Luján defeats Ronchetti to secure Senate seat vacated by Udall

By Adam Evarts / NM News Port

In a congressional competition that was closer than expected, Democratic candidate Ben Ray Luján won the 2020 New Mexico Senate race over Republican opponent Mark Ronchetti and Libertarian Bob Walsh. The race was called by the Associated Press at 10:25 p.m. in New Mexico.

Luján garnered 51% of the vote compared to Ronchetti’s 46% as of 1 a.m. on Nov. 4. Walsh earned a meager 3% of the vote.

Luján’s win ensures that the seat remains firmly in the blue, as he will replace Tom Udall who is set to retire in January after six terms in office.

“New Mexicans are strong and resilient,” Luján said in his acceptance speech outside his home in Nambe. “Tonight we celebrate, but tomorrow we will roll up our sleeves and get to work. Thank you, New Mexico.”

Luján had previously been the U.S. representative for New Mexico’s third congressional district, serving since 2009.

Ronchetti was running in his first election campaign after spending over 20 years as a television meteorologist in Albuquerque.

The top two candidates clashed during debates over the last month, differing on topics ranging from the Affordable Care Act to COVID-19 response to climate change.

“I am flat-out honored by the support that we received this election,” Ronchetti said. “From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone who worked hard this election and to everyone who voted.”

The race was closer than expected, as multiple polls leading up to the election projected Luján with a comfortable lead. In a recent Albuquerque Journal poll, Luján received 52% of the vote while Ronchetti gathered 44%.

Luján’s win means that he will be New Mexico’s first Hispanic senator in over 40 years. The last Hispanic congressional representative from New Mexico was Joseph Montoya in 1977.

Luján’s term will begin on Jan. 3, and two of the main issues Luján said he plans on tackling will be to pass another COVID-19 relief bill and strengthen the Affordable Care Act. Luján also has touted plans to improve internet access in rural areas of New Mexico.

Adam Evarts is a reporter for the New Mexico News Port. He can be contacted at nmnewsport@gmail.com or on Twitter @adam_evarts19