Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – New Mexico county sheriffs are wading into this year’s race for governor.
In a new campaign ad for Republican Mark Ronchetti, four sheriffs criticize Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s handling of crime-related issues, including the Lujan Grisham administration’s decision to release some low-risk inmates from state prisons in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The TV ad comes after the Democratic governor last week released a video saying Ronchetti supported “defunding the police,” a claim the Ronchetti campaign strongly disputed.
In the new ad, the four sheriffs appear in uniform alongside Ronchetti and accuse Lujan Grisham of appointing “soft on crime” judges.
“She’s made our jobs impossible,” one of the sheriffs, San Juan County Sheriff Shane Ferrari, says during the 30-second ad, which began airing this week on cable and network channels.
The four sheriffs who appear in the ad are all Republicans: Valencia County Sheriff Denise Vigil, Lea County Sheriff Corey Helton, Otero County Sheriff David Black and Ferrari.
The ad does not come as a total surprise, as Lujan Grisham has clashed with some sheriffs in recent years over their flouting of pandemic health orders and opposition to gun control legislation, including the 2020 “red flag” gun law that allows firearms to be seized from individuals deemed to pose a threat to themselves or others.
Sierra County Sheriff Glenn Hamilton recently said he would not use the law in his county and other sheriffs have also expressed reluctance about enforcing it.
In a statement, Lujan Grisham campaign spokeswoman Kendall Witmer touted the governor’s approval of legislation this year toughening certain criminal penalties and increasing funding for law enforcement hiring and training.
“Instead of detailing his policies on how he will protect New Mexicans and make communities safer, Mark Ronchetti has defaulted to partisan political tactics and catchphrases cooked up by D.C. consultants,” Witmer told the Journal. “New Mexicans deserve a leader with a track record of delivering on public safety – not an out-of-touch, inexperienced TV weatherman who doesn’t believe it’s his responsibility to keep New Mexicans safe.”
Crime has emerged as a top issue in this year’s race for governor, as New Mexico recorded the nation’s second-highest violent crime rate in 2020 and Albuquerque set a record high for homicides last year.
Despite their back-and-forth attacks, Lujan Grisham and Ronchetti hold some similar positions on crime issues. For instance, both support making it easier to hold defendants accused of violent crime in jail until trial, though the governor did not call for such legislation until the run-up to this year’s 30-day legislative session.
A proposal ultimately stalled due to concerns about its legality and whether there are more effective ways to address violent crime.