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Dems accuse Ronchetti of disingenuous shift in abortion messaging

Ronchetti border wall
courtesy Ronchetti for Governor campaign
Republican candidate for New Mexico governor, Mark Ronchetti

When the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Republican candidate for governor Mark Ronchetti called for “measured dialogue on the issue of abortion” to reach “policies that are more mainstream and reflect our shared values.” The Democratic Party of New Mexico launched a website Wednesday calling the candidate’s recent messaging on the issue an inauthentic shift to a more moderate stance. Ronchetti's campaign denies that the candidate's position on the issue has ever changed.

The site RonchettiOnAbortion.com says the candidate recently deleted from his website a description of himself as “strongly Pro-Life” and a governor who would “champion religious freedoms and the Right to Life.”

The party attributes the discovery of the deleted language to a Washington Post opinion piece about Republican candidates nationwide, along with Ronchetti, “scrambling to dial down their extreme views” on abortion access.

An internet archive shows that language was present on Ronchetti’s campaign site the day the Supreme Court decision came down on June 24, and gone the next time the page was captured in mid-July.

In its place was a new page dedicated to the issue, highlighting his goal of finding a “middle ground” to ban abortions after 15 weeks with exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the pregnant person.

Spokesperson for the Democratic Party of New Mexico, Daniel Garcia, said at a news conference Wednesday that Ronchetti’s website update was intended to hide his actual policy positions from voters.

Las Cruces City Councilor Johana Bencomo said it was “wrong” for the Ronchetti campaign to change the language on its website.

“Misleading New Mexicans in order to pass an abortion ban is deceitful and disingenuous,” she said at the news conference announcing the state Democratic Party’s website.

She said she’s seen politicians have authentic changes of heart on issues, but doesn’t believe that’s the case here. She said, in order to believe that, “I would like to understand, publicly, ‘what happened to make you change your mind? That made you have this major shift in your morality?’”

This isn’t the first time the candidate has been called out for holding a contrary stance to his messaging on the issue. KOB-TV reported that, in July, Legacy Church pastor Steve Smothermon said in a sermon that the candidate told him privately that his “goal would be to end abortion in New Mexico,” and that his proposal of a 15-week ban was intended to be moderate enough to get him elected. The Ronchetti campaign denied to KOB-TV that the candidate told this to the pastor.

Spokesperson for the Ronchetti campaign Ryan Sabel said the candidate’s position on abortion has never changed. He said the candidate still calls himself “pro-life” on his campaign website (though without the “strongly” qualifier). But, Sabel said, Ronchetti is also a “realist” who understands people with differing opinions have to work together to find a solution to this issue.

The RonchettiOnAbortion.com site also lists a quote from the candidate’s 2020 Senate campaign site saying he believed “life should be protected — at all stages.” Sabel told KUNM that the quote, listed under the heading “Life,” was in reference to his opposition to medical aid in dying, not abortion.

Nash Jones (they/them) is a general assignment reporter in the KUNM newsroom and the local host of NPR's All Things Considered (weekdays, 5-7 p.m.). You can reach them at nashjones@kunm.org or on Twitter @nashjonesradio.
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