Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham during a rally featuring U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday, Nov. 3. (Photo by Gino Gutierrez / KSFR)
New Mexicans have signaled their approval of Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s first term by sending her back to the governor’s mansion for four more years.
The Associated Press has called the hotly contested New Mexico governor’s race for Lujan Grisham, with 51.2% of the vote over Republican challenger Mark Ronchetti’s 46.4%. Libertarian Karen Bedonie — who never polled above single digits — has received 2.4% of ballots cast.
Lujan Grisham made protecting access to abortion a centerpiece of her campaign after the Supreme Court overturned Roe in June.
“I’ve made clear that the reason abortion is safe and legal in New Mexico is because I’m the governor,” she told KUNM in October.
The governor expanded access to the procedure in New Mexico, including protecting providers and patients from criminalization through executive orders, and overturning a dormant ban ahead of the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade. She told KUNM she’d push to have the right codified in state law if voters gave her a second term. Ronchetti had proposed letting voters weigh in on whether to ban the procedure after 15 weeks of pregnancy with some exceptions.
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Other key issues in the race for the state’s top executive included education, the economy and crime.
Lujan Grisham implemented teacher raises, tuition-free college and expanded preschool in her first term. She defended pandemic school closures as difficult but effective at keeping children safe and said she’s made investments to catch students up that need time to work. The Albuquerque Journal reported the state’s fourth- and eighth-graders saw setbacks in math and reading over the pandemic. The governor also told KUNM that future COVID mandates of any kind are now off the table thanks to increased treatment options and vaccination rates.
Ronchetti campaigned on the state’s poor test scores, calling for more to be done to catch kids up after pandemic school closures. While he proposed providing education stipends for students in first through third grade from families with low incomes to help repair learning loss, Lujan Grisham herself announced new investments in tutoring at “priority schools” for K-8 grade last month.
As for economic policy, the governor ran on tax rebates, credits and cuts implemented during record inflation, and assured voters more relief is to come amid record state revenue.
“New Mexicans should expect me to make it easier for them, and they should expect direct assistance proposed by us in a number of ways that lifts them up through inflation,” she said.
All candidates for governor ran pro-police, tough-on-crime campaigns amid record homicides in Albuquerque.
While Ronchetti hoped that highlighting a reduced prison population and stubbornly high violent crime rate would sway voters, the governor increased some criminal penalties in her first term, upped recruitment and pay for State Police officers, and supported stricter pre-trial detention rules, though that proposal failed in the Democratic-controlled legislature.
The governor thanked her supporters at a watch party at the Clyde Hotel in Downtown Albuquerque Tuesday night and, after a contentious race, made a promise to those who didn’t vote for her as well.
“Whether you voted for me or not, I have been and I will continue to be devoted to your needs, to calls-to-action, because that’s what a governor does,” she told the crowd of hundreds.
Ronchetti had conceded the race earlier in the night at his watch party at Hotel Albuquerque before the Associated Press had called the race for Lujan Grisham. KSFR’s Gino Gutierrez told KUNM the Republican took a “unifying” approach when addressing his supporters, calling on voters on both sides of the aisle to “come together as one New Mexico family.”
In the final days of the campaign, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to New Mexico to rally voters behind the governor. Lujan Grisham said Biden called her to congratulate her on her win and promise New Mexicans that they can count on “every resource of the federal government to assure that the work that we have accomplished together, including free college, becomes the standard bearer for every state in America,” Lujan Grisham recalled to applause from the crowd.
While Ronchetti received the endorsement of former President Donald Trumphe didn’t publicly acknowledge it, having tried to keep his distance from the MAGA Republican.
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