Above: Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mick Rich introduces himself at Wednesday’s monthly luncheon of the Chaves County Republican Women at the Elks Lodge in Roswell. Rich is the first GOP candidate to announce a bid to take on incumbent Democrat U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich. (Jeff Tucker Photo)
Below: In this Tuesday, April 18, 2017 photo Republican construction contractor Mick Rich of Albuquerque stands outside the New [auth] Mexico state Capitol building in Santa Fe, N.M. Rich of Albuquerque is pursuing the GOP nomination to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, becoming the first challenger in the 2018 political race. (AP Photo/Morgan Lee)
Announcing his federal campaign filing Tuesday, Rich emphasized his support for the commercial development of natural resources on federal lands as a way to boost New Mexico’s economy.
He criticized Heinrich’s vote against the confirmation of Energy Secretary Rick Perry as a liability for New Mexico in efforts to ensure funding for national nuclear weapons laboratories overseen by the U.S. Department of Energy, and vowed to be a better broker for New Mexico interests with the federal government.
“We need a senator who is going to be able to pick up the phone and call the energy secretary,” Rich said.
Rich introduced himself at Wednesday’s monthly luncheon of the Chaves County Republican Women at the Elks Lodge in Roswell. His Senate campaign is his first run for elected public office.
Democrats have held both of New Mexico’s Senate seats since GOP Sen. Pete Domenici retired in January 2009. Sen. Tom Udall succeeded Domenici and is serving a second term that runs through 2020.
An engineer and the married father of four grown children, Rich described his 34 years in the construction business as an asset in understanding employment issues and how the federal government contracts with businesses. He expressed outrage at long delays in fixing an underground elevator for visitors at Carlsbad Caverns National Park.
“I understand how hard it is for people to deal with those agencies,” Rich said, while also praising some dedicated federal workers.
His company, Mick Rich Contractors, founded in 1988, builds projects largely for federal, state and local agencies, along with school districts. His company’s clients include New Mexico Military Institute.
If elected, Rich pledged to turn over the operation of his company completely to son Jim Rich. The Senate candidate says his current role does not involve securing government contracts.
Under an appointment by Republican Gov. Susana Martinez, Rich helps resolve wage disputes on government contracts as a member of the state Labor and Industries Commission since 2013.
Rich also signaled public safety issues as a top priority, while tracing New Mexico’s difficulties in addressing violent crime and drug overdoses to illegal drugs crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.
He said he would take a common sense approach to drug interdiction at the border that would include border wall reinforcements in some, but not all, areas. He suggested paying for border wall improvements advocated by President Donald Trump with a portion of the money that immigrants wire home to families in Mexico.
Rich said federal oversight of the Albuquerque Police Department in response to the city’s high-rate of shootings by police has failed to make the city safer.
Regarding Republican plans to overhaul the Affordable Care Act, Rich said there are “multiple ways to make the system affordable without forcing the individual into (insurance coverage) and then penalizing them when they don’t.”
Rich was born in 1954 in Berkeley, California. He has been a resident of New Mexico since 1980. A 1977 graduate of Oregon State University with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, Rich owns a patent on a wall anchor he developed while renovating the historic adobe San Felipe de Neri Church in Albuquerque’s Old Town Plaza.
“I’ve worn a hard hat my entire adult life,” Rich said in campaign literature. “I know what it means to work hard.”
Rich’s campaign slogan, at least initially, is “Send a hard hat to Washington, and let’s get America working again!”
Interim editor Jeff Tucker contributed to this report.