Ben Lujan donates $1,500 to Sandra Jeff’s opponent
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Sandra Jeff has earned a reputation in the last couple legislative sessions as being a maverick Democrat who sometimes votes with Republicans, most notably when it comes to trying to repeal the state law that grants driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants.
Jeff is now running for a third term in the Roundhouse and is facing a challenger in the upcoming Democratic primary in House District 5 in the Four Corners region of the state that is largely made up of Native Americans and members of the Navajo Nation but Speaker of the House Ben Luján has contributed $1,500 to Jeff’s opponent — Charles Long.
Speaker Luján says no. When asked by Capitol Report New Mexico why he gave $1,500 to Long, Luján said flatly, “Because he asked for it.”
In a phone interview, the Speaker said, “I appreciated the fact that [Long] felt I might be able to help him … and that he had confidence in me to help him spread his message … I haven’t heard from Sandra Jeff at all.”
Does that mean that if Rep. Jeff had called and asked for a donation, Luján would have given her one as well?
“I might have done it,” Luján said.
Jeff had not heard about the $1,500 donation until told of it Wednesday (May 16) by Capitol Report New Mexico.
“That’s a political sin,” she said by cellphone while campaigning in the district, “especially for a legislative leader to do this.”
“I respected his leadership,” Jeff went on to say, “but I guess he does not respect my representation.”
At the same time, Jeff says she’s not that surprised by the donation. “I’m not going to be bullied by the leadership,” she said.
Capitol Report New Mexico left a message for Long, who has raised $1,850 counting the Luján contribution in this election cycle, but so far we have not heard back. If and when Long contacts us, we’ll post a reaction. Currently the secretary-treasurer of the Becenti Chapter in Crownpoint, Long has been an active member if Navajo Nation politics.
Jeff has raised $2,850 in the most recent campaign reporting period and $5,120 in the first reporting period, according to the Secretary of State’s website.
“The people are finally listening,” Jeff said about her campaign thus far. “They want a new breed [of politician]. It’s no longer a party line. Look at what’s happening in Washington DC. People don’t want that party line thinking … I think that’s a positive sign.”
There is no Republican entered in the race so the Long-Jeff Democratic Party primary will essentially determine who heads to the Roundhouse.
Back in the 2011 legislative session, Jeff was one of the first Democrats to publicly side with Republican Gov. Susana Martinez and Democrat-turned-Independent Rep. Andy Nuñez of Hatch in calling for ending the driver’s license law for illegal immigrants in New Mexico. Jeff took the House floor and accused Lujan’s chief of staff, Regis Pecos, of yelling at her in a private meeting, “saying I’m making a fool of myself” with her vote. Pecos denied that, telling Capitol Report New Mexico at the time, “I would never do that to any member of the House.”
In that same session, Jeff also criticized the state officials associated with the movie industry for not doing enough to hire Native Americans in film productions around the state.
By the way, in our brief phone interview with Speaker Luján, we asked him about his health.
“I feel kind of the same way [as he did during the legislative session],” he said. “Everything is leveling off, remaining stable.”
The 76-year-old Luján said he’s going to the UNM Cancer Center in Albuquerque Thursday (May 16) for another round of chemotherapy treatment. “We’re still hoping the chemo will help,” he said.
Posted under Capitol Report.
Tags: Andy Nunez, Ben Lujan, Capitol Report New Mexico, Charles Long, driver's licenses for illegal immigrants, House District 5, Navajo Nation, New Mexico Secretary of State, Sandra Jeff, Susana Martinez