Political group raises $1 million, mostly from unions, to influence legislative races

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SANTA FE, New Mexico — A political committee helping Democrats retain their legislative majority has raised nearly $1.1 million in the past month, according to a new campaign finance report.

Labor unions were the top donors to Patriot Majority New Mexico, giving about $987,000.

The hefty fundraising underscores the high stakes in this year's legislative races in New Mexico, where Republicans hope to pick up enough seats to gain a majority in the 70-member House for the first time in 60 years.

Patriot Majority is a "super PAC" that can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to independently advocate the election or defeat of candidates. It has been airing radio ads and sending mailers to voters in New Mexico.

"Our goal is to prevent a Republican Legislature from doing to New Mexico what a Republican Congress has done to our country," Craig Varoga, the PAC's president and a Washington, D.C.-based Democratic strategist, said Monday in an email statement.

The PAC received $400,000 from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, $337,500 from a National Education Association Advocacy Fund, $200,000 an American Federation of Teachers' political committee, and $50,000 from a PAC of the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters.

Patriot Majority spent almost $764,000, and had cash-on-hand of almost $898,000 as of last week. The group's spending included $320,000 on mailers and $292,000 donated to other Democratic-leaning PACs.

The group filed its campaign finance report with the secretary of state's office in advance of a Tuesday deadline for disclosing fundraising from Sept. 2 through Oct. 6.

The PAC spent almost $1.4 million on races in 2012 when Democrats retained majorities in the House and Senate.

So far this year, the group has raised almost $1.9 million and spent about $1 million.

Follow Barry Massey on Twitter at https://twitter.com/bmasseyAP

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