On Friday night, Republican GOP nominee Mark Ronchetti and Democrat Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham appeared on KOB 4 for the first gubernatorial debate between the two in the tight race rated a “toss-up.” This has been rated as one of the best GOP gubernatorial pickup opportunities across the country. The debate was moderated by Tessa Mentus and Matt Grubbs.
Ronchetti went straight for the jugular in his opening statement, saying, “This governor has been letting out violent criminals.” He said, “If you think the system is broken, she is the head of the system.”
Regarding education, Ronchetti said, “If you think the education system is broken, this governor is the head of that system.”
“The fact is her 30 years of government experience has her right where we are.”
Lujan Grisham, in her opening statement, said, “We’ve actually come a long way in four years,” adding, “progress is not promised.”
She then, of course, mentioned her favorite topic — abortion. She falsely claimed, “My opponent wants to ban abortion,” despite Ronchetti backing only a 15-week ban.
Regarding crime, Lujan Grisham blamed national rises in crime. She said, “Crime is on the rise nationally. It’s no secret it’s a problem right here in New Mexico.”
Ronchetti said, “Over the past two years, she’s released over 700” violent criminals.
She said in response, “All words for someone who has never been to a legislative session.” then She claimed Ronchetti had never heard of “bail reform” before running for governor.
Ronchetti said, “She’s made it easier to be a criminal than a cop.”
Abortion was the next topic of discussion.
Ronchetti said, “My opinion on this and my beliefs on this have never changed: I’m pro-life.” He added, “We need to end late-term abortion in this state.”
Lujan Grisham said, “Abortions later in pregnancy are extreme medical emergencies.”
“It’s very clear in this particular conversation,” Ronchetti said, “the governor was okay when we brought pay raises to the Legislature to the voters.”
Lujan Grisham shot back, claiming it was “outrageous” Ronchetti wanted a state constitutional amendment on abortion.
Ronchetti responded, “When she shut down schools, did you have a voice in that? No.” He continued, “When she went and released violent criminals back onto the streets, did you have a voice in that? No.”
On the topic of inflation, Lujan Grisham claimed, “Inflation isn’t something a governor can control.” She also touted piecemeal tax cuts passed in this year’s legislative session (election year).
During the budget discussion, Ronchetti said, “We need to invest in small businesses in New Mexico. They are getting crushed,” saying he supports a tax cut, citing the 40% killed under the Lujan Grisham regime during the pandemic.
“You are out of touch with the people of your own state,” Ronchetti told the governor.
Trying to defend her failed education record, especially during the pandemic, Lujan Grisham claimed, “My opponent wants to pretend that there wasn’t a deadly global pandemic,”
Speaking about the New Mexico Child, Youth, and Families Department (CYFD), Ronchetti said he would “have a separate unit” to oversee the department. He also spoke of the Governor’s “cover-up” with the Department. “We can [fix the department] if we don’t engage in cover-ups.”
Lujan Grisham said she takes every case at CYFD “personally” and claimed it was false that he referenced a cover-up, despite one happening at CYFD under her watch.
“I know you take it personally, and I have no doubt that you do. I just don’t think you take responsibility,” Ronchetti responded.
On the topic of homelessness, Ronchetti said, “New Mexico cannot be allowed to be the country’s campground.” He backed a statewide ban on tent cities and said we need to stop the problem at its source — the border.
Lujan Grisham said that “housing, mental illness, and drug addiction” lead to homelessness. She then claimed at the next legislative session, she would look at a ban on pan handling.
On the water issue, Mark Ronchetti said, “there is nothing more important than water in the state of New Mexico.”
“My opponent doesn’t believe in climate change,” said Lujan Grisham, appearing to dodge the question. She also said, “He doesn’t support the Inflation Reduction Act,” a bill that increased inflation and added to the national debt.
She touted her anti-gas policies, saying oil and gas is “not allowed to use fresh water anymore” thanks to her leftist legislation.
Ronchetti said in his closing statement, “We have to support change” to make a difference in New Mexico.
Lujan Grisham said in her closing statement, “I think New Mexicans want an experienced, proven leader.” She touted her socialist education and pre-K programs and, of course, mentioned abortion. She said she wants to ensure “access to reproductive access (abortion) is not fettered.”
The debate had a clear winner: Republican Mark Ronchetti, who had a detailed plan on turning the state around while also focusing on kitchen table issues. Lujan Grisham appeared very defensive and hell-bent on swerving many topics to that of abortion while blaming national politics for her failures in office.