According to a recent Albuquerque Journal poll, the U.S. Senate race in New Mexico could be one to watch. This is the open seat being vacated by retiring Senator Tom Udall (D-NM).
Ben Ray Luján, a Democrat representing the 3rd Congressional District, currently edges his Republican opponent, former KRQE-TV meteorologist, Mark Ronchetti, 49 to 40 percent.
Brian Sanderoff of Research & Polling Inc., the company conducting the poll, warned, “Ben Ray Luján has a comfortable lead, but he’s not at the 50% mark that helps candidates sleep better at night.”
Ever-optimistic, the political newbie hopes his name I.D. and “pragmatic outsider perspective” could propel him to victory on November 3rd.
New Mexico Needs New Blood
In 2018, Republicans lost the Governor’s Mansion and were rendered powerless when Democrats gained a supermajority in both chambers of the state legislature.
The former TV personality assured me that despite flipping blue, his state is not New York or California.
“This is a great state,” Ronchetti said. “When you spend time here and you see the people of New Mexico, they're the best. They're absolutely the best and they deserve better than they've gotten from their leaders.”
The political novice is confident he can appeal to a wide spectrum of voters—including Republicans, Democrats, and Independents—turned off by current representation in Santa Fe and in Washington, D.C.
This blueward shift, he said, was a tipping point that led him to run for office.
“My thought was we have a state where the leaders have shifted so much farther left than the people of the state,” he noted.
“I felt like I could really make a difference here....I have enough of a relationship with the people in the state that they would give me the opportunity to listen to a more conservative viewpoint, because I think there is a real conservative sensibility to New Mexico.”
“There are people all over the spectrum here that are conservative people...We all share the same values.”
The Political Newcomer’s Top Issues
Ronchetti, 46, has campaigned on a multitude of issues and believes his Democrat challenger, an outspoken proponent of the Green New Deal, should come clean on it.
“Oil and gas is 40% of the revenue of the state of New Mexico,” the first-time candidate noted. “To even advocate for that [the Green New Deal] is completely and totally irresponsible. You would bankrupt our ability to educate our kids. You would absolutely put 100,000 people out of work in the state.”
According to a new New Mexico Oil and Gas Association report, the oil and gas industry supported 134,000 jobs and injected $16.6 billion into the state’s economy in 2018.
As for environmental issues, the meteorologist said anti-capitalist rhetoric is harmful and not conducive to Land of Enchantment values.
“I absolutely believe we need to address climate change, but you don't need to destroy the economy to do it,” said Ronchetti. “They create this red herring—that it's all or nothing—and that's not true. It's just that their end of things is absolutely destructive.”
“These things [forest management] need to be dealt with. We have a tremendous amount of National Forest here, which is being choked out by lawsuits and being choked out by policy—which is very bad for the people of this state and bad for the forest.”
Ronchetti also spoke about his support for law enforcement. He argued eliminating qualified immunity for police officers would be “devastating”—resulting in fewer law enforcement officers serving in areas requiring more protection due to rising crime.
The candidate also blasted Democrat nominee Joe Biden’s economic plans.
“The way to come back from what's going on with COVID is not going to be to raise people's taxes,” he said. “It's not going to be to increase regulations on companies and small businesses. They're trying to rebuild here. We have put a tremendous amount on the shoulders of small businesses.”
Like many first-time candidates running this year, Mark Ronchetti is billing himself as an outsider: a strategy—he hopes—that will prove advantageous.
“I'm not a politician,” added Ronchetti. “And I think people are sick of that [career politicians].”