SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has won reelection to a second term by defeating Republican Mark Ronchetti on pledges to safeguard access to abortion and sustain public spending on social safety-net programs.
Lujan Grisham hitched her campaign to support for abortion access as a cornerstone of women’s rights, along with legislative accomplishments that range from tax cuts to gun control and teacher pay raises.
“Tonight New Mexico said ‘no’ to a political crusade that wants to turn women into second-class citizens,” the governor said in a victory speech to supporters in Albuquerque.
Her reelection in a heavily Hispanic state with entrenched swaths of extreme poverty is likely to prolong state support for tuition-free college for in-state students, expanded preschool and no-pay daycare, and shore up health care subsidies for low-income residents.
Ronchetti, a former television meteorologist, fell short as he skewered Lujan Grisham on public safety concerns and the governor’s oversight of the economy, public education and child protective services.
Ronchetti told supporters, “Do not give up on the promise of what New Mexico can become.”
Lujan Grisham said that Democrats defeated a political movement fueled by anger.
“The weather forecast in New Mexico is four more years — four more years of progress, four more years of rebuilding, four more years of fighting for students and educators,” the governor said.
Lujan Grisham has drawn support from abortion-rights groups, teachers’ union leaders and recent visits from U.S. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
During the pandemic, Lujan Grisham implemented aggressive public health restrictions on businesses and a roughly year-long suspension of classroom learning, promoting COVID-19 vaccinations with special attention to Native American communities.
Lujan Grisham’s reelection victory safeguards recent legislation that limits police immunity from prosecution, provides legal access to medically assisted suicide and outlaws wildlife trapping on public land.
The former three-term congresswoman has championed an “all-of-the-above” strategy toward energy production as wind turbines proliferate across the nation’s No. 2 state for oil production.
Lujan Grisham will command new authority over the electrical grid and power supplies by appointing regulators to the Public Regulation Commission, previously overseen by elected commissioners.
New Mexico has alternated between Democratic and Republican governors since the early 1980s. An incumbent governor last lost reelection in 1994.
The midterm election marked a second unsuccessful bid for public office by Ronchetti, a former television meteorologist who ran for Senate in 2020.
Supportive campaign visits from allied Republican governors and former Vice President Mike Pence failed to spell victory for Ronchetti, as he pledged to send troops and police to the U.S. Border with Mexico if elected.
Former President Donald Trump endorsed Ronchetti last week in a social media post.
AP writer Susan Montoya Bryan contributed from Albuquerque.
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Morgan Lee, The Associated Press