GOP candidates question opponents’ loyalty to Trump

Former T.V. meteorologist and Republican primary candidate for U.S. Senate Mark Ronchetti found himself in hot water with his opponents this week. Already a target for some local conservatives, Ronchetti now has to explain comments he made during a presentation on climate change at the University of New Mexico last year that seemed to be a criticism of President Donald Trump. “I’m a Christain conservative, who used to be a Republican, until the orange one,” Ronchetti said, invoking laughter from the crowd. “I’m afraid that has taken a part of my soul and that’s not coming back.”

Ronchetti did not respond to a request for an interview, but his campaign manager told the Albuquerque Journal that the comments were in jest and that he does indeed support the president. But his opponents, namely the one who said he found the video clip, are not buying it. 

Gavin Clarkson, a former Trump appointee and one of Ronchetti’s opponents, said he thinks “Support for Trump is a baseline qualification for the GOP.”

“If you’re going to say, ‘I support the president,’ prove it,” Clarkson told NM Political Report. 

Clarkson said he found the video while searching online to back up his claim that Ronchetti’s previous public views on climate change differ from Trump’s. 

“He spent the next 45 minutes to an hour talking about policies that this president doesn’t support,” Clarkson added. 

But this week’s claims that Ronchetti wavers in his support for the White House are not the first for him or for other GOP candidates in the state.

NRCC names two CD2 candidates to ‘contender’ status

Two Republicans seeking the 2nd Congressional District seat remain in the good graces of the national organization seeking to elect more Republicans to Congress. On Wednesday, the National Republican Congressional Committee added former State Rep. Yvette Herrell and oil lobbyist Claire Chase to the “contender” tier of the organization’s Young Guns program. According to the NRCC, those considered contenders are candidates who “have completed stringent program metrics and are on the path to developing a mature and competitive campaign operation” and are running in congressional seats “that appear favorable to the GOP candidate.”

“These hard working candidates have proven their ability to run strong, competitive campaign operations. We’re going to ensure these contenders are victorious in November by forcing their Democratic opponents to own their party’s radical socialist agenda,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said. Herrell, who was the Republican nominee in 2018, said in a statement that the announcement “is yet another validation of the winning campaign that we are building.”

“We will continue working hard all across this district, taking nothing for granted as we earn the Republican nomination and then take back this seat from Nancy Pelosi’s puppet Xochitl Torres Small,” Herrell continued.

Herrell running for Congress again in 2020

A day after Republican Yvette Herrell closed the door on her 2018 campaign, she announced she would run for the seat again in 2020 and challenge Democrat Xochitl Torres Small, who narrowly defeated Herrell in November. “I’m running for Congress because I believe New Mexicans deserve a Representative who will work hard every day to keep growing our economy, safeguard our way of life from government overreach, and push for solutions and funding to protect our borders,” Herrell said. Herrell, who decided not to run for reelection to the state House of Representatives when she announced her congressional campaign last year, will likely face opposition in the Republican primary. The district has consistently voted for Republicans, only electing Democrats twice since the state earned a third congressional district in 1983. Herrell came out on top during a four-way Republican primary in 2018, which included former Republican Party of New Mexico chairman Monty Newman.

Herrell finishes review of ballots, won’t challenge election results

After inspecting absentee ballots from the 2nd Congressional District’s most-populous county, Republican Yvette Herrell decided not to challenge the results of the election she lost to Democrat Xochitl Torres Small in November. Herrell announced the news Monday, the deadline to challenge the results. Torres Small took the oath of office and was sworn into Congress last week. “I did not believe that there were reasons to contest the election, but I did strongly feel that there were enough claims of irregularities to warrant a full review, and that we might learn things that could be of use to State House and Senate Committees as they continually try to update and improve our election laws,” according to Herrell’s statement. Torres Small’s office declined to comment.

2nd CD race ranks among the most-expensive in NM history

The southern New Mexico congressional district won by Democrat Xochitl Torres Small may prove to be the most-expensive race in state history. Torres Small defeated Republican Yvette Herrell and will replace Republican Steve Pearce, who ran for governor instead of seeking another term. As anyone who watched TV in the weeks ahead of the election, candidates and outside groups targeted the race in the national battle over the U.S. House of Representatives. In all, candidates and outside groups spent $12.7 million on the race according to the Center for Responsive Politics, with several weeks of spending from candidates not due until Dec. 6.

Herrell sues to impound Doña Ana County absentee ballots

Republican congressional candidate Yvette Herrell filed a suit Tuesday, asking a judge to order the impound of absentee ballots in a key southern New Mexico county after she lost to Xochitl Torres Small in last week’s election. Herrell filed the suit in state district court and asked the court to order State Police to take control of absentee ballots and associated documents from Doña Ana County. She also wants an investigation into “reports of chain-of-custody issues and other improprieties” though she provided no evidence of problems.

The Doña Ana County Canvassing Board unanimously certified the results of last week’s election hours before Herrell filed the suit. In the filing, Herrell claims she was “stripped of [the] title” of winner of the election because of the results from the Doña Ana County absentee ballots. Some media outlets had already projected Herrell to win, but at least one, the Albuquerque Journal, did not know of the absentee ballots.

Herrell goes on Fox News to dispute vote count

Republican Yvette Herrell campaigned for the 2nd Congressional District on a Trump-like platform—pro-border wall and speaking about illegal immigration—and appeared alongside Vice President Mike Pence and White House counselor Kellyanne Conway. And after narrowly losing the congressional race to Democrat Xochitl Torres Small in Tuesday’s election, Herrell showed up on President Donald Trump’s favorite TV network Saturday. The state legislator told a Fox News host that  she isn’t conceding to Torres Small, and she questioned the counting of absentee ballots that provided the final margin of victory for her opponent. Herrell spoke on “Justice with Judge Jeanine,” a program Trump himself appeared on before. According to Herrell, an hour after some media outlets called the race and she gave her victory speech, the Secretary of State’s office called and said, “They had magically found 4,000 ballots that had not been counted.” She said about an hour and a half later, the office said there were an additional 4,000 ballots.

Xochitl Torres Small wins the 2nd Congressional District race

With absentee ballots in Doña Ana County finally counted, Democrat Xochitl Torres Small will be the next U.S. Representative for New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District. Torres Small needed a little over 1,800 more votes than Republican Yvette Herrell to win the race before the county’s absentee ballots were included in the vote totals. Torres Small blew past that number and netted an additional 4,564 votes, which gave her a 50.69 percent to 49.31 percent lead over her Republican opponent. In all, there were 8,258 absentee ballots for the race. Related: Democrats take back governorship

Wednesday evening, the Associated Press called the race for Torres Small.

Dems easily hold two seats, third race is extremely close

Democrats kept two U.S. House seats Tuesday night. And in a third, hotly contested race, the Republican leads, but thousands of uncounted of votes in a key county could flip things. The 2nd Congressional District race still isn’t over, thanks to approximately 8,000 absentee ballots whose results haven’t been posted. Out of those, 4,000 are yet to be counted. And, as journalist Heath Haussamen noted, approximately 1,000 provisional ballots also remain.

Poll shows Dems lead in most statewide races

A recent poll shows Democrats are poised to clinch most statewide races, while a congressional race remains too close to call and one expensive state race leans towards Republicans. A poll by Research and Polling, Inc. for the Albuquerque Journal shows Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham leads Republican Steve Pearce 53 percent to 43 percent in the race for governor. The ten point lead is an increase from the 7 percent race found in a September poll. The same poll found incumbent U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich, a Democrat, leading in the three-way race against former Gov. Gary Johnson, a Libertarian, and contractor Mick Rich, a Republican. Heinrich is 20 points ahead of Rich and almost 40 ahead of Johnson.