ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — On the eve of their pre-primary convention, two Democratic candidates for governor renewed accusations of improper campaign tactics at recent county conventions and ward meetings by fellow gubernatorial candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham's campaign.
Jeff Apodaca and Peter DeBenedittis, at a joint news conference in Albuquerque on Friday, leveled accusations against Lujan Grisham's camp and accused state Democratic party leaders of taking sides in the contest.
Specifically, the two candidates said Lujan Grisham staffers helped delegates fill out their ballots at county conventions. Such proxy voting, in which voting is done on behalf of another party member, is prohibited by state party rules. But there is no rule about staffers mingling with supportive delegates.
"The system is set up to protect the establishment,” Apodaca said at the news conference, while calling on the party to switch from an open to a closed ballot during Saturday's pre-primary convention to prevent "intimidation.”
"What we have seen over the past few weeks is countless county delegate meetings that have been downright undemocratic,” he said.
The party is holding a pre-primary convention Saturday, which will determine ballot position and who qualifies for the June 5 primary election.
Lujan Grisham's campaign couldn't be reached for comment late Friday. But Dominic Gabello, Lujan Grisham's campaign manager, previously called such allegations "baseless” and said they undermined Lujan Grisham's thousands of supporters.
DeBenedittis, who calls himself a political outsider, said the recent tactics at the ward and county level show there isn't a level playing field for candidates outside of well-known political circles.
"It's designed to cost you tons of money to progress within the party,” he said.