GOP hopefuls interviewed before audience in ABQ - Albuquerque Journal

GOP hopefuls interviewed before audience in ABQ

Republican gubernatorial candidates Rebecca Dow, Ethel Maharg, Jay Block, Greg Zanetti and Mark Ronchetti stand on stage together before facing one-on-one interviews with the president of the New Mexico Business Coalition, Carla Sonntag. About 275 people registered to attend the event at Revel Entertainment Center in Albuquerque. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

One by one, the five Republican candidates for governor faced rapid-fire questions Thursday in a job interview of sorts that allowed them to showcase their sense of humor and pitch their qualifications for the nomination to take on Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham this fall.

Before an audience of about 275 people in Albuquerque, they were pressed to give one-word answers to some questions – a challenge that drew frequent laughter as candidates couldn’t help but elaborate.

Each of the candidates, nevertheless, said they would support photo identification for voters, a work requirement for able-bodied residents receiving public assistance and scaling back the governor’s emergency powers.

Carla Sonntag of the New Mexico Business Coalition, an advocacy group, delivered the questions in the format of a job interview, with only one candidate present at a time to keep the topics a surprise.

The hopefuls are competing for the GOP nomination in the June 7 primary election. The winner would advance to face Lujan Grisham – who’s seeking a second term – and a Libertarian candidate.

Mark Ronchetti, a former meteorologist at KRQE, seized the chance to describe himself as someone who would bring humility and good listening skills to the job. He said he would demand the Legislature – where Democrats hold large majorities – send him an anti-crime bill before anything else is passed.

“We will keep you safe. That will be our mantra,” he said. “If we don’t have safety, we don’t have anything.”

Jay Block, a Sandoval County commissioner and retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, started his interview off by asking the audience to pose for a picture, triggering laughter as he urged people to “Say ‘No MLG’ ” rather than “cheese.”

As governor, Block said, he would ban vaccine mandates and critical race theory. He also said he would establish a border security agency and combat corruption in government.

“You’re going to get honest government back because that’s what you deserve,” he said. “You have not had that for so many years in this state, and I find that quite disgusting.”

State Rep. Rebecca Dow of Truth and Consequences pitched herself as an effective legislator who knows how to navigate the politics of the Roundhouse, and secure policy wins that would turn – and keep – the state red.

She noted that two bills she sponsored this year became law despite Republicans being outnumbered at the Capitol. One bill extends a deadline for small businesses to apply for recovery loans, the other revises occupational licensing rules.

“We’ve got to have someone in office who’s able to work across the aisle and get things done,” Dow said.

Greg Zanetti, a financial adviser and military veteran, pointed repeatedly to his experience, describing himself at one point as the “money guy,” and someone well-qualified to handle state finances and public safety.

“Should we have a general dealing with the issues at the border and with public safety?” Zanetti asked the crowd, after noting that he’d risen to the rank of brigadier general and served as a commander at Guantanamo Bay.

He said he would “de-claw” the Public Education Department and push power to the local level.

Ethel Maharg, a former mayor of Cuba and anti-abortion activist, said she supports “life” and doesn’t quit, when asked to describe her skills. “I care about life. I think that’s it. Life is basic,” she said.

Absentee balloting begins May 10.

Democratic Party of New Mexico spokeswoman Delaney Corcoran said Gov. Lujan Grisham and other Democrats are focused on delivering economic relief to state residents, while the GOP just spouts “extremist rhetoric.”

“The Republican candidates for governor,” she said, “continue to demonstrate just how out of touch they are with the majority of New Mexicans.”

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