ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Former TV weatherman Mark Ronchetti has cruised to victory in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate.
The first-time political candidate is now up against Democrat Ben Ray Lujan to see who will replace the retiring Tom Udall.
“I think the key for us is to run a campaign centered on New Mexico,” Ronchetti said about looking ahead to the General Election.
Lujan has been running unopposed, meaning he still has a lot of money to spend. The six-time congressman also has name recognition and plenty of backing.
“It’s been an absolute, incredible honor serving the people of New Mexico in the United States House of Representatives, fighting for our New Mexico values every day,” Lujan stated.
University of New Mexico Political Science Professor Gabe Sanchez said Ronchetti has an opportunity to make this a tight race since he already has momentum and got plenty of practice campaigning in the primary. But, he added that it’s a tough time for Republican candidates like Ronchetti when President Trump’s approval rating is falling across the country, including in New Mexico.
He said Ronchetti will have to decide to connect or distance his campaign from President Trump.
“I think he’s already seen some of the difficulties with that in the primary,” Sanchez said. “I think (opponent) Elisa Martinez did a really good job of pounding on him a little bit with some of the distancing he was trying to do with President Trump and I think that’s a little bit of foreshadowing of what we’re going to see in the General Election.”
Ronchetti thinks New Mexico needs a Republican senator to balance New Mexico’s interests.
“I think when you have people on both sides, that is critical,” he explained. Ronchetti said he doesn’t expect a campaign with Lujan to include nasty attack ads as we’ve seen for the Republican primary where candidates tried to out-Trump each other.
“What we’re going to point out in all this is not personal differences or sort of animosity,” Ronchetti said. “My hope is that we’ll be able to debate the ideas in two very different visions of where this state should go.”
Sanchez believes Lujan will likely carry the northern part of the state where he has huge name recognition, so Ronchetti has to make up ground in Bernalillo County, which has leaned heavily Democrat over the past decade, and in the southern part of the state.
The last time a Republican won a senate race in New Mexico was back in 2002, Pete Domenici, and only one of the five races since then have been settled by fewer than ten points.