Former television news meteorologist Mark Ronchetti won the state’s Republican primary election for U.S. Senate, taking more than half the votes in a three-way race through partial results on Tuesday night. The results reported from the Secretary of State’s office as of 2:00 a.m. on Wednesday showed Ronchetti won 55.57 percent of the votes.
One of his opponents, anti-abortion activist Elisa Martinez got 26.62 percent of the votes and Ronchetti’s other opponent, former Trump official Gavin Clarkson got 17.8 percent of the votes. Ronchetti will now face Democratic U.S. Rep Ben Ray Luján and Libertarian Bob Walsh in the November general election. Neither had competition in their parties’ primaries. The seat is currently held by Sen. Tom Udall, who announced he would not run for another term.
Thanks to a $2 trillion congressional relief package, New Mexico will start seeing financial support from the federal government for businesses impacted by COVID-19. And U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, a member of the state’s delegation, said he will make sure the money goes where it’s needed.
Udall, who flew from Washington D.C. to New Mexico last week, spoke with NM Political Report during his self-quarantine at his home in Santa Fe. The quarantine, Udall said, was in accordance with an order from the New Mexico Department of Health that all travelers coming into the state self-quarantine for two weeks.
Udall said the latest support bill, which was signed into law by President Donald Trump, will help New Mexico businesses, hospitals and tribal groups. But, he said, the state and the country will probably need more.
“This bill shouldn’t be the end of our work,” Udall said. “We will know soon what other holes we need to fill, but I think we will need more help for state and local governments whose budgets are being hit and with the price of oil today at $20, New Mexico’s state budget is going to be hit badly by that.
On any given weekday afternoon in Albuquerque just after 4 p.m., on KIVA-FM, listeners can hear the brief hit song from the late 1990s, You Get What You Give, followed by the booming and conservative voice of Eddy Aragon. Aragon makes it very clear he stands far to the right on the political spectrum.
Now, after four years of owning and operating the station that airs his daily show, Aragon said he’s considering running for U.S. Senate—with a stress on “considering.”
“You have to imagine the tremendous sacrifice that I have to consider,” Aragon said. “Being off during the year Donald Trump is running in 2020, that’s a sacrifice to my radio station.”
But he said enough people asked him to consider running that he decided in October to explore the idea.
Tipping things toward a possible run for Aragon is the field of candidates poised to run against U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján. Luján announced earlier this year that he would run for Senate after U.S. Sen. Tom Udall said he would not seek another term next year. Up until several weeks ago, Luján faced New Mexico’s Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver in the Democratic primary.
New Mexico’s primary elections are still more than eight months away, but that hasn’t slowed down candidates for U.S. Senate. Both the Republican and Democratic primaries have multiple candidates already, but arguably the Democratic race is the closest watched so far.
Democrats will choose between U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, who is walking away from the high ranking position in U.S. House leadership of Assistant Speaker of the House to run, or Maggie Toulouse Oliver, New Mexico’s Secretary of State. Luján has a financial advantage so far and secured endorsements from U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Rep. Debra Haaland and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. But Toulouse Oliver said she believes New Mexicans care less about what friends in high places think.
“We have our own local leaders that we look to and we’re very independent-minded,” Toulouse Oliver said. “While I respect those decisions and respect Congressman Luján for getting that support for himself, I don’t think that it’s going to be even a remotely deciding factor at the end of the day.”
Pushing the envelope vs. mainstream
Toulouse Oliver didn’t grow up with a high-ranking state legislator as a parent and doesn’t have the institutional knowledge of Congress — two things Luján can boast.
New Mexico commercial contractor Mick Rich is taking a second run for Senate. Rich told NM Political Report early Friday morning that he was running again in 2020.
Rich said he has “learned a lot” since his last attempt to represent New Mexico in Washington D.C. Rich’s Senate campaign in 2018, when he lost to Martin Heinrich, was his first attempt at elected office. “As we approach the 2020 election cycle, we have acted on that learning,” Rich said. “Rather than rush to announce for an open seat, we have recruited a top-notch campaign team and have begun to contact major donors.”
The Senate seat is open because Sen. Tom Udall opted not to run for a third term. Udall’s announcement earlier this year set off speculation on who would run to replace the longtime elected officeholder.
LOS ALAMOS, N.M. — Libertarian U.S. Senate candidate and former two-term Republican governor Gary Johnson is killing time outside a Starbucks in Los Alamos between campaign events. Technically he shouldn’t be here at all—or, at least not running for office. On election night in 2016, Johnson told NM Political Report he was done with politics after his second presidential run. Asked about that night, Johnson answers the question he knows is coming next. “I can’t be believed,” Johnson interrupted sarcastically.
Following an allegation of sexual assault, the confirmation of U.S. Circuit Judge and Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh became more controversial. Now some Democrats, including New Mexico’s two senators, want an investigation into what happened between Kavanaugh and college professor Christine Blasey Ford at a party in high school, where Ford alleged Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her.. New Mexico U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, a Democrat, issued a statement this week calling for an FBI investigation. “The sexual assault allegation made against Judge Kavanaugh deserves a thorough, professional investigation by the FBI before proceeding with any vote on his nomination to the highest court in the land,” Heinrich said. Heinrich is facing reelection this year and his two challengers both previously said they would vote to confirm Kavanaugh if given the chance.
A state district judge dismissed the legal challenge of State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn’s candidacy for U.S. Senate. The challenger, Bernalillo County voter Steve Gendorn, filed a “voluntary dismissal” in Santa Fe district court, asking the judge to cancel the upcoming scheduled hearing, with no explanation why. Gendorn originally filed the suit on February 20—four days after the deadline to challenge candidacies—alleging that Dunn’s qualifying petition signatures were invalid because he failed to list a proper address on his petition forms. The suit also alleged that a number of petition signatures were from voters who were either not registered as Libertarian or not registered voters at all. The challenge was not filed by Dunn’s Republican opponent Mick Rich, but Dunn implied to NM Political Report that Rich had something to do with it. “Mick Rich is wasting the court’s time with an actual political stunt and wasting New Mexican’s time with his non-starter candidacy,” Dunn said.
Just after 10 on a bright, but chilly Wednesday morning, Mick Rich strolled into a retro-looking coffee shop on historic Route 66 in Tucumcari. Making his way to the back of the restaurant, where the walls and windows were covered in “Mick Rich for Senate” campaign signs, he introduced himself to diners. “I’m Mick Rich and I’m running for Senate,” he said to a few people eating bacon, eggs and stacks of pancakes. Pushing 6 feet tall and bald, Rich made a point to stop at every table, both on the way in and out. After less than an hour talking to about 15 people in Tucumcari, and with a cinnamon roll to go, Rich climbed into the back seat of “The Beast,” a four-ton rig, wrapped with the words “Mick Rich for Senate” and an attached living space, for the two-hour trip to Las Vegas, NM.