The Race to the Governor’s Mansion

A preview of the candidates for Governor.

The Race to the Governors Mansion

Incumbent governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced her intention to run for a second term this summer, and the competition is slowly heating up before New Mexicans cast their votes on November 8. Several prominent Republicans have indicated that they will contest the race, including state representative Rebecca Dow (R – Truth or Consequences), former television meteorologist Mark Ronchetti, who ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 2020, and Greg Zanetti, a West Point graduate, financial advisor, and husband of former AA History teacher Teresa Zanetti. Other lesser-known Republicans in the race include businessman Louie Sanchez, Sandoval County Commissioner, and retired Air Force veteran Jay Block, and Ethel Maharg, executive director of Right to Life New Mexico.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham

Lujan Grisham is running on her record, touting progress in the areas of climate change, racial justice, the economy, and COVID-19. To address the environment, Lujan Grisham has begun transitioning New Mexico to a clean-energy future after pledging to shift the state to 50% renewable energy by 2030 and having zero-carbon emissions by 2045. To tackle racism in the state, she created the first New Mexico Civil Rights Commission to review the effects of qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that protects many police officers from being sued in court for their conduct. Qualified immunity was repealed in the state last spring. She also mandated that all police officers in the state wear body cameras to try to keep police forces accountable. To try to boost the state’s economy, Lujan Grisham leveraged the industries the state is already known for: film and space exploration. She struck deals with Netflix and Virgin Galactic. Netflix now has a new home in Albuquerque Studios and Virgin Galactic increased their presence at Spaceport America, creating more jobs in the state. Finally, the governor has celebrated the slowing of the pandemic recently, with the state seeing fewer new cases and a dip in hospitalizations, by lifting New Mexico’s mask mandate on February 17.

Mark Ronchetti

While the governor defends her stance on the issues, Republicans are trying to sway voters to their side. Many have attacked the rising crime rate in the state, as well as the governor’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, claiming that the governor preemptively closed local businesses and hurt the local economy. Dow says she will create more jobs in New Mexico and keep more people employed in the state. Ronchetti says he will lower taxes, cut government spending, and make New Mexico a worldwide supplier of goods. On COVID, Ronchetti believes that the governor abused her power by keeping the state shut down and claimed that she didn’t follow the science. To tackle crime, Zanetti claims he will provide more training to the state’s law enforcement and secure the border to undocumented immigrants.

Greg Zanetti

Among the rest of the candidates, Maharg, while strongly pro-life, also believes in supporting law enforcement and helping the farming and oil and gas industries continue to contribute to the state’s economy. Block also believes that the governor needs to do more to help small businesses thrive, citing their loss of revenue and the loss of local jobs and that Grisham has neglected the oil and gas industry after not standing up to Biden’s ban on fracking on federal land. Sanchez, who ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate in 2020, pledges unity against the governor, saying, “We don’t have a Democrat or Republican problem. We have a Michelle Lujan Grisham problem.” He gained prominence after being a vocal opponent of the governor’s public health orders, appearing on Fox News after the shooting range that he owns was deemed “non-essential” and was ordered to shut down. Sanchez, however, kept his business open.

Ethel Mahrag

With the election coming up soon, and many believing the state’s problems with crime, the economy, and the COVID pandemic still not resolved, it remains to be seen whether New Mexicans will continue to rely on the governor’s leadership or if they think a fresh face is needed in the Roundhouse to work on some of the state’s most pressing issues.