ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) -
Gov. Susana Martinez has at least two dozen Democrats in her sights in a campaign unlike any New Mexico has ever seen. Political action committee on both sides have bank-rolled a nasty, pricey ad war in a battle for control of the Roundhouse.
Sen. President Tim Jennings, D-Roswell, and Sen. Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, are among the governor's biggest targets. They have been major obstacles in the governor's push to repeal drivers' licenses for illegal immigrants and her education agenda.
"Can you imagine how fast and far we can go if we have a change in the old guard, if we have a change in people who are not interested in reform?" said Martinez.
The governor and her super PACs, Reform New Mexico Now and Susana PAC, are now launching "unprecedented" attacks, according to Jennings and Sanchez.
According to official documents, the governor's PACs have spent close to half a million dollars on statewide television ads on the local races.
"(Former Governor) Richardson hadn't even done this stuff. He didn't play with a heavy hand like she has," said Jennings.
One of the most intense and controversial television spots accuses the two Senate leaders of coddling baby-killers. The ad focuses on Baby Brianno, a 5-month-old killed by family members in 2002. Because of that case, legislators changed the law and gave life sentences to people convicted of child abuse resulting in death.
The ad says Jennings and Sanchez voted "to let child-killers out after just 15 years."
Jennings and Sanchez defend their 'no' votes but say the ad is misleading.
"In the Brianna law, negligent death of a child could mean a first degree felony," said Sanchez.
Sanchez and Jennings both point to the Sandra Rodriguez-Miramontes, who accidentally left her nephew to die in a hot car this summer and how she faces the same charge - a first degree felony - as Baby Brianna's killers.
"By accident, not intentionally, didn't want to harm the child, forgot the child, and she is now charged with a first degree felony," said Sanchez.
"There was no abuse in there, you know it was just an accident, and she's going to get first degree murder just like she beat that baby to death herself," said Jennings. "No ,there's a difference. That's why we voted against that."
But the governor's office insists the senators are wrong. They claim the law does not treat negligence cases, like the hot car death, in the same way as intentional abuse, like Baby Brianna. Under the current law, the maximum sentence for Rodriguez-Miramontes, if convicted, is 18 years in prison, as opposed to the life sentence given to people convicted on intentional child abuse resulting in death.
Even still, the senators said the ad is misleading, "rying to destroy people, trying to hurt them individually" and something that's "never happened in this state before," according to Sanchez.
The senators are also fighting back, spending more money than they ever have before on a campaign.
No matter how this nasty election ends, Jennings said the Roundhouse will be different.
"I think there is going to be a level of trust that people aren't going to have with the governor anymore because they've seen how she goes after people even on her own side," said Jennings.
When asked if the governor will be able to accomplish the items on her agenda if both Jennings and Sanchez return to the Roundhouse, Martinez said "I don't know. I'm certainly hopeful. I'm never going to give up."
In New Mexico, being bombarded with campaign ads for local races is unusual. But federal laws passed in 2010 allowed PACs to spend freely on ads.
A big Democratic PAC, Patriot Majority New Mexico, has also spent hundreds of thousands of dollars targeting a half-dozen local Republican candidates. PACs for both parties are buying expensive statewide air-time just to target voters in specific places, such as Jennings' constituents in the Roswell area.