With an inflatable bounce house and a free hot dog cart, Republican candidate for governor Mark Ronchetti appeared at Española’s Valdez Park on June 25 for a campaign event.
Addressing a crowd composed of police officers, firefighters and supporters, Ronchetti promised “to spend a lot of time in Rio Arriba County,” vowing to return to Valdez Park “every single year.”
Ronchetti spoke first about the public safety platform his campaign released on June 22, particularly his priority to address what he called a pattern of “catch and release” throughout the state.
“We can’t keep telling our police officers to go out and make arrests, and then the people they arrest end up being turned right back out on the streets and terrorizing more people in our communities,” Ronchetti said. “We have to keep violent criminals behind bars.”
In his public safety platform, Ronchetti claims the current administration of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has made New Mexico a “lawless state,” partly because she has “failed to fix dangerous new laws disguised as bail reform.”
The Republican candidate also claimed that if elected he would work to restore “qualified immunity” to police officers, reversing the 2021 legislation that allowed for New Mexicans to sue public agencies for “a violation of the individual’s rights, privileges or immunities” while prohibiting public officials from using qualified immunity as a defense.
Lujan Grisham signed legislation in March that her administration touted as designed to “combat crime in New Mexico communities and invest in public safety personnel across the state,” partly by allocating $50 million for officer recruitment in the state.
To Ronchetti, the money is not the issue.
“What she’s done is she’s passed laws that make it incredibly difficult to be a police officer,” Ronchetti told the SUN. “So she can say, I’ve got additional money, but nobody wants to take the jobs. When you make being a police officer nearly impossible and you target cops and not criminals, it doesn’t matter how much money you throw at it. They’re never going to take the job and I don’t blame them.”
He said if elected he would allocate more than $200 million to create a “border strike force” as well as secure more money for police training and recruitment.
Even with a Democratic majority in the Legislature, Ronchetti said in his first 100 days in office he could pass a crime bill that extends penalties for violent crimes and repeat offenders and restores qualified immunity.
“We have to change the mindset of the state,” he said. “I think we’ve gotten into this mindset — you just asked, how are you gonna get along with the Legislature, like they’re this all-powerful being. They represent people. They should listen to the people, and right now they’re not. We’re going to create a movement that’s going to force them to just listen to the people of this state and right now they’re not doing it.”
In a press release, Ronchetti stated the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade “paves the way for a measured dialogue on the issue of abortion that will save lives and should result in policies that are more mainstream and reflect our shared values.”
Speaking at Valdez Park, Ronchetti called New Mexico the “late-term abortion capital of the country.”
He said, if elected, he would work to restrict abortion to the first 15 weeks of pregnancy with exceptions for cases of incest, rape and risk to the life of the mother.
Of the 8,001 ballots cast in Rio Arriba County for the June 7 primary election, 1,090 of them — or 13.6 percent — were submitted for Republican Party races.
In the solidly Democratic county, Ronchetti received 75 percent of votes for governor from registered Republicans, compared to the 58 percent of votes he received from registered Republicans statewide in the five-person primary race.
José Daniel, a retired Los Alamos National Laboratory employee from El Llano, said he is planning to vote for Ronchetti despite having been a registered Democrat for 35 years.
“Ronchetti seems like he’s interested in the state and not in himself,” Daniel said.
Daniel has 10 grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and he said he is supporting Ronchetti because he is concerned about public education. He is hoping that the Republican candidate, if elected, will raise pay for teachers to attract more qualified educators for schools in the state.
Ronchetti, 48, was a meteorologist at Albuquerque’s KRQE television station until last year, when he announced his bid for governor. In 2020, Ronchetti ran for a U.S. Senate seat in New Mexico, winning the Republican primary and losing the general election to Sen. Ben Ray Luján.
When asked how he would address constituents’ concerns about the lack of public service in his background, Ronchetti said “experience has gotten us nothing,” claiming the state is more dangerous than ever and that incomes don’t go as far as they used to.
“We have, across the board, policies that they look at DC and they look at California, and they say that’s the priority — that’s how we should be doing things,” Ronchetti said. “When you look at all of these things together you realize that her government experience has gotten us nowhere. Joe Biden has had 50 years of government experience. From the minute he got in office, he has driven this country into the ditch, and so, to me, I proudly say I don’t have government experience.”
The general election will take place on Nov. 8.