Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – With New Mexico’s primary election just over two weeks away, Mark Ronchetti’s strong name recognition is propelling him to a commanding lead among statewide Republicans in this year’s race for governor, a new Journal Poll found.
Forty-five percent of likely primary election voters surveyed recently said they would vote for Ronchetti, a former KRQE-TV meteorologist who ran unsuccessfully for an open U.S. Senate seat in 2020.
The next-closest candidate was Rebecca Dow, a state representative, who received the backing of 17% of the GOP voters surveyed. Fellow Republicans Greg Zanetti, Jay Block and Ethel Maharg trailed farther behind in the five-way race, while 21% of voters said they were undecided or did not know which candidate they planned to support.
Brian Sanderoff, president of Albuquerque-based Research & Polling Inc., which conducted the poll, said some of Ronchetti’s rivals appear to be splitting the support of voters who prefer a candidate with more political seasoning.
“Most of his opponents are more politically experienced, but they don’t have the name recognition that Ronchetti does,” Sanderoff said, adding that in addition to his television background, Ronchetti might have also benefitted from his U.S. Senate campaign that saw him outperform former President Donald Trump in New Mexico, even while losing narrowly to Democrat Ben Ray Luján.
Whoever wins the GOP primary election race on June 7 would face off against Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, and Libertarian Karen Bedonie in the November general election.
Lujan Grisham is unopposed in the Democratic primary and the contentious Republican intra-party contest could benefit the incumbent governor, who has recently begun airing TV ads highlighting her accomplishments, Sanderoff said.
In the run-up to the primary election, however, several of Ronchetti’s Republican foes have criticized his lack of political experience and readiness to be governor.
In particular, Dow has launched several TV ads questioning Ronchetti’s conservative credentials and highlighting 2019 comments that he made referring to Trump as the “orange one.”
Ronchetti has dismissed the comments as a joke to a group of college students, and has aggressively targeted Dow’s legislative voting record in TV ads of his own.
The back-and-forth attack ads may have effectively nullified one another, Sanderoff said, who added in reference to Ronchetti: “So far, he’s been able to weather those attacks well.”
Big lead in ABQ area
The Journal Poll found Ronchetti has a broad base of support among Republican voters of all ages and parts of the state, with the exception of southwest New Mexico area and Las Cruces.
That was the only region in which voters were more likely to say they planned to vote for Dow, with 31% of voters surveyed in that part of the state saying they support the three-term state lawmaker from Truth or Consequences and 22% saying they would vote for Ronchetti.
However, Ronchetti had a strong lead over his four Republican rivals in the Albuquerque metro area and on New Mexico’s east side, which is a traditionally conservative region.
“Dow is just not faring well enough in the Albuquerque metro area to make the race more competitive at this time,” Sanderoff said.
Meanwhile, Ronchetti was performing equally well among Hispanic and Anglo Republicans, according to the Journal Poll.
Zanetti, a financial adviser and retired brigadier general in the U.S. Army National Guard, tied Dow for the second-highest backing among Hispanic Republicans, though his support waned among other GOP voters.
The Journal Poll is based on a scientific, statewide sample of 560 registered Republican voters who voted in either the 2018 or 2020 primary elections – or both – and said they were very likely to vote in this year’s primary. It also includes a small number of newly-registered Republican voters who registered after the November 2020 general election.
A small percentage of voters surveyed had already cast ballots via absentee or early in-person voting.
Respondents were given the choice of any of the five Republican candidates appearing on the June 7 ballot.
The poll was conducted from May 15 through May 19. The voter sample has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points. The margin of error grows for subsamples.
All interviews were conducted by live, professional interviewers, with multiple callbacks to households that did not initially answer the phone.
Both cellphone numbers (82%) and landlines (18%) of likely primary election voters were used.