Lots of interesting prediction and poll numbers have come out in recent days for the November elections. Prospects for Republicans taking the Senate are wobbling. The gains in the House may not be as large. New Mexico Congressional Districts 1 and 3 appear to be shoo-ins for the Democratic incumbents, and CD2 is a virtual dead heat (the last due to bizarre redistricting).
What happened to the Republican momentum? There are two major factors. The first is that in states where Trump-backed primary candidates were successful, they have an uphill climb in the general election. Extremists do not do well with independent voters.
The second shaping factor is the overturning of Roe v. Wade earlier this summer by the Supreme Court. Women are registering to vote in record numbers and previously safe pro-life candidates are vulnerable.
Democratic incumbent governor Michelle Lujan Grisham wasted no time making abortion rights one of her core campaign themes. I had written previously I thought this was a red herring, since the Legislature ultimately would decide on abortion access in New Mexico.
Permit me to say now, I was wrong. Voters don’t care about little nitpicky points like that. And Republican candidate Mark Ronchetti’s apparent flip-flopping on the issue, along with the need to get every Republican voter to the polls, has basically forced him into silence.
But the governor may have overplayed her hand. Last week, she called a press conference to announce an executive order dated Aug. 31 where she allocated $10 million to build a new abortion clinic in Doña Ana County, which happens to be just adjacent to El Paso.
I have also written previously that I support legal abortion with sensible regulation.
I do not support a single elected official running for re-election writing herself a $10 million check from state coffers to build a taxpayer-funded abortion clinic for Texans. There is so much wrong with this: gross overreach of executive powers and use of state money to further an obvious partisan campaign objective, to begin with. Who needs to fundraise when you can just help yourself to millions from the state treasury?
(A point of clarification: The $10 million comes from the governor’s fiscal year 2023 capital outlay, which is part of the annual state budget.)
But there’s nothing Ronchetti can do, right? He’s helpless on the abortion issue because he’s got to pick up those moderate voters without turning off the pro-life folks, right?
Maybe not. As long as we’re in executive overreach mode, there is something Ronchetti could counter with. He never needs to refer to this executive order. But he could respond quickly with a proposed executive order of his own: As one of his first acts in office, he will issue an executive order allocating $10 million of the governor’s 2023 capital outlay for the Child, Youth and Families Department—for an overnight facility in Bernalillo County, an independent oversight board, and to hire additional case workers.
Without offering a stance or even mentioning abortion, Ronchetti takes a stand for living children, calls out the current administration for its ongoing very public failures at CYFD and demonstrates a commitment to implementing his plan to reform the department. It would be a good ad.
An analysis article in POLITICO led with the New Mexico gubernatorial race as one to watch where a GOP candidate could pick off the Democrat in an otherwise blue state. And the Republican Governor’s Association seems to paying attention.
POLITICO warns that abortion remains an Achilles heel for any GOP candidate. But the factors shaping New Mexico—dismal socioeconomic factors, and an incumbent who doesn’t have the highest approval ratings—imply there is still time for Ronchetti to overcome his seven-point gap.
And the incumbent may have just pushed her top issue a bit too far.