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Outbreak changing the way candidates campaign in state

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

When he announced his bid last year to replace fellow Democrat Tom Udall in the U.S. Senate, New Mexico Congressman Ben Ray Luján crisscrossed the state to meet with potential supporters in all 33 counties.

Former television meteorologist Mark Ronchetti also found himself traveling all over the state, attending meetings trying to introduce himself as a Republican candidate for the Senate seat after announcing his candidacy earlier this year.

And former Republican State Rep. Yvette Herrell made it a priority to meet with people face to face and talk about her experience in her bid to win the 2nd Congressional District seat now held by Democrat Xochitl Torres Small.

But the COVID-19 outbreak, especially with government recommendations and restrictions on mass gatherings, has most candidates rethinking their campaign strategies and moving away from some traditional methods of getting their messages out.

“We’ve canceled a number of large political and fundraising events out of an abundance of caution,” said Mike Berg, campaign manager for Republican 2nd Congressional District candidate Claire Chase. “When we do attend events, we are following CDC guidelines to avoid contracting COVID-19.”

The same is the case with GOP rival Herrell and Senate candidates Luján, Ronchetti and Ronchetti’s Republican rivals Elisa Martinez and Gavin Clarkson. And that has made Clarkson’s job a little harder, campaign spokesman Stephen Sebastian said.

He said the cancellation of gun shows made it harder for Clarkson to collect signatures to secure a spot on the Republican U.S. Senate ballot, but he said the former New Mexico State University professor would have enough signatures to qualify. Martinez and Ronchetti are guaranteed spots on the ballot after their top-two finish at the GOP pre-primary convention.

Martinez is working with event hosts and sponsors to eliminate health risks, campaign manager Ryan Lynch said, and using phone and videoconferencing to get her message out. Lujan’s campaign is rescheduling meetings or moving to teleconferencing. Members of the campaign staff are working from home and working on innovative ways to get his message out, a campaign spokesman said.

Ronchetti has already been using social media such as Twitter to encourage people to practice safe habits during the outbreak.

And Chase and Herrell were already advertising on radio, television and through social media.

“With restrictions and precautions put in place due to the outbreak, our campaign will focus on taking our message to New Mexico voters in ways that limit in-person exposure,” Herrell campaign manager Dakotah Parshall said.

But their rival for the Republican nomination doesn’t plan on moving away from traditional methods. Las Cruces businessman Chris Mathys said he would continue to go door-to-door “until I have visited every neighborhood in southern New Mexico.”

He accused state government of “fearmongering.” He said that schools should not have been closed and that people should be allowed to go to work and church without government interference.

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