Mick Rich says he is prepared to sell southeast New Mexico to potential employers and business investors should he become a United States senator.
“I am not running for the U.S. Senate because I need a job,” said Rich, a Republican from Albuquerque. “I am running for the U.S. Senate because New Mexicans need jobs. They need opportunities and they need a future. They need someone in Washington who is going to stand up there for them and be a voice.”
Rich is challenging incumbent Martin Heinrich, a Democrat from Albuquerque who is seeking a second term.
Rich was one of eight Republican candidates for statewide and Congressional seats to be in Roswell Thursday for the Chaves County Pre-Primary Republican Convention. During that convention, 25 people were chosen to attend the statewide Republican pre-primary convention Feb. 24. Names of elected delegates from the county are expected to be announced next week.
A civil engineer, Rich has owned a construction company, Mick Rich Contractors Inc., for 35 years that he says has done projects throughout the state, including at New Mexico Military Institute.
His said that his visits to New Mexico communities over the past decades and his conversations with their residents lead him to think that rural New Mexico, specifically, and the state as a whole need a senator who will work actively to promote its labor force and its industries.
He identified the economic sectors he would focus on to include farming and ranching, oil and gas, federal research laboratories and military bases, and, in the case of Roswell, aviation.
“Our state has the second-highest unemployment rate in the nation,” he said. “Our state is the only state in the Southwest losing population, and I intend to turn that around, to be a part of the job creation in our state.”
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, New Mexico tied with the District of Columbia for the second-highest unemployment rate in December 2017 at 6 percent. Alaska had the highest unemployment rate at 7.3 percent.
But, while population growth for the state as a whole has been very slow in recent years, it is still in the positive. The population in 2017 was estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau to be at 2.09 million, compared to 2.06 million in 2010. Many counties, however, are experiencing population declines.
Rich also talked about his support for comprehensive immigration reform, saying that he is a strong advocate for working with people from other nations but also a strong believer in the rule of law.
“It all comes down to that we need to make sure that we have a comprehensive immigration plan,” he said. “How do we address the people who are here? How do we address the people who are here and good members of the community and those that aren’t, and those that aren’t are those who are breaking the law and aren’t contributing to our country. That issue needs to be addressed as much as the ones who are responsible members of our society.”
He talked about the reasons he thinks some sort of border wall is needed to protect U.S. property and citizens, based on what he has heard during two years of campaigning.
“I didn’t start this saying I know the issues and I know how to solve them all,” Rich said. “I went around and I listened to people to hear what their concerns are and hear what they had to say about how to solve those. What I found is that if you are not on the border, the border doesn’t seem too bad.”
He gave two examples of people who discussed their need for some sort of protection. One was a rancher who said during a border task force meeting attended by Rich that he didn’t think it is his responsibility to guard six miles of land to keep Mexican cattle from coming onto his pastures. Another was a couple living 25 miles from the border who told him that they keep a dog in their house to guard against drug runners who cross the border at night and try to enter their home.
A spokesperson for Heinrich was not able to respond immediately to questions. But his public positions differ in many ways from Rich’s view.
For one, Heinrich was a lead proponent of the so-called DREAM Act to provide legal protection to children brought to the United State illegally as children, and he has spoken against funding for a border wall. He also has sought to limit commercial use of federal public lands. He does contend that his top priority is job creation, saying that he especially wants to help build the hi-tech and clean energy industries.
Heinrich was a U.S. representative and an Albuquerque city councilor before becoming a senator. Before serving in public office, he worked in energy research for Kirtland Air Force Base, for groups promoting wildlife and nature education and as the head of a public relations firm.
New Mexico primaries are June 5. The general election will occur Nov. 6.
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.