Maharg touts faith and family roots in bid to lead NM
Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal
Editor’s note: The Journal continues a series profiling Republican gubernatorial candidates and examining other contested races statewide.
SANTA FE — Ethel Maharg could be a longshot in this year’s Republican primary race for governor, but she insists she shouldn’t be counted out.
The anti-abortion activist and former Cuba Village mayor is quick to point to racehorse Rich Strike’s victory — at odds of 80 to 1 — in this month’s Kentucky Derby and says he doesn’t there’s no reason she can’t pull off a similar upset match.
“Just because y’all think I’m an underdog in this race doesn’t mean I am,” Maharg said in a recent Journal interview.
But, labels aside, Maharg received the fewest delegate votes at a GOP convention in February and lags far behind some of his GOP rivals in fundraising.
In all, she has raised about $28,000 for her gubernatorial campaign since last summer, according to reports filed with the secretary of state’s office.
Maharg describes herself as the only New Mexico native candidate with Hispanic heritage in the GOP primary, while touting her leadership experience.
In a recent campaign video, Maharg also said she faced financial uncertainty and knew how to collect firewood and start a fire for cooking.
But if there’s one issue that defines her campaign, it’s abortion — and Maharg isn’t trying to downplay it.
Maharg currently works as executive director of the New Mexico Right to Life Committee, an anti-abortion group, and has participated in Roundhouse protests on the issue.
If elected governor, she said she would push for a “heartbeat bill” to be passed in New Mexico, similar to legislation enacted in Texas.
She also said New Mexico residents don’t want abortion allowed, even though the state’s Democratic-controlled legislature voted in 2021 to repeal a long-dormant abortion ban and that Albuquerque voters in 2013 rejected a proposal to ban late-term abortion.
“I want this to end, I’m not going to hide it,” Maharg said in reference to abortion, which she described as a “black stain” on New Mexico.
She also opposes the state’s 2021 “End-of-Life Options Act,” which allows New Mexicans diagnosed with terminal illnesses to take prescribed drugs to end their lives.
“We need to restore the dignity of human life in our state because it is lacking and causing so many problems,” Maharg said in an interview with KOB-TV.
A political family
Maharg comes from a politically active family, as her father was also the mayor of Cuba and one of her grandfathers was a state senator.
However, she says she never considered herself an aspiring politician, either growing up or as an adult.
“I never really thought I would even do what I’m doing right now,” she told the Journal. “When you’re in a small community, you just do what needs to be done.”
In fact, Maharg’s involvement in local politics in Cuba came after a controversy over the water bill of the hair salon she owned.
This eventually led to Maharg becoming mayor of Cuba from 1996 to 2006. She also served on the village council.
After her term as mayor, Maharg and her family moved to Albuquerque, where she worked for Care Net Pregnancy Center, a nonprofit faith-based organization that provides information to pregnant women.
Maharg was also a math teacher and worked in the oil and gas industry, which gave him a front-line perspective on certain issues.
This year’s race also holds personal significance for Maharg, who said one of his daughters recently moved from New Mexico with her family to live in Texas.
“I’m tired of seeing our kids leave our state because the conditions are so bad,” she said.
Meanwhile, religion also plays a central role in Maharg’s campaign – and in his life.
“My faith has been what guides me,” said Maharg, who announced his gubernatorial campaign at New Beginnings Church of God in Albuquerque. “I wouldn’t be here without God.”
During his campaign for governor, Maharg espoused far-right views on some issues.
Although Maharg did not respond to a Journal candidate questionnaire sent to all candidates, she told the Santa Fe New Mexican that the January 6, 2021, invasion of the US Capitol was attributable to Antifa, not supporters. of former President Donald Trump.
This is despite ample evidence to the contrary, including video recordings and oral arguments from attorneys representing defendants facing criminal charges.
She also said she believes Joe Biden was not legitimately elected president, echoing Trump’s voter fraud allegations that have gone largely unsubstantiated.
In total, Maharg is one of five Republicans vying for the party’s gubernatorial nomination, with mail-in voting already underway for the June 7 primary election.
Whoever emerges as the GOP nominee would face Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham, who is seeking re-election, and Libertarian Karen Bedonie in November’s general election.