On Wednesday night, Democrat Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Republican nominee Mark Ronchetti met on KOAT 7 for the second gubernatorial debate, moderated by the station’s Doug Fernandez. KOAT’s Kelly Ribando, the Albuquerque Journal’s Dan Boyd, and KKOB radio’s Bob Clark as panelists.
During the fiery debate, the two candidates presented their plans for New Mexico — the current one or a new vision for the state.
While Ronchetti continued speaking about kitchen table issues, such as violent crime, with New Mexico being the second most violent state in the nation, and fixing the stagnant economy, Lujan Grisham couldn’t shake her obsession with talking about abortion.
In her opening statement, she erroneously claimed, “My opponent wants to ban abortion,” despite Ronchetti wanting a constitutional amendment to decide the issue, as he has previously stated. Lujan Grisham continued, “As governor, I promise to protect your privacy protections and to expand access to reproductive health care (abortions) for women and their families.”
Continuing on abortion, Lujan Grisham reaffirmed that she supports abortion up to birth with absolutely no restrictions whatsoever.
“Abortion is legal in New Mexico because I’m governor today. Brett Kavanaugh — I’m sure that name is very familiar to most voters and New Mexicans. Here is someone who said anything to get the position but did quite another when he actually got the position. That is the republican playbook when it comes to abortion,” she claimed, despite Kavanaugh not saying anything of the sort on abortion. As a judge, he could not make determinations on hypothetical cases.
She then claimed, “Mark Ronchetti wants to ban abortion. If you don’t believe me, ask his pastor.”
Ronchetti said, “I don’t think an incumbent governor in this country has ever based their whole campaign on a lie,” adding, “But you and your D.C. allies will say anything to retain your seat as governor of the state of New Mexico. You will say anything you have to, and you’re hoping that people don’t know. But the reality of the situation is I’ve been very clear: I am pro-life. But also, this is a very personal issue. There’s no doubt about that.”
“And this governor has a position, too, and it’s the extreme in this race. She believes in abortion up to birth. That view is shared by countries like North Korea and China. And if you look at where we are in a broad sense, the values of the people of the state of New Mexico have to be taken into account in this issue.”
Regarding the border crisis, Ronchetti said, “Joe Biden and Michelle Lujan Grisham have an absolute border chaos policy,” saying he will carry out his plan to secure New Mexico’s border by forming a border strike force and working with neighboring states.
Lujan Grisham, with little to show for her four years as governor, responded, “Well, this is just political theater and it’s not true. And when you say you’re going to use the Department of Public Safety, what he’s saying is he’s going to take State Police officers right out of Albuquerque and move them to Deming.” In 2018, Lujan Grisham demeaned voters in Deming, which was taken as a jab at rural New Mexico. She added, “And by the way, fentanyl gets mailed in from China, as well as at the border.”
“That was a blizzard of excuses for not caring about what happens at the border. Let’s go back to that fentanyl bust in the South Valley, where there were a million fentanyl pills that were taken in by the FBI. It was the biggest FBI bust in their history,” adding, “Her answer to this whole problem shows how truly out of touch she truly is.”
When Ronchetti pressed Lujan Grisham on crime and her release of countless violent criminals, she claimed, “What is shocking is my opponent’s description of facts that are factless.”
On the issue of health care, Ronchetti said he will overturn bad Democrat legislation that is deterring medical professionals from staying and coming to New Mexico.
Lujan Grisham’s answer was, “Well, we’ve got someone who wants to be governor who doesn’t give a damn about patients and their rights, and I do,” apparently again referring to abortion.
Boyd asked Lujan Grisham the next question, inquiring, “During the #MeToo movement, your campaign settled a complaint with a former campaign spokesman who accused you of sexual mistreatment. Why would you insist you did nothing wrong but still have paid him?”
Lujan Grisham dodged the question to instead talk about her favorite topic — abortion. She said, “Well, these are really, uh, a continuation of the Mark Ronchetti campaign, uh, working diligently on baseless, and frankly, uh, dev- uh, desperate character attacks. You know, we did a couple of things that nobody does. We provided absolute disclosure about this issue and provided that information directly to individuals. We did that because that’s been the issue of our entire government, to be transparent. We’re the first administration to be transparent about every single expense. No other governor has done that. You’ve seen the baseless, false attacks that Mark Ronchetti and his campaign have run against us consistently because these are all desperate efforts to hide the fact that he has no plan, that he has no experience, uh, he’s a T.V. personality. And frankly, when he says he wants to give a choice, look Mark Ronchetti: You’re not invited into the room with me and my gynecologist. Women already have this choice. When you’re talking about the constitution, you’re inviting a resolution to change the constitution. When you’re doing that, you’re doing that solely to reduce my rights. I know that you’re trying to make this sound like somehow it’s balanced. It absolutely isn’t. And having a clinic in Las Cruces is contraceptive care. It’s reproductive health care for women and their families. It’s comprehensive primary care. You’re so concerned about healthcare access, explain to me why you don’t want a clinic for women anywhere in the state.”
When speaking about education and fixing the failed Democrat policies of the current administration, Ronchetti outlined his plan for a voucher system, to expand charter schools, and to remove the racist Critical Race Theory social studies policies of the current administration. Lujan Grisham, of course, pivoted to abortion, mentioning abortion and sex ed programs.
In a portion of the debate where candidates could ask each other questions, Ronchetti said to Lujan Grisham, “Governor, I want to ask you about James Hallinan He was one of your staffers in your last election. And you were in a meeting with him, and you grabbed his crotch, and you said, ‘Is there anything down here?’ Governor, you then had him sign a non-disclosure agreement, so he kept his mouth shut. You then, about two months later, signed a law in New Mexico outlawing those agreements, further allowing people who were the victims of these type[s] of events to be able to talk. Why shouldn’t your victim be able to talk?
Lujan Grisham responded, “Uh, Mark. Again, you have spent your entire campaign attacking my character and my integrity. They are baseless attacks, and you do that including now to hide from the fact that, again, you’re a T.V. personality with no experience.” She continued, “The only thing you actually have a plan for is to ban abortion in the state of New Mexico.”
Lujan Grisham’s question for Ronchetti was, “What is misoprostol?” referring to the drug used in chemical abortions to forcibly eject a baby from its mother’s womb.
He responded, “Here we go again. This is what 25 years in government gets you. This gets you a governor who wants to play Jeopardy!’” Ronchetti added, “People have had enough of the political games. It’s garbage at this point. And you’ve said you’ve been more transparent than any governor in history. Governor, you grabbed a male staffer’s crotch — a gay male — and then you said, ‘Is there anything down there?’ You then paid him $150,000, governor, and then you made him shut up about it. And now, you have the gall to sit up here and not only victimize James Hallinan, but you revictimize him. If you remember back, you said during the Andrew Cuomo scandal if you don’t believe those who go and bring these charges, then you’re revictimizing. So, you’re victimizing, revictimizing, and now — on topper of all toppers — you’re creating yourself as the victim. Governor, this is the sort of thing that people cannot stand. You’ve never come clean. You’ve never said, ‘Look, I made a mistake. Here we go.’ You’ve just continued to lie about this issue time after time after time. And let me tell you about experience. Experience, especially the experience we need in this office, is someone with character. Someone who has been in tough situations and doesn’t lie about them, doesn’t belittle people, and doesn’t try to shrink other people to make themselves feel better. You, on a regular basis, do that in every single way. You shut down stores, and then you go jewelry shopping. You shut down our ability to see our families, and then you hold parties. And then you keep our kids out of school, and you roll up to Navajo Lake, and you have a party with your friends while we’re on lockdown. You are a hypocrite, governor.”
Using her final rebuttal opportunity, Lujan Grisham claimed Ronchetti’s answer was a “blizzard of nonsense, right? It’s one character attack. If I was doing anything that was a violation of the COVID rules, you would have a photo of that. I religiously did that,” she claimed.
On an energy question from Bob Clark, Ronchetti blasted Lujan Grisham’s “California energy policy” through the Green New Deal (Energy Transition Act of 2019), which forced the closure of the San Juan Generating Station. He also noted how the governor proposed a bill to raise gas prices $0.35 to $0.50 a gallon through an enviro-Marxist policy.
“I take exception, Bob, that you say that the ETA led to the closure of the San Juan coal fire plant and generating station. That’s just not true.” She then claimed that New Mexico needs the “strongest, toughest standards” to punish the coal and oil and gas industries.
In his closing statement, Ronchetti asked New Mexicans if they want high crime, failing schools, or one that is a “great story for our future?”
Lujan Grisham, of course, pivoted back to abortion in her closing statement, saying you can vote for her “or believe someone whose only agenda, only policy, quite frankly, is to ban abortion and interfere with my private health care decisions.”
Early voting has already started in New Mexico, with expanded voting locations opening on October 22. Election day is November 8th. Ronchetti (R), Lujan Grisham (D), and Karen Bedonie (L) all will be on the ballot.
Watch the full KOAT 7 debate here: