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SANTA FE – Albuquerque financial adviser and military veteran Greg Zanetti jumped into New Mexico’s 2022 race for governor on Monday, becoming the third Republican to announce plans to challenge Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.
A retired brigadier general in the Army, Zanetti said he would bring a different leadership style to the Governor’s Office and criticized Lujan Grisham’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, claiming the governor “overreacted” to the virus by imposing broad business restrictions.
“I think we all want a better New Mexico. What we have now isn’t working,” Zanetti said Monday.
While an incumbent governor has not lost a reelection bid in over 26 years, Zanetti said he felt compelled to run against Lujan Grisham – if he can win the GOP nomination in June 2022.
He cited public schools, economic development and public safety as the three most pressing issues facing the state, and said he is uniquely qualified to tackle those policy areas given his background.
Among other military assignments, Zanetti was deputy commander of a joint task force at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba and testified in a war crimes trial in 2008.
“We’re going to need someone with the heart of a general to deal with the crime situation (in New Mexico) and the social unrest you can already feel percolating,” Zanetti said in a Monday interview.
He also described New Mexico’s current economic development plan as largely focused on “casinos, weed and personal injury attorneys,” saying he would seek to expand development of cutting-edge technologies in conjunction with the state’s universities and national laboratories.
And he said his work as a financial adviser would give him ready insight into budgetary issues, saying, “There is no one in this race that understands money like I do.”
While Zanetti has been active in county-level politics – including two stints as Bernalillo County GOP chairman – and worked with several conservative groups, his only previous run for elected office came in 1994 when he unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor.
Meanwhile, a Lujan Grisham campaign spokeswoman on Monday defended the governor against the criticisms levied by Zanetti, saying the governor had saved many lives during the pandemic and made New Mexico a national model for testing and vaccines.
“Governor Lujan Grisham put $4 billion into the hands of New Mexicans during the pandemic, invested hundreds of millions in New Mexico’s small businesses, and cut taxes for more than half a million middle class families,” Lujan Grisham campaign spokesman Kendall Witmer said. “We are recovering quickly – and diversifying our economy – because of the steps this governor has taken. The Governor’s record of delivering for New Mexicans speaks for itself.”
The other Republicans that have announced gubernatorial campaigns are Jay Block of Rio Rancho, a Sandoval County commissioner, and Karen Bedonie of Farmington.