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SANTA FE – Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham and Republican Mark Ronchetti have agreed to participate in two televised debates in the run-up to Election Day.
Unlike some recent New Mexico political debates that were pre-recorded and conducted remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, both gubernatorial debates will take place in-person and be broadcast live.
The first debate will take place Sept. 30 and will be hosted by KOB-TV. The second hourlong debate is being hosted by KOAT-TV, along with the Journal and KKOB Radio, and is set for Oct. 12.
The network television station Ronchetti worked for as chief meteorologist before launching his campaign for governor last October – KRQE-TV – does not have a debate scheduled even though the station’s general manager Bill Anderson said Tuesday he had offered to bring in a moderator from a different television station.
In any case, both campaigns signaled Tuesday they were primed for the two debates, which will offer voters the opportunity to see the two candidates exchange ideas in a race that has already featured hard-hitting TV ads and hefty spending from out-of-state groups.
Ronchetti campaign spokesman Ryan Sabel said the GOP candidate, who easily won a five-way primary race, would lay out an alternative to the status quo.
“Mark is looking forward to debating the governor and holding her accountable for her disastrous record on crime, education and the economy,” Sabel said. “He is also ready to show New Mexicans his plans for the state and that there is a better path forward.”
As for the incumbent governor, her campaign spokeswoman Delaney Corcoran said the debates would allow Lujan Grisham to contrast her vision for the state with Ronchetti’s proposed agenda.
“New Mexicans will have the opportunity to hear about Gov. Lujan Grisham’s exemplary leadership and her vision for our state, and compare it to the lack of experience and dangerous plans that weatherman Mark Ronchetti brings to the table,” Corcoran said.
The two primary candidates for governor have not appeared at any joint forums so far this year, as Lujan Grisham did not take part in an event hosted by NAIOP, an Albuquerque commercial real estate group, last month due to what her campaign described as a scheduling conflict.
But Ronchetti and Lujan Grisham have both been active on the campaign trail and the fundraisiing circuit, however, with Lujan Grisham raising more than $10 million for her reelection bid and Ronchetti having raised more than $6 million as of this month.
The third gubernatorial candidate appearing on this year’s general election ballot, Libertarian Karen Bedonie, will not participate in the televised debates, apparently since she fell short of meeting the networks’ established criteria.
Meanwhile, there were three televised debates – along with other candidate forums – in the 2018 gubernatorial race that pitted Lujan Grisham against Republican Steve Pearce. Lujan Grisham ended up winning that year’s race by about 14 percentage points – or 57% of the votes cast in the race compared to 43% for Pearce.
Absentee voting for this year’s election cycle begins Oct. 11, with Election Day set for Nov. 8.