The Race for Governor

An overview of this tight and hotly contested election coming up soon

Uzair Hammad ’24

The election for New Mexico’s governor between Democratic incumbent Michelle Lujan Grisham and GOP challenger Mark Ronchetti taking place on November 8 has already proven to be a difficult race for both sides. Both Lujan and Ronchetti have electoral experience, strong campaigns, and weaknesses that have created a close race.
Michelle Lujan Grisham became the second Hispanic female to be elected governor in U.S. history in 2018, after her predecessor Republican Governor Suzana Martinez. Before her term as governor, Lujan Grisham served three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. During her time as governor, Lujan raised the minimum wage for the first time in over 10 years, from $7.50 an hour to $11.50 an hour, guaranteed paid sick leave for every worker in the state, legalized cannabis, organized a task force to lower the cost of prescription drugs, and awarded the largest back-to-back raises for educators in 15 years.
Her opponent, former meterologist Mark Ronchetti, who won the Republican primary by a landslide and previously ran for the Senate against Ben Ray Lujan, has built his platform around crime, illegal immigration, unemployment, and education. Ronchetti has limited political experience as he has never served in office and only entered the political scene in New Mexico two years ago. His previous background as a meteorologist has been criticized as having no relevance in the governor’s position.
Ronchetti has ambitions to get rid of sanctuary city laws on the border that he claims “hide illegal immigrants who commit crimes” and to create a border strike force that will target border-related crimes. He also plans to increase penalties for crimes like theft and create mandatory minimum penalties for crimes like robbery. The Ronchetti campaign claims that Lujan Grisham “has made it easier to be a criminal than a cop” and that he will work to support police officers statewide. Lujan Grisham, on the other hand, states that she has supported police officers by signing legislation that established programs to recruit and retain police officers. Additionally, she eliminated the statute of limitations for second degree murder, meaning that charges can be filed for the crime at any point, reversing the previous law that restricted the time for charges to be filed at six years. Finally, the governor allocated $2 million for crime reduction grants.
On the issues of jobs and the economy, Ronchetti believes that the state’s current unemployment system has become a “crutch” for people to stay jobless. He believes that it is “reasonable for the unemployed to find work within four months of losing their job” and wants to require job searches for the unemployed. However, Lujan Grisham claims that under her leadership unemployment has reached its lowest level since 2008, at 4.5%.
Ronchetti is also very concerned about education in New Mexico. He claims that New Mexico is ranked 50th in education nationwide because of liberal policies that have forced our kids into failing schools” and believes that our schools should be focused on teaching our children to master core subjects, rather than trying to indoctrinate kids in liberal ideology”. However, Lujan Grisham has expressed that she protected education as she reduced reporting requirements (allowing educators to spend more time with students rather than filling out paperwork), and increased the salaries of teachers statewide by $10,000 and increased the education budget by 7%.

Both candidates have their sticking points. Some have attacked Ronchetti’s pro-life stance; he would seek to permit abortion only in cases of rape, incest, and when the mother’s life is in danger or up to 15 weeks if elected. Lujan Grisham, however, is pro-choice and signed an executive order this August protecting reproductive rights. Lujan Grisham, in turn, has been criticized for her government spending after it was revealed that she purchased $6,500 worth of groceries and alcohol for herself and her staff. She has also been critiqued for her COVID restrictions that closed schools and businesses. Some have expressed that this decision stifled economic growth and negatively impacted the mental health of kids and teens.
Overall, these two candidates have been very close in the polls. While Lujan Grisham has remained ahead of Ronchetti, he still holds 42.3% to Lujan Grisham’s 46.2%.

All in all, both Ronchetti and Lujan Grisham have both been attacked for their views on the issues, their experience, and actions. While Michelle Lujan Grisham is favored to win based on the current polls, only time will tell.

CORRECTION: This article has been updated on 9/17/2022 to reflect that former New Mexico governor Suzana Martinez was the first Hispanic female governor to be elected in U. S. history, not Michelle Lujan Grisham. H/t to Jack Lemelin.