New ad seeks to tie Pearce to Trump

Repub­li­can can­di­date launches own neg­a­tive spot on op­po­nent’s ‘fail­ures’

Santa Fe New Mexican - - FRONT PAGE - By Tripp Stel­nicki tstel­nicki@sfnewmex­i­

The home­stretch will in­deed be heated. New Mex­ico’s gu­ber­na­to­rial can­di­dates made that clear Fri­day in re­leas­ing du­el­ing new at­tack ads, with Steve Pearce blast­ing his Demo­cratic op­po­nent’s “his­tory of fail­ure” in state gov­ern­ment and Michelle Lu­jan Gr­isham for the first time link­ing her Repub­li­can ri­val to the “ly­ing” pres­i­dent he sup­ported in 2016.

Punch, coun­ter­punch: Ex­pect a lot more where that came from.

Pearce’s ad, distributed early Fri­day, am­pli­fies his ar­gu­ment that Lu­jan Gr­isham’s track record marks her as un­trust­wor­thy, cen­ter­ing his lat­est salvo on Lu­jan Gr­isham’s stints work­ing at the state level, where she served as both the head of the state’s Agency on Ag­ing — which was later el­e­vated to a Cab­i­net-level de­part­ment — and as sec­re­tary of the De­part­ment of Health.

The ad claims Lu­jan Gr­isham “failed mis­er­ably” in the lat­ter post, “quitting in dis­grace.” A re­view of news ar­ti­cles from the time of her 2007 res­ig­na­tion shows she left to ex­plore run­ning for of­fice and was praised upon her exit by a spokesman for then-Gov. Bill Richard­son; she fin­ished third in the Demo­cratic pri­mary for the Al­bu­querque-area con­gres­sional seat the next year.

The 2007 sto­ries de­scribe Lu­jan Gr­isham’s man­age­ment style at the health agency as hav­ing led to some in­ter­nal dif­fi­cul­ties. “When you bring about ac­count­abil­ity … peo­ple can find that a dif­fi­cult work en­vi­ron­ment,” Lu­jan

Gr­isham told a re­porter at the time.

The Pearce ad also ref­er­ences the case of an Al­bu­querque nurs­ing home that was al­lowed to “op­er­ate with­out a li­cense,” the ad states, cit­ing a 1997 col­umn in the Al­bu­querque Jour­nal that delved into a dis­pute be­tween Lu­jan Gr­isham and the state’s long-term care om­buds­man in which the om­buds­man ac­cused Lu­jan Gr­isham of try­ing to sti­fle his com­plaints about the home.

Lu­jan Gr­isham cracked back with a new ad of her own Fri­day af­ter­noon, seek­ing to re­but Pearce’s claims in previous ads and liken­ing him to Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

The nar­ra­tor in the Lu­jan Gr­isham ad mock­ingly in­tones that Pearce’s previous at­tack ads, about her work with the state and in own­ing a com­pany that helped man­age the state’s high­risk health in­surance pool, “look credible, don’t they?”

Seek­ing to re­but a Pearce claim about her “in­com­pe­tent and neg­li­gent man­age­ment” at a Grant County med­i­cal cen­ter, the Lu­jan Gr­isham ad cites a U.S. De­part­ment of Jus­tice memo about its in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the med­i­cal cen­ter in which Lu­jan Gr­isham was com­pli­mented for her as­sis­tance.

“The re­port wasn’t talk­ing about Michelle,” the nar­ra­tor states.

Lu­jan Gr­isham on the cam­paign trail has vig­or­ously crit­i­cized the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, in par­tic­u­lar what she has called the “racist” pol­icy of sep­a­rat­ing fam­i­lies ar­riv­ing at the south­ern bor­der.

But the cam­paign ad Fri­day was the first time she pub­licly ref­er­enced the pres­i­dent, whose job ap­proval rat­ing in New Mex­ico is less than 40 per­cent, in re­la­tion to Pearce.

The ad, cit­ing the po­lit­i­cal anal­y­sis site FiveThir­tyEight, states Pearce votes “90 per­cent with Don­ald Trump.

“But just be­cause Don­ald Trump gets away with ly­ing — don’t let Steve Pearce do it too,” the ad states.

Pearce has sounded an am­biva­lent note when asked about Trump dur­ing the gen­eral elec­tion.

“To me, they’re kind of ir­rel­e­vant,” he said in a re­cent in­ter­view, re­fer­ring to Trump and re­cent past pres­i­dents. “None of them have been cen­tral to my cam­paigns.”

The can­di­dates will meet for the sec­ond of three tele­vised de­bates Tues­day. The de­bate will air on KOB-TV.

The fi­nal head-to-head con­fronta­tion will air Oct. 24.

Early vot­ing has be­gun at county clerks’ of­fices. Elec­tion Day is Nov. 6.

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