t’s no secret that New Mexico is an increasingly Democratic state.
After turning blue in the 2008 presidential election, New Mexico has also turned to elect a Democrat governor and all Democratic members of Congress. Additionally, both New Mexico state chambers are led by Democrats.
Based on donations intended for the 2020 election cycle, it appears the state’s flagship University, the University of New Mexico, is also extremely blue as the 2020 federal elections approach.
“I think it makes sense for the type of individuals that are employed by universities and go to school at universities that we would see Democratic candidates more often supported with campaign contributions than Republican candidates,” said UNM Political Science Associate Professor Michael Rocca as a possible explanation to the partisanship.
UNM as an organization cannot donate directly to campaigns or party committees themselves. The donations come from those associated with the University — faculty, staff, and immediate family of those working at UNM according to Open Secrets. It is unclear if students are included in these numbers.
Open Secrets is a nonpartisan and independent resource run by the Center for Responsive Politics that tracks the money traveling in and out of U.S. federal politics and it’s elections.
Rocca continued by acknowledging that most universities and colleges in the United States lean left of center politically.
Another possible explanation for the favor of Democratic candidates and political organizations among UNM employees is the political environment leading to the 2020 federal elections Rocca said.
“We have a number of members of Congress on the Republican side retiring because they are sensing another tough year in 2020, and I think the money that we were seeing in this table is a reflection of that,” Rocca said. “It’s a reflection of how the momentum, at least right now by polling across the nation, seems to be in the Democratic parties' hands, which could lend some support to why so many candidates are being supported by contributions.”
Only $750 was donated by individuals associated with UNM to Republican candidates — $500 to Bill Cassidy, a U.S. Senator from Louisiana, and $250 to President Donald Trump.
The 2018 federal election cycle, a record number of Democrats gained seats in the U.S. House of Representatives — 40 to be exact. Rocca anticipates a similar momentum for Democrats during the 2020 election cycle.
Individuals associated with UNM have, so far, donated just over $103,000 during the 2020 campaign cycle, 98% of which went to Democratic candidates and political organizations, such as Political Action Committees (PACs).
“These are small numbers. I mean these are really tiny numbers,” Rocca said. “You think of all the employees and all the students — assuming students are included in this — think of everybody that could be included in this data and there is only $100,000 contributed. That’s nothing.”
To put this number into perspective, New Mexico has had just over $7 million in contributions to candidates and parties so far during the 2020 election cycle. These contributions come from both individuals and PACs.
Out of all the donations made by those associated with UNM, 85% went to candidate’s 2020 campaigns directly.
U.S. House candidates with the most contributions include Rep. Xochitl Torres Small of New Mexico’s Congressional District 2 as well as John Blair and Teresa Leger Fernandez, both of whom are vying for the Congressional District 3 seat vacated by Rep. Ben Ray Lujan.
Lujan’s campaign for U.S. Senate saw nearly $8,000 in donations from UNM individuals with his former opponent Maggie Toulouse Oliver not falling far behind. Toulouse Oliver ended her campaign to run for Sen. Tom Udall’s vacated seat ended in October of last year.
Four Democratic presidential candidates were also among the top ten candidates to receive the most contributions from UNM individuals with Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Beto O’Rourke and Pete Buttigieg making the list. O’Rourke has also since dropped out of the 2020 presidential race.
“I would pay attention to the Democratic primary candidates,” Rocca said. He went on to add, “I think it’s fascinating that you’ve got Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders. You don’t really see Biden on this list until a little further down.”
With the 2020 New Mexico presidential primaries four months away and general election just over nine months away, Rocca predicts these campaign donations will increase in the coming months.
In 2018, individuals donated a total of over $261,000 to political campaigns and organizations while in 2016 it was over $220,000 total.
“You’ll see a jump in the next month or two,” Rocca said. “But as soon as the primary season stops and the general election kicks off then there’ll be a massive acceleration.”
Makayla Grijalva is the managing editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @MakaylaEliboria