Today, the Journal begins its candidate endorsements for the June 2 primaries.
In the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, the Journal endorses Mark Ronchetti.
The former TV weatherman’s entrance into the race in early January surprised many political insiders and energized disillusioned Republicans who thought they had little chance of competing for the Senate seat against well-known Democrat Ben Ray Luján, who is leaving his House District 3 seat.
Since then, Ronchetti has proven he’s a viable candidate, although this is his first political campaign. According to the most recent campaign finance reports released in mid-April, Ronchetti raised $650,000 since announcing his candidacy, outdistancing Republican rivals Gavin Clarkson, who raised almost $318,000, and Elisa Martinez, who raised more than $170,000. Ronchetti also finished second behind Martinez (198 votes to her 241) at the state Republican Party Pre-Primary Convention in March.
With name recognition all across New Mexico, courtesy of decades of television newscasts, Ronchetti has the potential to win a statewide race, unlike his GOP opponents. And beyond his inherent likability, he’s not relying on the coattails of President Donald Trump. In fact, Ronchetti has shown the most independence from Trump among the Republican candidates for any race in New Mexico, a good sign he would put our state’s needs before party politics.
Ronchetti says he felt strongly enough about public service to quit what he called “the best job in the world” and to lay it all on the line. That took conviction. He was the chief meteorologist for KRQE where he worked for 13 years after seven years at KOAT. The high-profile jobs have given him insight into our culturally and geographically diverse state and allowed him to connect with many New Mexicans.
Ronchetti says he wants to restore some political balance to New Mexico’s congressional delegation; all five in office today are Democrats. In his candidate interview, he harkened back to days when Democrat Bill Richardson and Republican Joe Skeen worked together in the U.S. House of Representatives, and Democrat Jeff Bingaman and Republican Pete Domenici worked on issues together in the U.S. Senate. New Mexico, not party ideology, was the priority.
A victim of a home invasion and car break-in, Ronchetti told the Journal editorial board that crime was the issue that put him over the top in his decision to run for Senate. Far too many New Mexicans can relate to that. The father of two young daughters, Ronchetti also is concerned by the state’s lagging public education system, the inequities that exist for those who can’t afford to send their children to private schools, and is a big supporter of charter schools. He’s also made reclaiming critical jobs from China an issue in his campaign.
And he says he and his family will continue to live in New Mexico if he wins. “I want to make sure that my two girls can grow up in New Mexico where chasing the American dream is possible,” he wrote in his candidate questionnaire.
Ronchetti says New Mexico Republicans need someone with a megaphone to speak on their behalf, that Democrats face “zero push back and zero accountability” for their policies, and he relishes the opportunity to rebuild the GOP party in New Mexico. He says New Mexicans are innately conservative, particularly on issues like abortion and gun control.
Asked directly by the Journal editorial board if he can beat Luján, Ronchetti said he wouldn’t be in the race if he didn’t think so. And he has the charisma to pull it off. His upbeat personality and Reaganesque optimism make him the best candidate in the GOP field. He’s also the fresh, young face New Mexico Republicans need badly. A matchup between Ronchetti and Luján promises to be an interesting and competitive Senate race, the likes of which – sadly – New Mexican voters have not been afforded in decades.
Read the Q&A’s: U.S. Senate primary candidates
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.