Pastor again says Ronchetti would ban abortion

Nov. 2—An Albuquerque pastor who said Republican gubernatorial hopeful Mark Ronchetti told him earlier this year he wanted to outlaw abortion access stood by his original statement that the candidate told him one thing on the issue and the public another.

In a sermon taped Oct. 19, Pastor Steve Smothermon of Legacy Church in Albuquerque said Ronchetti, in his original meeting with Smothermon, "told me exactly what I said — exactly. But he got on TV and said he didn't."

Smothermon was referring to a meeting this summer in which he said Ronchetti told him he wanted an outright ban on abortion access, though the candidate originally told voters he believed abortion should be legal for the first 15 weeks of pregnancy and in cases of pregnancies involving rape, incest or when a mother's life is at risk.

Since then, Ronchetti has called for letting voters decide on the issue through a constitutional amendment, and Smothermon walked back some of his comments on the issue. In an August statement, he said, "Mark was clear with me that he is personally pro-life."

During an Oct. 17 televised debate, a journalist asked Ronchetti if he had told the pastor his goal was to end abortion in the state. Ronchetti said he told Smothermon "everything I've told everybody else in this, and that is that I am pro-life, but I believe this is a very personal issue and we need to treat it as such."

During the Sunday sermon, titled "The Hard Sayings of Jesus," Smothermon spoke of how Christians wanting to enter "the kingdom of God" must commit 100 percent to the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Because of her support for abortion rights, he suggested Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, was not one of those Christians and called her a "murderer" and "reprobate."

A message left Tuesday for Smothermon at Legacy Church was not returned.

Smothermon, who has popped into the political landscape before with endorsements for Albuquerque city councilors and been accused by critics of violating IRS guidelines that ban churches and nonprofits from most political campaigning, said during the recent sermon he was "shocked" to suddenly become part of that debate as a "little old preacher in Albuquerque who has apparently gotten under the governor's skin."

While saying Lujan Grisham "calls it evil that we would be against abortion," he also brought up the seemingly contradictory views Ronchetti has expressed, once again raising questions about Ronchetti's stance on abortion.

"I'm telling you folks," Smothermon said of Ronchetti during the sermon, "It doesn't matter what we say we believe. It matters what we do, and that determines what we believe."

Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade earlier this year, abortion has also become one of the main issues in the midterm election. Lujan Grisham, who signed a law in 2021 repealing New Mexico's pre-Roe abortion ban and recently pledged to use

$10 million in her capital outlay money to build a clinic near the Texas border that would provide abortion services and other reproductive health care, has made her abortion stance a cornerstone of her reelection bid.

One Lujan Grisham ad accuses Ronchetti of "flip-flopping" on the abortion — a charge she also made in the television debates.

With Election Day less than a week away, both sides have amped up the rhetoric on some of the main issues likely to resonate with voters as they head to the polls to cast ballots — including crime, public education and abortion.

Most recent polling results on the governor's race indicate Lujan Grisham holds at least a small lead, though at least one polls puts Ronchetti ahead by 1 percentage point.

Delaney Corcoran, spokeswoman for Lujan Grisham's campaign, asked in an email whether Ronchetti is "lying to the voters or lying to the pastor? The only thing we know for certain is that Mark Ronchetti is a liar." At the same time, she said Lujan Grisham's stance on the issue has been consistent.

Ryan Sabel, a spokesman for the Ronchetti campaign, wrote in an email Tuesday the campaign has no further comment on the issue.