Incumbent New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham defeated her Republican opponent, Mark Ronchetti, in the state’s gubernatorial race, according to a projection by Decision Desk HQ.
Ronchetti ran a much closer race in the closing weeks of the campaign to unseat Lujan Grisham than was expected in a state President Joe Biden won by nearly 12 points in 2020. Lujan Grisham, like Democrats across the United States, ran against strong electoral headwinds driven by high inflation, rising crime, and other issues. Biden’s sagging popularity also weighed down Democratic excitement.
Lujan Grisham, 63, sought to make abortion a key issue in the race. “I want to make clear what the stakes are in this election,” Lujan Grisham said in the campaign’s second debate. “A woman’s equality and right to make deeply personal health care decisions is on the ballot in New Mexico.”
Ronchetti ran on moderate abortion policy, supporting a 15-week abortion ban with exceptions for rape, incest, and when the life of the mother is at risk. He also supported a ballot measure for New Mexicans to vote on if they support further restrictions.
Ronchetti, a 49-year-old former meteorologist, largely focused his campaign on education, crime, and economic issues.
The New Mexico gubernatorial race was complicated by the Libertarian candidate Karen Bedonie. Republicans accused Bedonie of running as a spoiler to take some of Ronchetti’s vote and help Lujan Grisham win a second term in office. Bedonie denied the allegations.
Bedonie said in an October 16 video posted to her Facebook page that “the only comfort I find in this race is that man cannot win with me in the way. … That man cannot win this race. He will never be governor as long as I’m alive and well, and in this race.”
In the final days of the campaign, an Albuquerque attorney posted what he said were screenshots of text messages showing Lujan Grisham’s 2018 campaign coordinated with a KOB-TV ahead of the local outlet’s debate.
Ronchetti called for the news station to begin an internal investigation into the alleged texts to verify if Lujan Grisham did receive debate questions ahead of time, and if so, to investigate whether the New Mexico governor received a similar advantage ahead of this year’s debate. The Ronchetti campaign also ran a billboard with the word “cheater” over Lujan Grisham’s likeness outside of a rally Biden held with the governor last week.
Lujan Grisham’s campaign accused Ronchetti of “cooking up bizarre and ridiculous conspiracy theories about Gov. Lujan Grisham’s 2018 victory.”
Lujan Grisham was also dogged by allegations she groped a former staffer. James Hallinan, who worked as Lujan Grisham’s communications director for her 2018 campaign, accused the governor three years ago of groping him. Hallinan’s allegations have resurfaced in the governor’s race in attack ads against Lujan Grisham.
Grisham has denied Hallinan’s accusations. Expense reports from Lujan Grisham’s campaign reveal that it had paid out a settlement to a law firm representing Hallinan. The payments were titled “legal expenses” without explicit mention to Hallinan’s allegations.