Mick Rich conducts 5-day town hall tour to 23 cities


AZTEC — Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mick Rich visited Farmington and Aztec Thursday as part of his five-day town hall tour to 23 cities.

Rich, 63, is running unopposed for the GOP nomination to run against Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., in the November election. Heinrich, 46, has served in the Senate since 2013.

Heinrich, Rich and Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn Jr., 62, a Libertarian, are the only three candidates who filed to run for the office.

Heinrich has said his top priorities will be diversifying New Mexico's economy and creating jobs. When he filed his candidacy paperwork in February, he released a statement saying he will focus on securing forward-looking missions for military installations in New Mexico, push for land protections to fuel the outdoors recreation industry and work to position New Mexico as a leader in renewable energy.

Rich addressed topics ranging from federal lands and oil and gas permitting to gun control during his town hall meeting at the Aztec Public Library.

He said the majority of federal land is in the western United States, but the U.S. Department of the Interior is located in Washington, D.C. Rich said he supports proposals to move the department’s headquarters to the western United States.

Rich also spoke about how important oil and gas development is to New Mexico.

“I will support oil and gas,” he said. “It’s important to our state. It’s important for jobs, good-paying jobs.”

He said the state “took a nosedive in revenue” due to a downturn in the oil and gas industries.

One member of the audience asked Rich about his stance on gun-free zones for schools.

Rich said he believes local communities or states should make decisions about whether teachers should be permitted to carry guns in schools.

Rich addressed the December shooting at Aztec High School that killed two students, as well as the February shooting at a high school in Florida.

“My heart goes out to the families,” he said. “I can’t imagine sending your kids off to school, wishing them well and getting the call saying your children aren’t coming home.”

Rich said the outcome would have been different in Florida if teachers had been allowed to carry a gun.

Rich is a construction contractor who moved to New Mexico in the 1980s and started a business in Albuquerque. He has a civil engineering degree from Oregon State University, where he met his wife, Marion. They have one son and three daughters.

After the meeting, Rich spoke to The Daily Times about the potential closure of the coal-fired power plants in San Juan County.

Rich said he has learned about technology that is being created by Sandia National Laboratories to recover carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants.

He said if he is elected, he will set money aside for a pilot plant to test the carbon dioxide recovery technology in Farmington.

He said he also supports finding ways to build a railroad to Farmington.

At the end of the meeting, Rich made a promise that, if elected, he would return to New Mexico every other weekend. He said he wouldn’t just fly into Albuquerque. Instead, he promised that he would visit all parts of the state during his return trips.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

Mick Rich town hall fact check

Claim: New Mexico has the only air national guard without airplanes.

The facts: New Mexico has the only air national guard without an operational flying mission. It is one of three without unit-equipped aircraft. Heinrich and the New Mexico congressional delegation have supported resuming flying missions.

— Las Cruces Sun News, Dec. 14, 2017

Claim: “Because of New Mexico’s oil and gas industry, we’re no longer dependent on Middle East oil.”

The facts: According to a report released by the International Energy Agency, the United States is projected to overtake Russia and Saudi Arabia to become the world’s largest crude oil producer within the next five years.

New Mexico has 4 percent of the country’s crude oil reserves. The Permian Basin, in southwest Texas and southeast New Mexico, is one of the most prolific petroleum producing regions in the country. In October, New Mexico was third in the nation for oil production.

— U.S. Energy Information Administration

Claim: Martin Heinrich voted against the appointment of the U.S. secretary of energy.

The facts: Heinrich voted against Rick Perry’s appointment as secretary of the Department of Energy. Heinrich cited Perry's comments about getting rid of the department, as well as Perry's position on climate change, as reasons he voted against the appointment.

— Carlsbad Current-Argus, Jan. 31, 2017

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