Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – Mark Ronchetti has joined a crowded field of Republican candidates seeking the party’s 2022 nomination for governor, providing a new jolt to what was already shaping up to be a high-pressure election cycle.
The Albuquerque meteorologist, who stepped down from his job at KRQE-TV last week amid escalating intrigue about his political plans, announced his campaign Wednesday morning.
In a campaign announcement video, Ronchetti cast himself as a political outsider and targeted Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s handling of crime and other public safety issues.
“I’m a proud New Mexican, but I’m not proud of our politicians and the direction they’re taking the state,” Ronchetti said in the video.
In an interview, Ronchetti said he did not intend to reenter politics after being defeated in a 2020 bid for an open U.S. Senate seat, but felt compelled to run for governor in part due to what he described as a toxic political climate in New Mexico.
He also said he made the decision after long talks with his family, but did not discuss the race with state Republican Party officials.
On the issues, Ronchetti vowed to support police officers, help small businesses and improve a New Mexico public school system that has performed poorly in national rankings for years.
He also said Lujan Grisham has “robbed us of our freedoms” by her handling of the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed more than 5,000 New Mexico residents.
In response to his announcement, the executive director of the Democratic Governors Association accused Ronchetti of siding with former President Donald Trump, who lost in New Mexico in both 2016 and 2020, and engaging in “science denialism.”
“A Ronchetti administration would be a complete disaster – New Mexico needs a governor who believes in facts and science,” said DGA Executive Director Noam Lee, who predicted Lujan Grisham would win reelection to a second four-year term.
Ronchetti is also likely to face questions in the coming months about his qualifications to be governor since he has neither worked in state government nor held elected office.
In response to a question about his résumé, he said Wednesday he would be more responsive to constituents than long-time elected officials, adding his career has been “built on listening to the people of New Mexico.”
The grandson of Italian immigrants, Ronchetti grew up in Vermont and moved to Albuquerque to launch his career. After a brief stint in Oregon, Ronchetti returned to New Mexico in 2006 and has become a well-known television personality.
He left KRQE-TV to run for the U.S. Senate in 2020 and won a three-way Republican primary race in his first foray into statewide politics. But Ronchetti lost in the general election to Democrat Ben Ray Luján and subsequently returned to the television station.
Meanwhile, his announcement to run for governor is relatively late in the game, as seven other Republican candidates have announced gubernatorial campaigns. The other candidates include state Rep. Rebecca Dow of Truth or Consequences, Sandoval County Commissioner Jay Block and retired U.S. Army National Guard officer Greg Zanetti of Albuquerque.
Whoever wins the GOP nomination next June would run against Lujan Grisham in the November 2022 general election.
The governor recently reported raising more than $2.5 million for her reelection campaign during a recent six-month time period and having $2.1 million in her campaign account.
Ronchetti raised nearly $4 million for his U.S. Senate bid in 2020, but reported spending nearly all of that money on his campaign.