Editorial: Ronchetti best among GOP field for governor
Today, the Journal wraps up its mentions in the contested primary races with its picks for governor and lieutenant governor. The Editorial Board has interviewed nearly 50 contested primary candidates over the past few weeks, and we thank them all for their time, participation and commitment to public service. For continued primary election coverage, visit abqjournal.com/election-guide.
Republican, Mark Ronchetti
Ronchetti has no experience in government. He considers it an asset, not a defect. In his Q&A Journal, the former TV weatherman 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 employees with no government or business leadership experience, he points out that the state is run by politicians. career for years. And he asks, where has this got New Mexico? The state consistently ranks at the top of the nation in crime rates and economic weaknesses and at the bottom in child welfare, education, and employment.
While Ronchetti’s lack of experience in business and government is a legitimate concern, we are confident he can assemble a strong management team to meet this challenge.
The fundamental reason for our approval of Ronchetti is that he had common sense and reasonable positions compared to those of his opponents – who seemed more extreme on key issues.
Ronchetti, who lost a U.S. Senate bid two years ago by just 6 percentage points in his first political campaign, promises to shake things up if elected.
“The real problem is that 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 have closed permanently. We must diversify the economy by developing the private sector by reducing taxes to make our state more competitive.
Ronchetti wants to improve the economy not only by reducing the tax rate on gross receipts, but also by ending the onerous double and triple taxation of goods and services through the “pyramid”, which, according to the chiefs enterprise, is one of the main obstacles to state investment.
He wants to get tough on crime by increasing sentences, detaining more repeat offenders and violent crime suspects in jail before trial, restoring qualified immunity for police officers and ending sanctuary policies that prevent prison officials to work with federal immigration authorities. He welcomes the assistance of federal law enforcement agencies and proposes a border strike force to quell the flow of drugs through New Mexico.
Ronchetti supports an energy policy that includes all resources – renewable and fossil. He is against the looting of the state’s permanent school fund and is a big supporter of charter schools. He also wants to take aggressive action to keep marijuana out of children’s hands and prosecute drug-impaired driving.
He is a political outsider and as such can see the workings of the Legislative Assembly from an outside perspective. He supports a merit-based evaluation system to determine how the state spends capital expenditures and says he will continue to support limiting the governor’s emergency powers even if he wins the job. “I don’t deserve that power, and I don’t think Michelle (Lujan Grisham) wielded it well either.”
Although he hasn’t started a business or created any jobs, Ronchetti says voters are more concerned. “The most important thing you can do is create a movement and bring people together,” he says. Twenty years of experience as a local television personality undoubtedly gives him insight into our culturally and geographically diverse state and allowed him to connect with many new Mexicans.
We hope Ronchetti will be better informed of the value of open primaries and, when crafting policy, will consider climate change as a threat that we all have a part to play in addressing.
In his bid for the U.S. Senate, Ronchetti advocated for comprehensive immigration reform, including a DACA children’s resolution and a streamlined pathway to citizenship — while saying border security must come first. It is a reasonable and compassionate approach that New Mexico needs.
Overall, Ronchetti remains a new face in New Mexico politics who has quickly become a formidable force with an optimistic and charismatic personality. And he’s the top pick in a crowded GOP field for governor based on his stances on important issues. He faces:
• Jay Block, acting 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 expressed his compassion for veterans and the homeless. Block acknowledges that he’s a bit of a street fighter, which doesn’t seem like the right fit at a time when the state is so polarized.
• Rebecca Dow is a three-term state representative who has developed a nonprofit organization that helps children and families and has demonstrated her ability to advocate and fight for conservative principles. During Friday’s televised debate, she was the most vocal in her support for Trump – a position the board could not support.
• Greg Zanetti is a former Deputy Commanding Officer of Guantanamo Bay Detention Center and fund manager for Bill Gates who has big and intriguing ideas to desalinate 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 Cuba Village mayor and anti-abortion activist who describes herself as New Mexico’s only GOP candidate with Hispanic heritage. She drew the sharpest lines in the sand on two issues, saying that anyone who enters the country illegally should be immediately removed without discussion and that any abortion should be illegal.
The winner of the GOP primary will face incumbent Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, Libertarian candidate Karen E. Bedonie and Libertarian write-in candidate Ginger G. Grider in the general election.
Republican, Peggy Muller-Aragón
Muller-Aragón is a former Albuquerque public school teacher who taught in all four quadrants of the city. She offers extensive educational experience and currently sits on the APS School Board where she has always put students before politics.
Muller-Aragón takes on aerospace engineer Ant Thornton in 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 because it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than that of the editors.