Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE — The Republican primary in New Mexico’s governor race has taken a pugnacious turn.
With absentee voting set to begin in just two weeks, GOP candidate Rebecca Dow launched a television ad this week that calls rival Mark Ronchetti’s conservative credentials into question, saying Ronchetti “pretends he’s a Trump Republican.”
The ad also includes footage of the former KRQE-TV meteorologist referring to Trump as the “orange one” during a 2019 climate symposium.
In response, Ronchetti’s campaign slammed the ad’s claims as false, saying Ronchetti never left the Republican Party and saying his past comments about Trump were “old jokes” taken out of context.
The Trump-related remarks were also campaign fodder in Ronchetti’s 2020 run for an open U.S. Senate seat. He won a three-way Republican primary race that year, but lost in the general election to Democrat Ben Ray Luján.
“It’s not at all surprising that Rebecca Dow has chosen to go on the attack. She can’t run on her liberal voting record, or her numerous ethics scandals and lawsuits, so her only option is to run a negative campaign,” Jessica Hanson, Ronchetti’s campaign manager, said in a Tuesday statement.
Ronchetti and Dow are two of the five Republicans vying for the party’s nomination in the June primary election, but are the only GOP candidates who have launched television ads so far, according to network files.
Whoever wins the Republican primary will face off against incumbent Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat who is seeking reelection, and Libertarian candidate Karen Bedonie in the November general election.
Dow’s latest ad began airing this week. Her campaign is spending more than $34,000 to air it on several Albuquerque-based network stations, according to public files.
In a statement, the three-term state lawmaker from Truth or Consequences called herself the “clear conservative pick” in the GOP primary.
“Mark Ronchetti was caught on camera, more than once, revealing his true ideals, so he has no other option than to deflect his continued mocking of President Trump as a joke,” Dow told the Journal.
Meanwhile, voter records show Ronchetti is a registered Republican and voted in every state general election dating back to 2006. But he did not vote in the primary elections in 2018 or 2016, when Trump was first running for president.
A Ronchetti campaign spokesman said Ronchetti did not back away from Trump during his 2020 campaign, despite fierce criticism.
In addition, Ronchetti will vote for the Republican Party’s presidential nominee in 2024 — whether it ends up being Trump or someone else, campaign spokesman Enrique Knell said Tuesday.
He also indicated Ronchetti, who recently reported raising more than $2.1 million for his campaign since announcing his candidacy in October, was positioned to launch more TV ads of his own, saying, “We won’t personally attack any candidate, but we will set the record straight on the issues.”
This year’s primary election is June 7, with absentee voting set to get underway May 10.