Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – Mark Ronchetti could be inching closer to a gubernatorial run after abruptly resigning as a KRQE-TV meteorologist Thursday on the heels of an updated campaign website briefly going live.
Ronchetti, who was the GOP nominee for an open U.S. Senate seat in 2020, said Friday he had not yet made a final decision about whether to run for governor next year.
“Krysty and I will continue to talk to our girls and pray about the direction we’re going to head in next,” Ronchetti said in a statement, referring to his wife and daughters. “We hope to have a final decision by next week.”
Ronchetti’s resignation was announced by KRQE-TV anchors during a Thursday evening broadcast, after Ronchetti’s campaign website – featuring a “Mark Ronchetti governor” logo – was made publicly viewable.
The website was taken down shortly after the Journal inquired about it.
Meanwhile, the state Democratic Party seized on the situation Friday, accusing Ronchetti of publicly denying his political ambitions while privately holding closed-door meetings for a possible gubernatorial campaign.
Delaney Corcoran, a Democratic Party spokeswoman, said Ronchetti has “shown he will always prioritize personal political gain at the expense of New Mexicans.”
Ronchetti left KRQE-TV to run for the U.S. Senate in 2020. He won a three-way Republican primary race in his first foray into statewide politics, but lost in the general election to Democrat Ben Ray Luján, and subsequently returned to the television station.
Given that backdrop, the Democratic Governors Association recently warned KRQE-TV that Ronchetti’s on-air presence as a meteorologist could subject the station to equal treatment provisions under federal communications law if he were to run for governor next year.
Under federal communications law, radio and television stations must provide equal broadcast time to opposing political candidates, with certain allowable exceptions.
The letter did not mention Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham by name, although the governor was elected in December 2020 as the DGA’s chairwoman, a prominent post for fundraising and supporting Democratic governor candidates.
Shortly after the most recent letter was sent, Ronchetti accused Lujan Grisham of using her position to harass him and his family, and to try to get him fired from his television job.
He also said he had not commented on political issues or “done anything of a political nature” since the end of the Senate campaign.
Seven other Republican candidates have announced gubernatorial campaigns, with whoever wins the GOP nomination set to run against Lujan Grisham in the November 2022 general election.
The governor recently reported raising more than $2.5 million for her re-election campaign during a recent six-month time period and having $2.1 million in her campaign account.
That’s more than six times more money than the top-raising Republican – state Rep. Rebecca Dow of Truth or Consequences, who reported having $337,000 in her campaign account after transferring more than $105,000 from her legislative war chest.
Another GOP candidate, Greg Zanetti of Albuquerque, questioned whether Ronchetti’s background qualifies him to be governor.
“Mark is an accomplished weatherman, but New Mexico is going to need someone with real world military, financial and business experience to turn the state around,” Zanetti said in a Friday statement.
Meanwhile, state Republican Party chairman Steve Pearce said recently it would be difficult for any candidates not already in the race to be competitive in the June primary election.
“I would say the field is probably looking like it’s going to look next year,” Pearce said during an interview with KKOB news radio.