SANTA FE – Former television weatherman Mark Ronchetti of Albuquerque won the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate on Tuesday to compete in an open race to replace retiring Sen. Tom Udall.
Ronchetti will run in the general election against six-term Democratic U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján and Libertarian Bob Walsch of Santa Fe. The weather newscaster defeated anti-abortion activist Elisa Martinez of Albuquerque and professor Gavin Clarkson of Las Cruces.
Ronchetti ran a campaign with upbeat slogans about the future and highlighted his support of President Donald Trump’s border wall in visits to the area. Martinez highlighted Ronchetti’s previous criticism of Trump.
Former Vice President Joe Biden won the Democratic nomination for president in New Mexico, where Trump held a campaign rally last year in hopes of making political inroads.
Hillary Clinton beat Trump by about 8 percentage points in the 2016 statewide vote, and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has pledged her support to Biden this year.
Trump insisted during a rally last year in Rio Rancho that New Mexico was within Republicans’ reach.
With no active opposition, Biden is already the party’s presumed nominee. But the former vice president’s haul of delegates from Tuesday’s voting pushes him closer to the 1,911 delegates he needs to claim the Democratic presidential nomination.
Democratic contenders for Congress, including a former CIA operative, district attorney and professional advocate for Native American communities, were facing off for the opportunity succeed Luján in a district dominated by registered Democrats. The winner of that seven-way contest will compete against a Republican.
Valerie Plame, a former U.S. intelligence operative whose secret identity was exposed shortly after her diplomat husband disputed U.S. intelligence used to justify the 2003 Iraq invasion, aimed to make it to the November election.
Attorney Teresa Leger Fernandez, a longtime consultant for voting rights initiatives and Native American communities, was embraced in her campaign by numerous groups representing progressive causes, including the abortion rights group Emily’s List. Rival candidates included Santa Fe-based District Attorney Marco Serna, Sandoval County Treasurer Laura Montoya and former Obama administration official John Blair.
Overall statewide voting exceeded 375,000, according to the secretary of state’s office.
At a rodeo fairgrounds polling station in Santa Fe, election workers squirted sanitizer on the hands of each arriving voter as one precaution against the coronavirus.
Democrat Mary Ann Andrews, 71, was fearful of mailing delays and instead delivered her absentee ballot to a polling location in Santa Fe on Election Day. She liked two female candidates in the 3rd District and had trouble deciding.
“I ended up voting for Plame,” she said. “I just flipped a coin, honestly. ... I hope she doesn’t disappoint me.”
Three contenders vied for the GOP nomination in the 3rd District where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly 2-1. They included Navajo Nation member Karen Evette Bedonie of Mexican Springs, environmental engineer Alexis Johnson of Santa Fe and former Santa Fe County commissioner Harry Montoya.
In the 2nd Congressional District in southern New Mexico, former state Rep. Yvette Herrell of Alamogordo was competing for the nomination against oil executive Claire Chase of Roswell and Las Cruces businessman Chris Mathys.
Chase had to fend off a barrage of attack ads surrounding previous social media posts where she attacked then-presidential candidate Trump. Herrell lost an open race for the seat in 2018 to Democrat Rep. Xochitl Torres Small.
In New Mexico’s metropolitan 1st Congressional District, three Republicans sought the nomination to take on first-term Rep. Debra Haaland. Bernalillo-based attorney and former police detective Michelle Garcia Holmes is competing against attorney Jared Vander Dussen of Albuquerque and businessman Brett Kokinadis of Santa Fe.
The compact district overlapping Albuquerque hasn’t been represented by a Republican since 2009.
Associated Press reporter Cedar Attanasio contributed to this report from Santa Fe.