negative claims will resonate with the electorate or wash away like so much campaign mud remains to be seen. In either case, the Delta beach ball likely will be batted back and forth over the final weeks as the gubernatorial hopefuls square off in two more televised debates and canvass the state hunting votes.
The high-risk pool first came under scrutiny — in an individual political context — in late May when the national outlet Politico published a story highlighting that Lujan Grisham had earned income from Delta’s role with the pool despite many other states closing down their pools with the advent of the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” which ensured coverage for patients with pre-existing conditions.
Lujan Grisham at the time was poised to win the Democratic gubernatorial primary race. Her rivals in that race, particularly businessman Jeff Apodaca, seized on the report as a political cudgel, arguing Lujan Grisham was at
Michelle Lujan Grisham