Mark Ronchetti wins GOP primary for New Mexico governor

SANTA FE, NM (AP) — Mark Ronchetti won the Republican gubernatorial primary to challenge incumbent Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. The former TV weatherman defeated four other candidates on Tuesday, including the state representative.

SANTA FE, NM (AP) — Mark Ronchetti won the Republican gubernatorial primary to challenge incumbent Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham.

The former TV weatherman defeated four other candidates on Tuesday, including State Rep. Rebecca Dow.

Ronchetti’s campaign has focused on concerns about crime, illegal immigration, high unemployment rates and underperforming schools.

In a victory speech on primary night, the Republican candidate swept aside political elites and big government and lambasted the governor’s leadership on public education and criminal justice issues.

“Unfortunately in this state it’s easier to be a criminal than a cop – that’s going to change,” Ronchetti said, pledging to restore police immunity from prosecution. “We have a governor who has decided that she will look after the best interests of Santa Fe’s elites for you.”

Elsewhere, the Democratic nomination for attorney general went to Raúl Torrez, second-term attorney for Albuquerque and its outskirts.

Torrez beat state auditor Brian Colón to enter an open race against Republican attorney and U.S. Navy veteran Jeremy Michael Gay of Gallup.

New Mexico has alternated between Democratic and Republican governors since the early 1980s. An incumbent governor last lost re-election in 1994.

November’s election for New Mexico governor will be a test of Democratic resolve in the nation’s most Hispanic state — an oil-producing region with lingering undercurrents of Catholicism and a strong gun-owning culture. fire.

In 2020, the GOP flipped a congressional district along the US border with Mexico with the election of US Republican Yvette Herrell, a staunch defender of former President Donald Trump.

Ronchetti has pledged to deploy 150 state law enforcement personnel to the remote international border with Mexico to combat illegal migration and drug and human trafficking. The proposal echoes National Guard deployments by the Republican governors of Arizona and Texas.

In a nod to his days as a television personality, Ronchetti cracked a few jokes. He ridiculed the Governor for his lavish public spending at the Governor’s Mansion on premium beef and liquor, contrasting this with his own offering of fries, salsa, and a cash bar for supporters on election night. Ronchetti also promised to “liberate the energy of New Mexico” in reference to oil production in southeastern New Mexico.

An incumbent governor hasn’t lost an election since 1994. And Republicans failed in a series of statewide elections, ceding control of every elected office statewide to the Democrats, including the five-seat state Supreme Court.

Since taking office in 2019, Lujan Grisham and the Democratic-led Legislature have passed reforms to ensure abortion access, expand government oversight of guns and expand police accountability by lifting immunity from wrongful prosecution.

The Republican primary was marked by unfettered support for an oil industry rooted in the Permian Basin of southeastern New Mexico.

The outgoing governor has respected the environment with climate change initiatives that curb methane pollution from oil infrastructure, phase out coal-fired power plants and mandate new investment in renewable energy without restricting oil production. Last year, New Mexico overtook North Dakota in 2021 to become the nation’s second-largest oil producer behind Texas.

Lujan Grisham tapped a boost in state government revenue to secure teacher raises, provide free college education to state students, expand preschool and bolster Medicaid coverage in a state with low poverty rates. are high.

In response to inflation, the state sends installment payments of up to $1,500 per household between June and August.

New Mexico’s most recent Republican governor was Susana Martinez, an El Paso native with family ties to Mexico, who served as a district attorney before winning an open race to succeed Governor Bill Richardson.

First-term congressmen were seeking re-election in New Mexico’s three congressional districts, with no major challengers.

In New Mexico’s southern 2nd District, Las Cruces Councilman Gabe Vasquez won the Democratic nomination to challenge Herrell. He defeated rural doctor Darshan Patel.

In the 1st District which includes most of Albuquerque and rural southern communities, the GOP nomination to challenge Democratic U.S. Representative Melanie Stansbury was won by former police detective Michelle Garcia Holmes.

Holmes ran for the same congressional seat in 2020 and was defeated by Democrat Deb Haaland, now United States Secretary of the Interior.

In other statewide races, former Sandoval County Treasurer Laura Montoya won the Democratic nomination for state treasurer, beating the former magistrate judge and treasury official. Heather Benavidez. Montoya will face former Santa Fe County Commissioner Harry Montoya in an open race to replace State Treasurer Tim Eichenberg.

The Democratic nomination for state auditor went to utility regulator Joseph Maestas, an elected member of the Public Regulatory Commission. He will face libertarian written candidate Robert Vaillancourt in a general election without a Republican candidate.

In Tuesday’s vote, new same-day registration provisions allowed unaffiliated voters to participate if they registered with a major party, even briefly.

New Mexico still follows a closed primary system that limits participation to voters registered with a major party, who cannot switch parties once early voting begins.

Morgan Lee, The Associated Press

Lynn A. Saleh