Governor's race sets up abortion as a major issue - Albuquerque Journal

Governor’s race sets up abortion as a major issue

Michelle Lujan Grisham and Mark Ronchetti. (Images courtesy of the candidates)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – As national political groups continue to set their sights – and their checkbooks – on New Mexico’s race for governor, abortion is shaping up to be a prominent issue.

The latest salvos were fired this week, when a political committee with ties to a national Democratic group launched a TV ad in New Mexico targeting Republican Mark Ronchetti’s stance on abortion.

The group, called “A Stronger New Mexico,” is affiliated with the Democratic Governors Association and is spending about $75,000 to launch the political ad on several different Albuquerque-based network stations over the course of this week, according to public filings.

Specifically, the 30-second ad cites Ronchetti’s support for the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade case that made abortion legal nationwide, while also saying governors will play a key role in setting state-by-state policies.

While Ronchetti said after the Supreme Court ruling was announced he would support banning abortion after 15 weeks with exceptions for rape, incest and in pregnancies that put a woman’s life at risk, the ad says Ronchetti previously maintained life should be protected “at all stages.”

In response, Ronchetti quickly launched a new TV ad of his own, describing the attack against him as a “false” advertisement.

The former KRQE-TV meteorologist also said Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat who’s seeking reelection, has “extreme” views on abortion since she opposes any abortion restrictions.

A Ronchetti campaign spokesman also accused Lujan Grisham, a former DGA chairwoman, of being behind the Democratic-backed ad despite the fact independent political committees are not allowed to directly coordinate with campaigns.

“This governor clearly can’t run on her own record, so instead she resorts to lying about Mark’s positions,” said Ronchetti campaign spokesman Enrique Knell. “But voters are smart enough to see through these distortions and to understand just how extreme she is on abortion.”

He also said Ronchetti’s stance aligns more closely with “New Mexico values.”

But Lujan Grisham campaign spokeswoman Kendall Witmer described Ronchetti’s anti-abortion stance as far from moderate.

“Mark Ronchetti’s misleading abortion ad is evidence he is willing to say or do anything to further his vanity-driven campaign while plotting to pass a Mississippi-style abortion ban to punish women and their doctors,” Witmer told the Journal.

Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban led to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling last month, as the state’s law was challenged by an abortion provider that has since set up a new clinic in Las Cruces.

Abortion services are still being provided in New Mexico despite the ruling, since lawmakers last year passed legislation – signed by Lujan Grisham – repealing a long-dormant abortion ban. The governor also recently issued an executive order that is aimed at protecting abortion patients and providers from lawsuits and arrest warrants issued in other states.

While there are still nearly four months to go until Election Day on Nov. 8, the Democratic-backed ad is the latest sign New Mexico’s race for governor is drawing both national attention and financial investments.

Already, a political committee affiliated with the Republican Governors Association has launched TV ads of its own targeting the spending of Lujan Grisham from a taxpayer-funded account on food, alcohol and other expenses.

A Stronger New Mexico, the political committee affiliated with the Democratic Governors Association, was established in April and did not spend any money during the primary election cycle in which Lujan Grisham was unopposed.

But the group got a $50,000 donation from a political committee with a similar name – New Mexico Strong – in May.

New Mexico Strong is now inactive, but spent hefty sums of money in the state’s 2018 and 2020 election cycles backing Republicans and moderate Democrats.

That political committee received its money from oil giant Chevron, which in recent years has given hefty sums of money to both the Republican and Democratic governors groups.

A DGA spokeswoman previously said the group plans to spend $2.5 million in New Mexico on this year’s gubernatorial race, part of a $75 million total ad buy in seven battleground states.

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