On Thursday, mailers began appearing in mailboxes of Republican voters across the state smearing Anthony “Ant” Thornton as a “RINO,” short for “Republican In Name Only,” based on minor donations to the Obama 2008 campaign back before he left the Democrat Party.
The piece inaccurately describes Thornton as a “Barack Obama-Joe Biden supporting liberal,” despite Thornton being active in the conservative Tea Party movement in the early 2010s and a strong supporter of the Republican Party. He has donated generously to Republican campaigns in the state in the past, including to state Rep. Stefani Lord (R-Sandia Park), one of the most conservative members of the state Legislature.
Thornton, a former Democrat turned Conservative Republican, has been very open about his past experience walking away from the Democrat Party and registering as a Republican over a decade ago.
Thornton, a Ph.D., and retired aerospace engineer is running for Lt. Governor against Peggy Muller-Aragon, a more moderate candidate, according to iVoterGuide.com — a leading conservative voting resource affiliated with the American Family Association Action.
The entity responsible for the hit piece against Thornton calls itself “Americans for Strong Leadership.” Its website consists of a landing page with no contact information and a donation button that doesn’t work.
According to the New Mexico Campaign Finance System (CFIS), which is run by the Secretary of State’s office, “Americans for Strong Leadership” is a political expenditure committee registered to an employee of a consulting firm based in Kentucky called RunSwitch PR. RunSwitch PR is known for being a consulting firm used by Mitch McConnell.
The founding Partner of RunSwitch PR is a man named Scott Jennings, whose resume heavily consists of his work as a consultant and advisor for Mitch McConnell. He was also once the Executive Director for Bush-Cheney New Mexico back in 2004. He is a CNN contributor, who has praised the strategies of Republicans who have opposed President Donald J. Trump.
It is curious that a firm headed by a notable Bush-era operative, who has made comments distancing himself from Trump, is now attacking conservative Republican Ant Thornton on decades-old minor donations.
Other America First candidates in New Mexico this cycle who have gone up against “Swamp”-backed candidates have seen similar independent expenditures made by “moderates” to try and defeat them.
Voters may question why these Swamp operatives are attacking candidates like Thornton. The only reasonable answer is that candidates like him are a threat to the establishment in some way, shape, or form.