Debate highlights three-way Senate race in New Mexico
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — In a feisty three-way U.S. Senate debate in New Mexico, incumbent Democrat Martin Heinrich on Friday cast himself as a crucial line of defense for federal retirement and health care benefits, as Libertarian and Republican challengers painted a picture of runaway federal spending and a lawless southern border with Mexico.
Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson injected free-market philosophy and wild-eyed attacks into the first televised debate of the New Mexico’s Senate race, warning against runaway federal government spending and advocating an overhaul of Social Security.
Heinrich said he opposes raising the minimum retirement age for Social Security, but voiced support for raising its cap on taxable wages.
Republican contender Mick Rich, a political newcomer, attacked Heinrich as a do-nothing senator and sounded the alarm on current weaknesses in border security and the threat of drug smuggling from Mexico.
He also accused Heinrich of “putting politics ahead of our state and our country” by opposing the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Heinrich eagerly defended his vote against Kavanaugh, highlighting the gravity of sexual misconduct allegations against the judge.
Johnson’s late entry into the campaign in August — and his enduring popularity from his tenure as governor — has upended clear predictions for Election Day.
Johnson’s failed 2016 bid for president earned 9 percent of the vote in New Mexico, while Hillary Clinton carried the state.
Republicans are defending a narrow 51-49 majority in the U.S. Senate. Nationwide, Democrats are defending 26 incumbent Senate seats, while Republicans are defending only nine.
Johnson says he wants to act as an independent-minded swing vote.
Heinrich derided Johnson for pledging to slash federal spending on Medicaid and the military that is seen as crucial to New Mexico. Johnson asserts that New Mexico should be an exception to military cuts because of its climate and vast spaces for military and aircraft training.
“I just don’t think it’s credible to say we’re going to cut everywhere else, but not in New Mexico,” Heinrich said.
Rich repeatedly accused Heinrich of being ineffective in the Senate and “abandoning” New Mexico, even alluding to Heinrich’s decision to move his family to the Washington, D.C. area.
“Where he lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, they don’t have a problem along the border,” Rich said.
Heinrich seized on reports that Rich’s construction firm is over-budget and late in completing work on a public university project in Roswell. Rich responded his son now leads the family construction firm and that the project is nearly complete.