On Monday, Republican U.S. Senate nominee Mark Ronchetti faced off against Democrat nominee Ben Ray Luján and Libertarian Bob Walsh for a televised debate, although all three candidates debated from three separate locations. Ronchetti was the only candidate to appear in-studio, while Luján came in from his campaign office in Albuquerque and Walsh appeared from his home in Santa Fe.
Ronchetti came out of the gate pushing Luján on his record and offering himself as a clear “outsider” candidate who will get to work for all New Mexicans, while Luján repeatedly tried to defend his record, although he has never passed a bill during his 12 years in Congress.
Ronchetti was pressed on his support for President Donald Trump’s successful COVID-19 response, which he replied, “ What I said at the time was that knowing what we knew, that we moved ahead as well as we could. Look, there are a lot of people in this process and I give our leaders some grace on this, including Nancy Pelosi. We have a lot of people in Congress who looked at this and we didn’t know what we were looking at here, but we have made some real progress here. But have things gone wrong? Absolutely. Have we done as well as we should have? Absolutely not.”
However, Ronchetti did mention many policies President Trump has implemented that have helped slow the spread of coronavirus, namely the implementation of the Defense Production Act to produce ventilators, a critical component in treating COVID-19, as well as the China travel ban, which blocked off those coming from and going to the infected source of the virus. He also touted the President and his COVID-19 taskforce for working to streamline the process to produce a vaccine.
He also pointed to Luján’s support for supporting the HEROES Act, citing H.R. 6800 and H.R. 925, which would release violent criminals early and tax breaks for those who “absolutely do not deserve them.”
In solving the COVID-19 crisis, Ronchetti offered up solutions, such as liability protection for businesses and help for businesses left out of the original CARES Act. “Congressman Luján is right in the middle of this. He can go to Nancy Pelosi and say take this stuff out, let’s get something done,” said Ronchetti
When asked about Native American communities, Luján claimed a bill he “authored” was signed into law regarding Native American infrastructure, although no such bill with his name on it as hte primary sponsor has been passed. He also claimed he has been “leading initiatives with investments” regarding a “broadband gap.”
Ronchetti noted that he wants to see new technology, not necessarily broadband, help bring high-speed internet to people in the Navajo Nation, and getting them the support they need to be successful. Walsh argued that no government entity should be responsible for helping Tribal communities.
As well, Luján defended Obamacare, which has raised premiums for New Mexicans and in the process closed down many physicians’ practices. Ronchetti, who said he is on Obamacare, was not able to get the quality of care for his daughter, Ava, who has a pre-existing condition.
On the topic of Law Enforcement and policing, Luján said he doesn’t “want another Portland.” At the same time, Ronchetti made clear his commitment to Law Enforcers and touted his multiple endorsements from Police unions and other associations tied to keeping communities safe. Ronchetti said, “Well, guess what? This isn’t Portland. Someone’s got to tackle violent crime. Our families are crying out for it. And in this case, it needs to be the federal government because you get longer sentences when the feds step in.”
“When I had a chance to visit with our U.S. Attorney, Mr. Anderson, I made it clear to him that what was happening in Portland was not welcome here or anywhere in the country. As soon as he told me that that would not happen, I asked him yet again that day ‘How can that $9.7 million dollars the Trump Administration had been holding up be released immediately?’ The same $9.7 million that I voted for to be released for the City of Albuquerque to provide more support for Law Enforcement to fight crime on our streets here at home, Mark, and it still has not been released as far as I know,” said Luján.
Ronchetti replied, “The reason that $9.6 million has not been turned loose is because we are a sanctuary city and that is the problem. And that is the real issue here. In fact, Congressman Luján supports that as well…. For far too long, we have had these approaches, and unfortunately Congressman, right in your answer there, you gave it. The portland thing — that’s the first thing you said instead of saying ‘I’m going to stand up for the people of my city and state,’ your first response was ‘Portland.’ Your first response should be ‘Let me look out for the people of New Mexico.’ ”
For New Mexico’s voters, the contrast between the candidates is stark. Luján offers years of D.C. experience, with powerful friends at the top of the Washington food chain, although he has not much to show for those years legislation-wise. Ronchetti offers a fresh approach to governing, and one that looks to speak with all sides to bring results to New Mexico’s problems. Walsh offers a hands-off, self-admittedly anti-government approach, with proposals to disband major government programs and support abortion-on-demand, as he said in his answer regarding the 1973 Supreme Court case Roe. v. Wade legalizing abortion-on-demand.
The full one-hour debate can be seen here: