Ronchetti targets Lujan Grisham before primary - Albuquerque Journal

Ronchetti targets Lujan Grisham before primary

Republicans Rebecca Dow, Ethel Maharg, Jay Block, Greg Zanetti and Mark Ronchetti stand on stage at an event sponsored by the New Mexico Business Coalition as they compete for the nomination to run for governor. The GOP primary election is June 7. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

SANTA FE — With just five days remaining in the primary campaign, Republican Mark Ronchetti turned his focus to Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in a new television ad, offering a preview of the campaign to come if he secures the GOP nomination.

In the 30-second commercial, Ronchetti stands at a gas pump and slams the governor’s decision to pull National Guard troops from the border, award pay raises to high-ranking staff members and support clean-fuels legislation.

“Political elites don’t get it,” Ronchetti said.

The Democratic Party of New Mexico, in turn, singled out Ronchetti on Thursday, contending he would roll back the progress made by Democratic leadership in recent years.

They said he “has doubled down on his extremist, far-right, and personal agenda, proving again and again just how out-of-touch he is with New Mexicans.”

The back-and-forth comes as Ronchetti continues to flex his financial advantage over the rest of the Republican field campaigning for the nomination to take on Lujan Grisham.

He reported another $284,000 in new campaign contributions Thursday, giving him $470,000 in cash on hand.

Lujan Grisham, for her part, is also well-funded. She reported $711,000 in donations during the four-week reporting period that ended May 31 and has nearly $3.1 million in cash on hand.

She also reported new spending of $1.4 million, with most of that money going toward producing and airing TV ads highlighting the governor’s accomplishments during her first three-plus years in office.

The contributions received by the incumbent Democratic governor included $2,500 from Wendy King, a regional vice president for energy giant ConocoPhillips, and $20,800 — the maximum for this year’s election season — from Belen-based Freshgrown Systems LLC, a hemp and cannabis seed producer.

Lujan Grisham, a former congresswoman, is seeking reelection to a second term in the Nov. 8 general election.

She is set to face Libertarian Karen Bedonie and one of five Republicans seeking their party’s nomination next week.

Ronchetti’s $284,000 in new donations led the GOP field Thursday. Among his big contributions were $5,000 from Henry McDonald Farms in Loving and $10,400 from Lance Taylor, a Texas oilman.

Republican candidate Rebecca Dow, a state legislator, reported about $157,000 in contributions Thursday and an account balance of $198,000.

Greg Zanetti, an Albuquerque financial adviser and retired general, reported about $58,000 in new contributions Thursday, with about $48,000 in cash on hand heading into the election.

Jay Block, a Sandoval County commissioner and retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, reported about $35,000 in new donations and $20,000 in his account.

Another Republican, anti-abortion activist Ethel Maharg, had under $8,000 in recent donations.

Closing days

Ronchetti and Dow — the best-funded candidates in the GOP race — have traded attack ads throughout the campaign.

But voters are set to decide the nominee in Tuesday’s election, and Ronchetti appears to be looking ahead. He had a substantial lead over Dow in a survey of voters conducted last month by Research & Polling Inc. for the Journal.

Brian Sanderoff, president of the polling firm, said Ronchetti’s new ad, targeting Lujan Grisham, shows he is shifting to a general-election message.

“It helps him for both the primary and general elections,” Sanderoff said. “It makes him look like he already is the Republican nominee.”

PAC activity

Outside groups have also played an active role in the run-up to the primary election.

One political committee, called New Mexico Patriot PAC, spent more than $15,000 on campaign mailers featuring an image of former President Donald Trump and a list of Republican candidates to vote for — even though Trump has not endorsed any specific candidates in New Mexico.

The political committee got most of its funding from Twister Smith of Caballo and his family members. Smith is the director of Smithco Construction, a family-owned company, and has been a prominent backer of GOP gubernatorial candidate Dow.

A group supported by labor unions, by contrast, reported about $55,000 in spending on digital ads, social media efforts and other advertising purchases, though it wasn’t clear which races the committee is involved in.

New Mexico Workers for Progress, as the committee is called, reported about $61,500 in recent contributions Thursday from unions representing teachers, government workers, plumbers and construction workers.

AG race

The race for the Democratic nomination to serve as attorney general has been one of the most expensive of the year so far.

But the candidates’ reports hadn’t been published on the state website by 7 p.m.

In the race, State Auditor Brian Colón and 2nd Judicial District Attorney Raúl Torrez are competing for the nomination.

The Republican candidate, Jeremy Gay of Gallup, reported $17,000 in contributions and $40,000 in cash on hand.

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