New Mexico governor settles harassment claim for $150K
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The final price tag for a settlement reached by New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and a former campaign spokesman to settle accusations of harassment is now $150,000.
The latest round of payments were disclosed in a mandatory campaign finance report that the Democrat’s campaign filed Monday. The twice-annual report on spending and contributions shows the incumbent has raised $2.5 million since April for her reelection bid as several Republicans are vying to take back the office.
GOP state Rep. Rebecca Dow raised more than $440,500 since announcing her candidacy in early July. Her campaign said she has received contributions from more than 1,300 donors.
In the settlement involving Lujan Grisham, former campaign staffer James Hallinan had accused Lujan Grisham of dropping water on his crotch and then grabbing his crotch in the midst of a campaign staff meeting prior to the election — accusations that the governor denies.
Lujan Grisham said earlier this year that she decided to resolve the matter because she wanted to focus her attention on the pandemic. At the time, the governor said there hadn’t been any other financial settlements and nondisclosure agreements of a similar nature.
Lujan Grisham’s political committee paid an additional $87,500 over the past six months to an attorney for Hallinan, who now runs a public relations and political consulting firm. The political committee reported in an April campaign spending report that it had paid $62,500 as part of the settlement.
Campaign spokeswoman Kendall Witmer said in a statement that the claims were without merit and that the settlement was reached in 2020 “due to the expense of litigating business disputes and to prevent any distraction during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The settlement has drawn criticism from Republicans and is being used as campaign fodder by rivals in the gubernatorial race. Republicans on Monday accused the governor of misleading New Mexicans by “‘disguising”’ the settlement payments on the campaign finance reports as legal expenses, saying voters deserve a governor who insists on transparency.
The governor also h as been criticized for her handling of the pandemic. Lujan Grisham’s campaign defended her record and also pointed to efforts to diversify the state’s economy and spend more on education.
Witmer said the campaign isn’t taking anything for granted and that it’s in the strongest possible position heading in to 2022.