Democrat Ben Ray Luján stayed in the center Sunday night as Mark Ronchetti, his Republican opponent for New Mexico’s open U.S. Senate seat, claimed the congressman supports popular left-wing policies such as the Green New Deal.

As the candidates argued over the future of American health care during the middle of the coronavirus pandemic in a debate aired by the New Mexico Public Broadcasting Service, Ronchetti said he supported repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act while claiming Luján supports Medicare for All, a universal health care proposal.

Sixty-nine percent of registered voters and 46 percent of Republicans support Medicare for All, according to a poll by the Hill and research company HarrisX from last spring. During the pandemic, roughly 12 million Americans have lost their employer-sponsored health insurance, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Luján did not engage with Ronchetti’s claim he supports Medicare for All. Instead he spoke of his support for maintaining the Affordable Care Act.

“New Mexico had the highest uninsured rate in America prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act,” Luján said. “The facts are the Republican repeal plan will increase premiums and not have protections for preexisting conditions.”

In June 2019, Luján joined 112 Democratic representatives as a co-sponsor of the Medicare for All Act.

Either Luján, Ronchetti or Libertarian Bob Walsh will succeed Tom Udall, who is retiring from the Senate.

In 2014, Udall won a two-candidate race for the seat with 55.6 percent of the vote against Republican Allen Weh. Starting in 2012, Luján has won each of his general election races in the 3rd Congressional District with at least 60 percent of the vote.

Ronchetti also brought up Luján’s support of the Green New Deal, a congressional resolution that lays out a plan to tackle climate change guided by reports from the United Nations and federal scientists who warned the world is headed for more intense heat waves, wildfires and droughts. The resolution calls for the world to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

A recent poll by Yale and George Mason Universities and several media outlets found the resolution is supported by more than 80 percent of Democrats and 41 percent of Republicans.

Luján expressed support for returning to the Paris Climate Accord of 2016.

“Both under President Barack Obama and President [Donald] Trump, their Department of Defense said that the climate crisis is an existential threat to our national security and will cause harm to soldiers,” Luján said. “The United States needs to take a serious step forward in, one, coming back under the Paris Climate Accord and moving legislation that is going to reduce emissions and pollution.”

Later in the debate during a discussion on social justice, Ronchetti, a meteorologist who appeared in the studio alongside New Mexico In Focus host Gene Grant while Luján and Walsh appeared over videoconference, said he doesn’t believe America is systematically racist.

“This is not a systematically racist country. I don’t believe that. Is there racism? Yes, there is and it needs to be addressed,” Ronchetti said. “I think it can be addressed through better education and safer streets.”

In response to the pandemic, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Sunday that an economic stimulus deal with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin must be struck by Tuesday in order for legislation to be passed by Election Day. During Sunday’s debate, Ronchetti criticized Luján’s role in failing to deliver a second COVID-19 relief bill.

“We need another bill to come out of Congress and start to help the people of this state. The congressman has a real role here and can really help get this done,” Ronchetti said. “Stop the finger-pointing. We’ve got to get some aid to the people who badly need it.”

Luján agreed on the need for a second relief bill while laying the blame on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“Look, there needs to be another round of relief for the American people, direct payments of $1,200, small payment like loans and grants that are going to help our businesses,” Luján said. “Mitch McConnell said this week he’s not going to do this. Mitch McConnell has been absent on the negotiations.”

(14) comments

Khal Spencer

Two problems with the Green New Deal. First, in original form, it was a wet dream of every left wing social, economic, and climate program rolled into one giant proposal that would make FDR's original New Deal look like a flyspec by comparison. Stick to climate issues.

Two, the science IS uncertain about the quantitative stuff. Even after all the work that has been done, we are not sure of the CO2 transient and equilibrium sensitivity factors to better than a factor of about three. I think the latest IPCC is still stuck on a range of 1.5 to 4.5 deg C for a given CO2 doubling. That makes a huge difference in projecting trends and costs. So someone is going to have to bite the bullet and make some decisions in the middle of considerable uncertainty.

Khal Spencer

I find it interesting that the SFNM reporter doesn't even tell us what Ronchetti says about climate. From the Journal:

What is your position regarding climate change? What actions should Congress take, if any, regarding the environment?

I oppose the Green New Deal and environmentalist extremism. While the atmosphere is warming and there are steps we can take to protect our environment, we can’t restrict our economy when countries like China and India continue unrestricted pollution. The financial burden would crush our middle and lower class.

What is your opinion on energy initiatives that have been introduced both on the federal and state level such as the Green New Deal and the New Mexico Energy Transition Act?

I strongly oppose the GND – it is not serious legislation. With a price tag of $93-trillion, it will crush our economy. The purpose of the GND isn’t about the environment, it is a complete restructuring of the American and NM economy with free college, guaranteed income and universal healthcare.

I would like to know what Mark thinks we should do in the next six years should he win the election. Business as usual with climate is a pretty stupid idea but where to hedge our bets is the real question. Do we assume a 3 deg sensitivity factor? 2 deg? 4 deg? That means multi trillions of dollars in policy differences. We are going to have to face the music sooner or later and meanwhile, each of us can make a difference in our buying habits. Don't like CO2? Don't buy stuff if it requires a massive CO2 output. Stop eating food that has a boatload of CO2 driving its production. The only reason we see all these fossil fuel plants running is because we want more stuff.

Mike Johnson

Yes Khal, as we know, many reporters here have an agenda. From a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll of young voters, age 18-34, of the seven major issues listed as "matters most", so-called "climate change" came in last, at 7%. Meanwhile Covid and the economy were 25% and 20% respectively. Not a major issue.

Khal Spencer

Indeed, when you are up to your hind end in alligators, its hard to focus on draining thee swamp. Between the bad economy and the pandemic, suddenly, looking half a century out seems rather....quaint.

Gerald Montoya

The last thing New Mexico needs is another "Fox News Trump cult member" representing you in the Congress. Anybody that thinks that Ronchetti and the GOP are looking out for your interests, you'll be sadly disappointed. Don't waste your vote on this newcomer for the sake of change, vote experience and someone that stands a chance of representing your interest in the Senate. If Ronchetti wins, it will be years before finds his way out of the Senate parking garage.

Robert Bartlett

That's it? That's the best attack you've got? LOL

Beverly Duran

Gerald, Ben Ray Lujan must have not hurt you when he was a Congressmen. Because when you don’t hurt, you can be blind to the truth! A newcomer who loves New Mexico or a local vendido who gets his career from the family name Lujan and only gets rich by hurting his own. I don’t know what interest you have but obviously it’s based on your hate for Trump. Like most Democrats that would rather ignore the truth about how the people of New Mexico are really being represented by these locals. BRL betrayed his own small town! Green Deal? He made it possible for the water left in the Rio Grande to be pumped out to rich Santa Fe developers... The trade? Locals water rights were taken and we are being forced to change our traditions and ways of life...yet his commercial shows him at the farm? HA! Did you see anything being grown on that Ad? Why save the world when you sold out your own?

Tim Herrera

Exactly, if you don’t live in the Pojoaque/Tesuque water basin you have not felt the pain of losing what is your right from below the ground that you paid thousands for a well to deliver to you, Water!! Yet, the Congressman has the nerve to declare in his commercials he looks out for water rights. What a joke. The Amodot settlement was crafted from the days his father was a NM Representative to the NM House Speaker to Ben Ray and Tom Udall pushing the unfair settlement through Congress when they did not bring everyone involved to the table. Only those that could benefit the two of them were there. I find it funny that in all his debates he will not refer to his Late father as a politician and the former Speaker of the House. Could it be as Speaker he made a lot of enemies by some of his corrupt bills he pushed through and could possibly affect the votes at the poll? Probably. Unless you do not do your homework on Ben Ray’s voting record and see that he has yet to pass a bill under his name in the last 12 years in Congress you deserve what you get a do nothing Representative that will do nothing in the Senate. The choice is yours.

Mike Johnson

Ben Ray destroyed our valley's water rights, all for political and monetary gain from his special interests. Ben Ray represents the typical NM elite, rich royal family types who have kept NM last on every list of states. Want more of being last, vote for more of the same. Insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting a different outcome.

Jessie Vosti

Mark Ronchetti may be a meteorologist but he is definitely a climate denier. According to Mark Lynas' 'Six Degrees of Climate Emergency'. This is what he has to say about our warming world.

"When I started writing this book, I thought that we could probably survive climate change. Now I am not so sure. As you will read in these pages, we are already living in a world one degree (C) warmer than that inhabited by out parents and grand parents. Two degrees Celsius, which will stress human societies and destroy many natural ecosystems such as rainforests and coral reefs, looms on the near horizon. At three degrees I now believe that the stability of human civilization will be seriously imperiled, while at four degrees a full-scale global collapse of human societies is probable, accompanied by a mass collapse of the biosphere that will be the worst on Earth for tens or even hundreds of millions of years. By five degrees we will see massive positive feedbacks coming into play, driving further warming and climate impacts so extreme that they will leave most of the globe biologically uninhabitable, with humans reduced to a precarious existence in small refuges. At six degrees we risk triggering a runaway warming process that could render the biosphere completely extinct and forever destroy the capacity of this planet to support life."



"I can't tell you with any precision when the globe will reach different temperature levels in the future. This is not so much because the science is uncertain -- although to an extent it is -- but because the rapidity of warming this century will depend on decisions yet to be made about how far and fast carbon emissions continue to rise. If we stay on the current business-as-usual trajectory, we could see two degrees as soon as the early 2030s, three degrees around mid-century, and four degrees by 2075. If we're unlucky with positive feedbacks from thawing permafrost in the Arctic or collapsing tropical rainforests, then we could be in for five or even six degrees by the century's end. On the other hand, if politicians make serious and determined efforts to implement the Paris targets, with the United States coming back into the fold as part of that effort, we can still hold off two degrees until the latter part of the century and stop three degrees or higher temperature rises from ever happening at all."

Khal Spencer

Mark Lynas is a good guy, but his degrees are in history and political science. A lot of conjecture here in those quotes. Still, we do need to think ahead rather than whistle past the graveyard.

Khal Spencer

Especially like his ideas on nuclear power.

"In defence of nuclear power"

In January 2012, Lynas published an article titled In defence of nuclear power,[12] in which he states that "nuclear provides the vast majority of the UK's current low-carbon electricity – as much as 70%, whilst avoiding the emission of 40 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. This is why I want to see more nuclear power in the UK and elsewhere, in order to avoid more carbon emissions". In September 2012, Lynas wrote a follow-up article in the Guardian entitled "Without nuclear, the battle against global warming is as good as lost."[13]

In 2013, Lynas published Nuclear 2.0: Why A Green Future Needs Nuclear Power. Lynas is featured in the 2013 pro-nuclear documentary film Pandora's Promise. Generation IV reactor research programs are developing the type of nuclear power described in Pandora's Promise.

Katherine Martinez

*both of his opponents* (for the spelling patrol, sorry).

Katherine Martinez

The bachelor was somewhat more aggressive this time around, albeit from his mom's basement. Ronchetti mopped the floor with both of this opponents however. Conclusion: Ronchetti for the WIN!

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