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Editor’s note: The Journal continues a series profiling the Republican candidates for governor and examining other contested statewide races.
SANTA FE – Ethel Maharg might be a longshot in this year’s Republican primary race for governor, but she insists she shouldn’t be counted out.
The anti-abortion activist and former mayor of the village of Cuba is quick to point out the victory of the racehorse Rich Strike – at 80-1 odds – at this month’s Kentucky Derby and says there’s no reason she can’t pull off a similar upset.
“Just because you all think I’m an underdog in this race, doesn’t mean I am one,” Maharg said in a recent Journal interview.
But, labels aside, Maharg received the fewest delegate votes at a GOP convention in February and has lagged far behind some of her GOP rivals when it comes to fundraising.
In all, she has raised roughly $28,000 for her gubernatorial campaign since last summer, according to reports filed with the Secretary of State’s office.
Maharg describes herself as the only native New Mexican candidate with Hispanic heritage in the GOP primary, while also touting her executive experience.
In a recent campaign video, Maharg also said she has faced financial uncertainty and knows how to gather wood and start a fire for cooking.
But if there’s one issue that defines her campaign it’s abortion – and Maharg doesn’t try to downplay it.
Maharg currently works as executive director for the Right to Life Committee of New Mexico, an anti-abortion group, and has taken part in protests at the Roundhouse on the issue.
If elected governor, she said she would push for a “heartbeat bill” to be passed in New Mexico similar to legislation enacted in Texas.
She also said the people of New Mexico do not want abortion allowed, even though the state’s Democratic-controlled Legislature voted in 2021 to repeal a long-dormant state abortion ban and Albuquerque voters in 2013 rejected a proposed late-term abortion ban.
“I want to see it end, I’m not going to make any bones about it,” Maharg said in reference to abortion, which she described as a “black stain” on New Mexico.
She also is opposed to the state’s 2021 “End of Life Options Act,” which allows New Mexicans diagnosed with terminal illnesses to take prescribed medication to end their own lives.
“We need to restore dignity of human life to our state, because it’s lacking and it’s causing so many problems,” Maharg said in an interview with KOB-TV.
A political family
Maharg hails from a politically active family, as her father was also mayor of Cuba and one of her grandfathers was a state senator.
However, she says she never envisioned herself as an aspiring politician – either while growing up or as an adult.
“I never really thought I would be doing even what I’m doing right now,” she told the Journal. “When you’re in a small community, you just do what has to be done.”
In fact, Maharg’s involvement in local politics in Cuba came after a dust-up over the water bill for the hair salon she owned.
That led, eventually, to Maharg serving as Cuba’s mayor from 1996 until 2006. She was also on the village council.
After her stint as mayor, Maharg and her family moved to Albuquerque, where she worked for Care Net Pregnancy Center, a faith-based nonprofit that provides information to expecting mothers.
Maharg has also been a math teacher and worked in the oil and gas industry, giving her a front-line perspective on some issues.
This year’s race also has personal importance to Maharg, who said one of her daughters recently left New Mexico with her family to live in Texas.
“I’m tired of seeing our kids leave our state because the conditions are so bad,” she said.
Meanwhile, religion also plays a central role in Maharg’s campaign – and her life.
“My faith has been what guides me,” said Maharg, who announced her gubernatorial campaign at the New Beginnings Church of God in Albuquerque. “I wouldn’t be here without God.”
During her campaign for governor, Maharg has espoused far-right views on some issues.
While Maharg did not respond to a Journal candidate questionnaire sent to all candidates, she told the Santa Fe New Mexican the Jan. 6, 2021, invasion of the U.S. Capitol was attributable to Antifa, not supporters of former President Donald Trump.
That’s despite ample evidence to the contrary, including video recordings and court arguments of attorneys representing defendants facing criminal charges.
She also said she believed Joe Biden was not legitimately elected president, echoing voter fraud claims made by Trump that have not been substantiated on a broad scale.
In all, Maharg is one of five Republicans vying for the party’s nomination for governor, with absentee voting already underway for the June 7 primary election.
Whoever emerges as the GOP nominee would face off against Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham, who is seeking reelection, and Libertarian Karen Bedonie in the November general election.