New Mexico construction contractor announces US Senate bid – Arizona Daily Star

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SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Commercial construction contractor Mike 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.

Announcing his federal campaign filing Thursday, Rich emphasized his support for the commercial development of natural resources on federal lands as a way to boost the New Mexico 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’s campaign is his first for elected public office. Democrats have held both New Mexico Senate seats since GOP Sen. Pete Domenici retired in January 2009. Sen. Tom Udall succeeded Domenici and is serving a second term 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, builds projects largely for federal, state and local agencies, along with school districts. 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 involved securing government contracts.

Under an appointment by GOP New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, Rich helps resolve wage disputes on government contracts as a member of the state Labor and Industries Commission.

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 family 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.”