Block blasts gov. rivals after posting convention win - Albuquerque Journal

Block blasts gov. rivals after posting convention win

Sandoval County Commissioner Jay Block is running for the Republican nomination for New Mexico’s governor. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – After posting a narrow victory at the GOP state pre-primary convention this weekend, Jay Block declared himself as the “front runner” of New Mexico’s Republican crop of governor candidates and quickly went on the attack.

He called for fellow GOP candidate Mark Ronchetti to drop out of the race, saying he “kicked the crap out of him” at the convention, and criticized another candidate who is facing an ethics complaint.

Block, a Sandoval County commissioner and retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel, said in an interview his win at the Republican Party convention in Ruidoso could give him a boost in fundraising and visibility with the June primary election just over three months away.

“I am the front-runner, no doubt about it,” Block told the Journal.

He said Ronchetti should drop out after his fourth-place showing at the convention and should apologize to Republican Party delegates for voicing criticisms of the longstanding process used to nominate candidates.

“He’s been rejected,” Block said of Ronchetti. “I kicked the crap out of him and it felt great.”

Ronchetti, a former KRQE-TV meteorologist, got 16% of the votes cast by GOP delegates at the pre-primary convention – or just shy of the 20% threshold needed to secure a spot on the June primary ballot.

But Ronchetti has already turned in more than twice the amount of voter signatures necessary to get on the ballot and downplayed the significance of the convention in an interview Saturday.

“This is just another example of a flawed process,” Ronchetti told the Journal after urging GOP delegates to vote for other candidates so as many gubernatorial candidates as possible could appear on the June 7 primary ballot.

In a Monday statement, a Ronchetti campaign spokesman dismissed Block’s call for Ronchetti to drop out.

“That’s a silly comment akin to Belarus asking NATO to dissolve,” Ronchetti campaign spokesman Enrique Knell told the Journal.

He also cited Ronchetti’s lead in internal campaign polling and a fundraising haul of more than $1.2 million in the first two months after he launched his campaign, while predicting Ronchetti would defeat Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in November.

Ultimately, three GOP gubernatorial candidates eclipsed the 20% delegate vote threshold, with Block getting 199 of the 687 votes cast by delegates – or about 29% – and state Rep. Rebecca Dow of Truth or Consequences coming in close behind with 27.9% of the votes cast.

Albuquerque financial adviser and military veteran Greg Zanetti was third with about 23% of the votes.

A four-way primary race for the GOP governor nomination – including Ronchetti – could be an advantage for Lujan Grisham, who is seeking a second four-year term and running unopposed in the Democratic primary.

The incumbent governor reported last fall having more than $2.1 million in her campaign account and the Democratic Governors Association, a deep-pocketed national group that is led by Lujan Grisham, was quick to pounce Monday on the infighting among Republican gubernatorial candidates.

“The candidates in the GOP primary field are too busy attacking each other to see the real reason they can’t materialize any significant support – even with Republicans – is because their agendas are unpopular and out-of-touch,” said DGA senior communications adviser Christina Amestoy.

After winning the pre-primary convention, Block, who was lagging behind Dow and Zanetti last fall in terms of fundraising, also criticized Dow for past issues, saying GOP voters were “looking for somebody who doesn’t have corruption issues.”

Most recently, the general counsel for the state Ethics Commission found probable cause in January that Dow violated state law by failing to properly disclose her income from a nonprofit group that received state funding.

Dow has vigorously disputed the claims against her, which are set to go before a hearing officer in July.

She told the Journal she was in a “great position” for the June primary election, given the fact she was prohibited, as a state legislator, from soliciting campaign donations during the 30-day legislative session that ended Feb. 17.

Dow also said voting issues prevented some of her own family from casting ballots at the GOP convention.

A lengthy delay in voting – and vote-counting – at the Republican convention was caused by technical issues with an electronic voting system that prompted a shift to paper ballots.

While some delegates left before casting a vote, GOP officials insisted Monday the final tally was accurate.

“The entire process demonstrated transparency and precision and again shows (the state Republican Party’s) commitment to election integrity,” said state GOP tabulation Chairwoman Amy Barela.

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