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US Senate hopefuls in New Mexico release 1st attack ads

Mark Ronchetti

Rep. Ben Ray Lujan

RIO RANCHO – Candidates for New Mexico’s open U.S. Senate seat have released their first slate of attack ads in a race expected to draw millions of outside Super PAC spending.

Democratic Rep. Ben Ray Luján on Friday unveiled a commercial that assails Republican Mark Ronchetti for supporting President Donald Trump’s efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The ad named “Decision” uses a nurse practitioner who says Luján will protect coverage for pre-existing conditions “without breaking the bank or facing crippling debt” for residents.

Ronchetti shot back Saturday with a commercial that blasts Luján for supporting the Green New Deal – a proposal Republicans say would hurt New Mexico’s oil and gas industry. The ad also seeks to link him to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York. Both are liberal members of Congress and unpopular figures in New Mexico’s more conservative southern region.

“I’ll work with anyone to help New Mexico,” Ronchetti, a former television meteorologist, says in the ad. “And I’ll stand up to anyone who’s trying to sell us out.”

The ads come as Republicans attack Luján for opting not to participate in a KOB-TV debate with Ronchetti. Luján has agreed to join a debate sponsored by KOAT-TV and the Albuquerque Journal and another one hosted by PBS-affiliate KNME-TV.

But Ronchetti said Luján is seeking to “run for his D.C. record” by not participating in at least three debates.

KOB-TV said the station will leave an empty podium meant for Luján if he does not appear for the Oct. 5 debate.

In a statement, Luján’s campaign manager Travis Brimm said the congressman is looking forward to participating in two debates.

“In order to maximize the ability for all New Mexicans to tune into the debates, our campaign called for a statewide debate on free, public broadcasting and will participate in another with a local affiliate partnered with the Albuquerque Journal, the state’s largest newspaper,” Brimm said.