Where New Mexico’s U.S. Senate candidates stand on Supreme Court, healthcare issues going into the election

By Adam Evarts / NM News Port

As Republican leadership in the U.S. Senate races to confirm President Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, New Mexican voters are getting contrasting views on the matter from the state’s. U.S. Senate candidates.

Democrat Ben Ray Luján, Republian Mark Ronchetti and Libertarian Bob Walsh are vying for the seat being vacated by New Mexico’s senior U.S. Senator Tom Udall, who announced last March that he will be retiring when his term expires in January.

Ben Ray Luján, Democrat

“The confirmation process ought to wait until after the election,” Luján, told the Associated Press following  President Trump’s move to quickly fill Ruth Bader-Ginsburg’s former  Supreme Court seat, naming conservative judge Amy Coney Barrett as his pick. 

Ben Ray Luján, New Mexico’s Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate.

During a recent debate, Luján accused Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of “trying to ram through the Supreme Court nomination so that they can repeal the Affordable Care Act.”

Luján is adamant about keeping the Affordable Care Act, put in place by former President Barack Obama, and now up for review by the high court. Luján said the COVID-19 pandemic makes it imperative that health care remain affordable for families and those who get the virus not be denied coverage for having a pre-existing condition — something the ACA would assures would not happen Luján warns that getting rid of the ACA will have devastating effects on families living in poverty. He also wants the federal government to invest more money into child healthcare.

On the issue of a new economic stimulus bill, Luján said, “there should be another round of direct payments to individuals and there should be more help for small local businesses with help from local banks. They all should be included in the next bill.”

Born and raised in New Mexico, Luján has a long record as a politician. In running for the Senate, he is giving up his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he’s represented New Mexico’s Third District since 2009. Prior to that, he was chairman of the New Mexico Public Regulations Commission from 2005 until 2008. During that time, he made it a requirement for utility providers to diversify their renewable energy use.

As of June 30th, the Luján campaign has raised more than $6 million for this year’s election, the majority of which has come from outside of New Mexico.

Mark Ronchetti, Republican

Mark Ronchetti, the Republican candidate, disagrees that the Supreme Court appointment should wait until after the election.

“It’s Trump’s obligation to nominate someone, which he has, so it should get a vote in the Senate,” Ronchetti said.

Former KRQE weatherman Mark Ronchetti, running for U.S. Senate as a Republican.

“But everyone is being hypocritical on this, including Ben Ray. In 2016, Merrick Garland should’ve gotten a vote. But now suddenly there shouldn’t be one?” Ronchetti said, referring to Mitch McConnell’s successful ploy to block President Obama’s Supreme Court pick in early 2016, arguing at that time that American voters should pick the president first. 

During a recent debate, Ronchetti lamented that the Barrett confirmation has turned into a bitter political battle. 

“Litmus test after litmus test and it has gotten very, very ugly. If we go back to Ruth Bader-Ginsburg, she got 96 votes. Not because 96 senators agreed with her judicial philosophy, but they agreed that she was qualified,” Ronchetti said, referencing the late liberal justice whom Barrett might replace. “That is no longer where we are. We start off with litmus tests and then we begin the personal attacks. And that has got to change.” 

Also in contrast to Luján, Ronchetti wants the Affordable Care Act to be replaced with a negotiated solution that would help protect those with pre-existing conditions. Ronchetti cites his personal experience with the ACA as the basis for his reasoning. He claimed to have a $16,000 deductible under the ACA for his daughter who has a pre-existing condition.

Ronchetti says one of his main goals if he gets elected is to help businesses hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. “We need to include those small businesses that were not included on the first round of stimulus help,” Ronchetti said, criticizing the current congressional stalemate. “We have wasted two months worth of time on both sides, and it is leaving everyone here at home out to dry.” 

Ronchetti is best known for his work as the Chief Meteorologist for KRQE-TV in Albuquerque and has yet to hold an elected political position. 

The Ronchetti campaign has raised $1.4 million, based on the last report in June, the vast majority of which was from in-state contributors.

Bob Walsh, Libertarian

Bob Walsh is running as the Libertarian Party nominee and in a recent debate staked out a unique position on the next Supreme Court nominee. “I have faith that any person picked for the Supreme Court would uphold Roe v. Wade,” Walsh said, citing the decades-old ruling giving women the constitutional protection to choose an abortion.

Bob Walsh, running to represent New Mexico in the U.S. Senate on behalf of the Libertarian Party.

As for the Affordable Care Act, Walsh called it “bad law.” “The Federal Government was never given authority over healthcare,” Walsh said. “Libertarians believe we should have a free market in healthcare.”

Walsh has lived in New Mexico for over 50 years, and has an MS in Biology from the University of New Mexico. The Walsh campaign has raised nearly $8,000 dollars.

In a recent poll by Public Policy Polling Luján held a double-digit lead in the race, with 51% of the vote to Ronchetti’s 41%. Walsh comes in third with 3% of the vote, while 6% said they were undecided.

Early voting in New Mexico is now underway. Election day across the nation is on Tuesday, November 3rd.

Adam Evarts is a reporter for New Mexico news Port. He can be found on Twitter @adam_evarts19.