By Tris DeRoma
Friday, August 18, 2017
LOS ALAMOS- In his bid to unseat Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) in the 2018 senatorial race, businessman Mick Rich is taking his fight straight to the middle class.
When he talks healthcare, border security, the economy or any other topic, Rich tends to keep his focus on the New Mexicans in the middle.
Nowhere is this more clear than when he talks about utility rates.
“Right now, here’s where we are at on this. They’re looking at subsidizing large customers to move here and subsidize their electrical rates. And the people at the bottom, they’re getting their rates subsidized by different programs to help the disadvantaged. So, who pays full freight? The average, hard working New Mexican.” Rich said. “Right now, we have a system that’s unfair. What we need to do is consider that we have fair utility rates for everybody, not just for the people at the top and the bottom.”
He does admit, however, that he’s facing an uphill battle when it comes to helping the middle class. Part of the problem, Rich says, is that Heinrich and other members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation haven’t done enough to defend New Mexico’s economic interests, especially when it comes to military project.
“There are less opportunities here than when I came to New Mexico in 1980,” he said. “There’s less jobs, less opportunities. It’s real frustrating to see. I’m hearing that other states are looking at New Mexico as weak, our state is being taken advantage of by other states. Our missions are being taken,” he said. “In New Mexico, we lost our F-16s for our air national guard. We now have an air national guard with no airplanes. Holloman Air Force Base lost their F-22s.
That to me is real troubling, But our two senators (Heinrich, Tom Udall-D-NM) are excited that Holleman’s getting more F-16s. I’m saying that if the F-16s are such a great airplane Tell Utah to keep the F-16 and give us the F-35s they’re getting. We’re getting the hand me downs.”
Rich said he would do the same for the labs, and its subcontractors. (Rich’s company, Mick Rich LLC, has a contract with LANL. Rich said he is now a consultant for the company and that his son handles the day to day business. Rich is also a former employee of LANL.)
“I’m not required in my business to contract or hire individuals from Northern New Mexico, but I have made it a point to do that in my own company, even though it wasn’t required,” he said.
Rich also believes that if New Mexico’s congressional leadership is going to fight for the New Mexico’s national labs, then the labs should do a better job of keeping its workers safe.
When he talks about when Pete Domenici was a New Mexico senator (1973-2009), he had a more personable relationship with the laboratories, which commanded him more respect with the labs and in Washington D.C. That’s the type of relationship he would aspire to if he was elected senator, Rich said.
“I’m a simple guy. I look around and think what worked, and what doesn’t work Sen. Domenici made sure the labs had a mission. He made sure that mission was funded, and that the funds were well spent,” Rich said. “When there was a problem, the lab personnel were more concerned about the senator coming up to visit them the Department of Energy. It was quite remarkable how he conducted himself with the labs, it gave him huge credibility in Washington. This is a guy that held the labs’ and the military base’s feet to the fire.”
As for healthcare, Rich believes the answer is to open up the market, to let small businesses and individuals purchase health coverage across state lines.
“Big business can buy health care across state lines, big labor can buy healthcare across state lines why can’t small business and average guys and gals buy health care across state lines,” he said.
As a businessman, Rich said the Affordable Care Act has done nothing for small business.
“My daughter is a medical student. She and I went to Martin Heinrich’s town hall meeting when they were discussing Obamacare (Affordable Care Act) and he stood up there and what he told everyone at that time was that cost are going to go down, care will be more affordable, you’re going to be able to keep you health plan, you’re going to be able to keep my doctor and you’re going to see how really good it is,” he said.
“I wasn’t able to keep my doctor, my health plan for all my staff has changed, all my costs to my company has gone up, the costs to my staff have gone up, it’s all fallen apart.”
Rich said if he gets to Washington he’s going to vote for whatever he knows would work, pre-existing medical conditions included.
“I’ve dealt with the pre-existing conditions issue within my own family and I know how important that is, I know how important it was to my family, how unfair it was to my family. Whatever changes are going to be made, those pre existing conditions issues are going to be dealt with in a fair fashion for everybody. The idea that someone has a pre existing condition and their stuck, that’s not fair. Right now we have a health care system that’s not affordable, not accessible,” he said.
Rich said a lot of the problems he wants to solve are linked to New Mexico’s porous border with Mexico.
“I went to Deming, met with ranchers just 20 miles from the border and talked with them,” Rich said. “They are talking about the drug runners coming through their ranch… we’re talking about people making a living out of killing. We’re talking about drug runners coming through the property checking the doors and the windows to see if they’re unlocked. When I met with them and driving up to their ranch house, they’re saying these drugrunners have spotters on the mountains and they know who’s where and who’s doing what. That’s an awful feeling.”
Rich said they also talked about contamination problems with cattle coming from south of the border as well.
He said building some type of barrier, whether it be a fence or a wall, just makes sense in that area of the state.
“Drug runners running the backroads of the county, running drugs up north through an unsecured border is killing the Mexican and creating a crime wave across New Mexico and this has got to stop. This is a senator’s job,” he said. “If it makes sense to build a wall, build a wall in that section.”
Rich decided three years ago he wanted to run against Heinrich to help revitalize New Mexico.
“I was in Santa Rosa and there’s a young woman passing through getting a cup a coffee,” he said. “She said ‘there’s no future for me here, where should I go’. I would have loved to tell her where those opportunities are.”