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3 candidates vie for GOP nod in US Senate race

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

An anti-abortion advocate, a former television meteorologist and an ex-New Mexico State University professor who served briefly in the Trump administration make up a diverse field of Republican candidates seeking to replace Democrat Tom Udall in the U.S. Senate.

Although Elisa Martinez, Mark Ronchetti and Gavin Clarkson come from diverse backgrounds, they share similar views on a variety of issues leading up to the June 2 primary.

 

The winner will face Democratic Rep. Ben Ray Luján and Libertarian Bob Walsh in the November general election.

Martinez, 47, is an outspoken anti-abortion activist who grew up in Gallup and worked with her father’s small business. She has worked with the state Legislature on abortion and women’s issues, including drafting legislation and lobbying on bills involving abortion issues.

Mark Ronchetti

Elisa Martinez

Gavin Clarkson

Ronchetti, 46, was the chief meteorologist for KRQE-TV, where he worked for 13 years after seven years at KOAT-TV, putting him in front of the camera for two decades. He said the experience has helped him connect with New Mexicans and understand their challenges and the opportunities they seek. That, he said, will serve him well in the Senate. He has lived in New Mexico for 20 years and grew up in Shelburne, Vermont.

Clarkson, 51, served six months in the Department of Interior as deputy assistant secretary for policy and economic development for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. He has been a professor at the University of Michigan, University of Houston, University of Montana and New Mexico State University. He has also served as a tribal consultant and been involved in the real estate industry.

He ran unsuccessfully for the 2nd Congressional District seat and the New Mexico Secretary of State post in 2018.

Clarkson said he “wants to champion those whose voices are not heard in the halls of Congress – especially those economically disempowered due to federal regulations and corporate welfare schemes.”

Martinez, executive director of New Mexico Alliance for Life, said her reasons for running for Udall’s seat are that “New Mexico is first in everything bad and last in everything good.”

“For too long, our elected representatives have neglected to uphold our traditional New Mexican values,” she said.

Ronchetti said that too often “the petty political fights in Washington take center stage and it’s the people here at home that get left behind. I want to make sure that my two girls can grow up in New Mexico where chasing the American dream is possible.”

All three candidates voiced support for President Donald Trump’s efforts to build a wall on the border with Mexico and called for stronger security measures.

They also said they want to protect the environment, but slammed the Green New Deal initiative in Congress as something that would be harmful to New Mexico’s economy.

Clarkson refers to the Green New Deal and New Mexico’s Energy Transition Act as “big government schemes.” Ronchetti said the Green New Deal “is not a serious piece of legislation” and said its purpose has nothing to do with the environment. Martinez said it would cost millions of jobs and drive up energy costs.

The three oppose bans on fracking proposed in Congress by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren – both former Democratic presidential candidates. Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden also indicated during a debate with Sanders he would support such a ban.

“Giving that up is not only a bad financial and environmental decision it’s a terrible national security decision,” Ronchetti said in a response to a question from the Journal, saying it would increase dependence on foreign oil.

“I fully oppose fracking bans. Oil and gas – and hydraulic fracturing – contribute mightily to New Mexico’s economy,” Clarkson said.

Martinez said a ban on fracking would cost the state 140,000 jobs and $8 million in state and local revenue.

Regarding abortion, all three oppose late-term abortions and are against federally funded abortion.

As the leader of New Mexico Alliance for Life, Martinez led the effort last year in New Mexico to defeat House Bill 51 in the Legislature. The measure, which was defeated, would have repealed the state’s 1969 anti-abortion law, which makes it a crime to end a woman’s pregnancy except in certain circumstances such as rape. That law is moot at this time because of the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe vs. Wade.

Ronchetti said he supports the Hyde Amendment, “which is the law of the land.” The amendment bars the use of federal funds to pay for most abortions.

The three candidates said they support the 2nd Amendment and oppose federal bans on the sale of military style semi-automatic rifles.

Clarkson, Martinez and Ronchetti take strong stands against illegal immigration, but have differing views on who should be allowed to immigrate legally.

Martinez said “legal immigration should continue under a merit-based system.”

Clarkson said: “We must end birthright citizenship, visa lottery, and chain migration.” He does support a path of citizenship for military veterans brought to the country illegally as children.

Ronchetti said decriminalizing border crossings and the promise of free health care put families at risk when they seek to immigrate illegally. He believes they should apply legally in the country where they live and then come once approved.

Martinez edged out Ronchetti at the state Republican pre-primary convention, but both qualified for the ballot by collecting more than 20% of the vote. Clarkson had to submit more signatures to get on the ballot.

Ronchetti is the top fundraiser in the race since announcing his candidacy. According to Federal Election Commission reports, he raised $650,000 in the first quarter of 2020, outpacing Clarkson, who raised almost $318,000, and Martinez, who raised about $170,000.

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