*Editor’s Note: This article originally stated that payments to an Atlanta-based law firm representing Hallinan began in 2021. They actually began in 2020.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) — A recent television ad from Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Ronchetti highlights sexual misconduct allegations against his Democratic opponent, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. The allegations first emerged in 2019, but have resurfaced as the midterm election draws near.

So what’s the story behind it? To give you the facts, KRQE News 13 is looking into the gubernatorial candidates’ political advertisements in the run-up to Election Day to help you get the full story.

In 2019 allegations are made

James Hallinan worked as the Communications Director for Lujan Grisham’s gubernatorial campaign from roughly July 2018 until December 2019. In the early hours of December 25, 2019, Hallinan, claimed via Twitter that the Governor had sexually and physically abused employees, including himself.

By the next day, December 26, Lujan Grisham’s press secretary responded to the allegations, in part saying, “These allegations of sexual assault are categorically false. No such incidents ever occurred and Hallinan’s statements are bizarre and slanderous.”

KRQE News 13 later spoke with Hallinan, where he provided more specificity about the allegations he levied first on Twitter. He told KRQE News 13, in part: “[Lujan Grisham] took a water bottle and dumped it on my crotch and then slapped and grabbed me in front of everybody” at a gathering at a lawmaker’s home in the summer of 2018.

Hallinan told KRQE News 13 that there was a reason he waited more than a year to come forward. “Her campaign manager convinced me not to report it to law enforcement,” he said.

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A political talking point and a settlement

The Hallinan allegations have continued to be used as a political talking point in the race for the governor’s office. The ad does not clarify that Lujan Grisham denies the claims. But the ad does highlight one result of the allegations: a legal settlement.

Starting in November of 2020, the Lujan Grisham campaign began making payments to an Atlanta-based law firm representing Hallinan. As Ronchetti’s ad points out, the payouts have totaled over $150,000.

KRQE News 13 verified the record of payments in campaign finance data from the New Mexico Secretary of State. Last year, Lujan Grisham said that she settled so that she could focus her attention on the COVID-19 pandemic, which was in full swing at the time.

Lujan Grisham’s campaign still denies the allegations noted in Ronchetti’s ad. Delaney Corcoran, the spokesperson for the Lujan Grisham campaign gave KRQE News 13 a statement that said, in part, “The accusations outlined in the advertisement are completely false.”