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Congressman, meteorologist, scientist vie for historic New Mexico U.S. Senate seat


This year’s New Mexico U.S. Senate race pits a Democrat with extensive government service against a Republican who is running for office for the first time. There’s also a Libertarian in the race.

Democrat Ben Ray Lujan, 48, has represented the state’s Third Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives for the past 11-plus years and is assistant speaker of the House. He served four years on the state Public Regulation Commission before being elected to Congress and is the son of Ben Lujan, longtime speaker of the New Mexico House of Representatives. Lujan was born in Santa Fe and lives in Nambe.

Republican Mark Ronchetti, 46, is a meteorologist and former television weatherman in Albuquerque. He defeated two other candidates, including Gavin Clarkson of Las Cruces, in the Republican Primary in June. Ronchetti was born in Shelburne, Vermont, and moved to New Mexico in 1998.

Libertarian Bob Walsh, 83, of Santa Fe, is a retired physicist and co-founder of Rocky Mountain EMS. He unsuccessfully ran for state representative, District 48, in 2010 as a Libertarian.

The three are vying for New Mexico’s Fall Senate seat, so named because former secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior Albert B. Fall was the first person to hold it when the state’s two U.S. Senate seats were created in March 1912, two months after New Mexico achieved statehood. Fall and the state’s other first-ever U.S. senator, Thomas B. Catron, were appointed by the New Mexico Legislature, Most U.S. senators were chosen by state legislatures until after ratification of the 17th amendment to the U.S. Constitution in April 1913 that mandated their popular election.

Whoever wins the Fall seat will be the eighth man to hold it; no woman has ever held a U.S. Senate seat in New Mexico. Previous holders of the seat are Republicans Fall, Holm O. Bursum and Pete Domenici, who was in the Senate for 36 years before retiring in 2009; and Democrats Sam G. Bratton, Carl Hatch, Clinton P. Anderson (who had previously served as secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture during the Truman Administration) and incumbent Tom Udall, who is retiring after two six-year terms and is the only Democrat in the country whose Senate seat is up in 2020 who is not running for re-election.

Only once in the 108-year history of the seat has an incumbent lost, in 1924, when Bratton defeated Bursum. Bursum was the only Republican incumbent to lose a Senate seat that year. Bratton resigned the seat in 1933 to become a federal judge. His son, Howard Bratton, was also a federal judge in New Mexico, including service on the bench in Las Cruces.

Although Fall’s Tres Ritos Ranch was in the Tularosa Basin in southern New Mexico, no one from Las Cruces has ever held the Fall seat. The only person from Las Cruces to hold a U.S. Senate seat in New Mexico was former state Rep. and Gov. Ed Mechem. He resigned as governor in 1962, a month before his term ended, and was appointed by new Gov. Tom Bolack to the Catron seat (currently held by Democrat Martin Heinrich), vacated by the Nov. 18, 1962 death of Democrat Dennis Chavez. Mechem ran for a full term in the Senate in 1964 but lost to Joseph Montoya.

Visit https://lujan.house.gov/, www.benraylujan.com/, www.markronchetti.com and www.walshforsenate2020.us.