Today, the Journal concludes its endorsements in contested primary races with its picks for governor and lieutenant governor. The Editorial Board interviewed nearly 50 contested primary candidates in recent weeks, and we thank them all for their time, participation and commitment to public service. For ongoing primary election coverage, go to abqjournal.com/election-guide.
Republican, Mark Ronchetti
Ronchetti doesn’t have any experience in government. He considers that an asset, not a fault. On his Journal Q&A, the former TV meteorologist lists his relevant experience as “Not a politician.”
Asked by the Editorial Board how he could manage an $8 billion state budget and 17,000 state workers with no governmental or business leadership experience, he points out the state has been run by career politicians for years. And he asks, where has that gotten New Mexico? The state consistently ranks at the top of the nation in terms of crime rates and economic weaknesses and at the bottom when it comes to child welfare, education and employment.
While Ronchetti’s lack of business and government experience is a legitimate concern, we trust he can put together a strong leadership team to address that challenge.
The fundamental reason for our endorsement of Ronchetti is he had common-sense, reasonable stances compared to those of his opponents — who appeared more extreme on key issues.
Ronchetti, who lost a bid for the U.S. Senate two years ago by only 6 percentage points in his first political campaign, promises to shake things up if he’s elected.
“The real problem is our state is far too dependent on government spending,” he said in his Q&A. “We now have the (second-) highest unemployment rate in America, and 40% of our small businesses closed for good. We must diversify the economy by growing the private sector through cutting taxes to make our state more competitive.”
Ronchetti wants to improve the economy by not only reducing the gross receipts tax rate, but also by ending the onerous double and triple taxation of goods and services through “pyramiding,” which business leaders say is one of the state’s biggest deterrents to investment.
He wants to crack down on crime by increasing penalties, holding more repeat offenders and violent crime suspects in jail pretrial, restoring qualified immunity for police officers and ending sanctuary policies that prevent jail officials from working with federal immigration authorities. He welcomes help with federal law enforcement agencies and proposes a border strike force to crack down on the flow of drugs through New Mexico.
Ronchetti supports an energy policy that includes all resources — renewable and fossil. He is against raiding the state’s permanent school fund and is a big supporter of charter schools. He also wants to take aggressive steps to keep marijuana out of the hands of children and prosecute drugged driving.
He is a political outsider, and as such can view the workings of the Legislature from an outsider’s perspective. He supports a merit-based evaluation system to determine how the state spends capital outlay dollars and says he will continue to support limiting the governor’s emergency powers, even if he wins the office. “I don’t deserve that power, and I don’t think Michelle (Lujan Grisham) has wielded it well, either.”
While he hasn’t built a business or been a job creator, Ronchetti says voters have greater concerns. “The most important thing you can do is build a movement and get people together,” he says. Twenty years of experience as a local TV personality no doubt gives him insight into our culturally and geographically diverse state and has allowed him to connect with many New Mexicans.
We hope Ronchetti will become better informed on the value of open primaries and, when forming policy, will factor in climate change as a threat we all have a role in combatting.
In his bid for U.S. Senate, Ronchetti argued for comprehensive immigration reform, including a resolution for DACA kids and a streamlined path for citizenship — while saying border security must come first. That’s a reasonable and compassionate approach New Mexico needs to see more of.
Overall, Ronchetti remains a fresh face in New Mexico politics who has quickly become a formidable force with an upbeat and charismatic personality. And he’s the best choice in a crowded GOP field for governor based on his positions on important issues. He faces:
• Jay Block, a sitting Sandoval County commissioner and retired nuclear weapons officer. He’s tough on border security and crime. As someone diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder, he has expressed compassion for veterans and the homeless. Block acknowledges he is a bit of a street fighter, which does not seem the right fit at this time when the state is so polarized.
• Rebecca Dow is a three-term state representative who grew a nonprofit that helps children and families and has shown her ability to stand and fight for conservative principles. During Friday’s televised debate she was the most vocal in her support of Trump — a position the board could not support.
• Greg Zanetti is a former deputy commander of the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center and money manager for Bill Gates who has big and intriguing ideas for desalinating the state’s abundant brackish water. He says the state would benefit from his military mindset and strategic planning skills — skills that could bring benefits and pitfalls. He also said there was plenty of evidence to believe the 2020 election was stolen from Trump, another red flag in our minds.
• Ethel Maharg is a former mayor of the village of Cuba and anti-abortion activist who describes herself as the only native New Mexican GOP candidate with Hispanic heritage. She drew the sharpest lines in the sand on two issues, saying anyone who enters the country illegally should be sent back immediately without discussion and that all abortion should be illegal.
The GOP primary winner will face Democratic incumbent Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Libertarian nominee Karen E. Bedonie and Libertarian write-in candidate Ginger G. Grider in the general election.
Republican, Peggy Muller-Aragón
Muller-Aragón is a former teacher at Albuquerque Public Schools who taught in all four of the city’s quadrants. She offers a wealth of educational experience and currently serves on the APS school board where she has consistently put students before politics.
Muller-Aragón faces aerospace engineer Ant Thornton in the primary. The winner will be paired in a ticket with the gubernatorial winner of the Republican primary and will face the Democratic and Libertarian winners in the general election.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.