Choosing a U.S. senator in New Mexico is a momentous decision — after all, our state sends leaders to Washington, D.C., and tends to keep them there. An open seat is a rare occurrence, which is why the retirement of U.S. Sen. Tom Udall in 2020 is a singular opportunity.
That’s true both for the candidates seeking to fill Udall’s consequential shoes and for voters selecting a senator. Given our history, whoever wins likely will serve a spell — GOP Sen. Pete Domenici was in D.C. for more than three decades, just to name one of several long-serving senators from New Mexico.
Democrat Ben Ray Luján, who has represented the 3rd Congressional District capably for more than a decade, is seeking a promotion to the upper chamber, running against former television weatherman Mark Ronchetti on the GOP side and Libertarian Bob Walsh.
Voters have clear choices.
They can decide based on policy — Luján advocates improving health care access for all, focusing in a recent debate on how Americans face losing insurance if the Affordable Care Act is struck down. That’s what the Republican Party says it wants. But after four years, the party has no replacement plan.
Luján also supports women’s reproductive rights, the importance of protecting public lands, preserving traditional communities, and protecting New Mexico’s air and water.
As a senator, he would vote to confirm Supreme Court justices who value the individual and respect hard-won freedoms. He has been a strong supporter of New Mexico’s military bases and the national laboratories — not always popular with more liberal voters — but positions he considers right for New Mexico.
Always, he works to continue necessary federal investments in New Mexico, whether dollars for tribal nations, water projects, traditional communities or road projects. He is able to see the big picture while taking care of small details, important in writing legislation and delivering constituent services.
If some voters choose policy, others select a senator based on personality. Ronchetti is known widely in the state from his days as a popular television figure — he offers a formidable challenge with his attractive family and broad smile.
But don’t discount Luján on personality — he’s a hardworking, regular guy with a head for intricate policy details and enough political know-how to have helped Democrats retake the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018. He started at the bottom in the House and currently is fourth in seniority and the highest-ranking Hispanic. Able to dive into issues across New Mexico, he can speak to farmers, ranchers, city slickers and tribal members with knowledge and understanding of their points of view.
To the race for Senate, and more importantly, if elected, Luján brings a formidable combination of experience, character and policy chops.
For U.S. Senate, The New Mexican endorses Ben Ray Luján.
With Luján running for Senate, his seat in the 3rd Congressional District is open. Teresa Leger Fernandez won the Democratic primary easily despite fierce competition. Her victory was hardly surprising, despite the strong challengers. Leger Fernandez’s background is impressive.
A native daughter of Las Vegas, N.M., she attended Yale University and Stanford Law School and spent her career working for her community as an attorney — practicing the kind of law that gives vulnerable communities a voice.
She has represented tribal communities, helping develop economic opportunities, protect sacred sites and defend voting rights. Her positions on the issues stem from her work of a lifetime, with understanding that climate change must be addressed, that rural communities need opportunities and that education is the ladder to success and must be available to all.
A mother of three, she would be a rare member of Congress with experience both on a family ranch and farm and as an acequia commissioner. That background means she can take to Congress a deep understanding of her district. That’s along with various connections she has made as a lawyer and during time spent as a Clinton White House Fellow and as an Obama appointee to the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.
In Congress, Leger Fernandez can hit the ground running. That’s exactly what New Mexico needs in these challenging times.
For U.S. House of Representatives, The New Mexican endorses Teresa Leger Fernandez.