NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Following a contentious June primary election in key races like the Republican nomination for New Mexico Governor and the Democratic nomination for Attorney General, the forecast is full for more political mudslinging in the November general election. That’s the take from KRQE Political Analyst Gabe Sanchez, who spoke to KRQE News 13’s Chris McKee following decisions in the two major races of Tuesday night’s primary.
Chris and Gabe spoke about several topics related to the primary election. Watch the video on this page for the full interview.
Pointing to New Mexico’s gubernatorial race between Republican nominee Mark Ronchetti and Democratic nominee, incumbent Michelle Lujan Grisham, Sanchez says voters can expect to see millions of dollars of advertising from both the candidates and outside political action committees, or PACs. Those advertisements could hit as early as today, the Wednesday following the primary.
“Get ready for it.” Sanchez told KRQE News 13 Tuesday night. “If voters were hoping to have maybe a week off of campaign ads before things ramp up again, I don’t think they’re going to get that.”
The primary, Sanchez said, was “one of the worst” he’s seen in his history of covering New Mexico elections for well over a decade. The Republican gubernatorial nomination was among the top contentious races, where frontrunners Mark Ronchetti and Rebecca Dow often attacked each other.
“The Governor’s race [got] very personal towards the end,” Sanchez said. “The consequence of that being a lot of folks are telling me Rebecca Dow might not be quick to give formal endorsement to Ronchetti, which, obviously, is something he needs moving forward.”
The Democratic attorney general nomination also included far more personal attacks than usual, Sanchez notes. Raul Torrez and Brian Colon aired ads critiquing their respective records, or lack of records in prosecuting criminal cases.
“We probably have to say this was one of the most divisive and one of the most personal attack ad-focused campaigns that I’ve seen,” Sanchez said broadly of the top two races in the primary. “So I would anticipate seeing, unfortunately, more of the same when we get to the general election.”
Looking ahead: the race for New Mexico’s governor’s office
Looking at the path to the governor’s office, Sanchez says he anticipates a hard fought battle between Ronchetti and Lujan Grisham. A KRQE analysis of campaign fund data from the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office shows Michelle Lujan Grisham’s campaign has raised more than $7 million, while Mark Ronchetti has raised more than $4 million.
“I think in Ronchetti and Lujan Grisham, you’ve got two candidates that are going to raise a ton of outside money,” Sanchez said. “What that means for viewers is, outside PACs spending money on their own campaign ad buys, so you’re going to be getting messaging coming from the candidates themselves, as well as from those outside PACs.”
For challenger Ronchetti, Sanchez says the path to victory is a “very tall order,” but says he expects his campaign may look at a few different strategies. That includes the possibility of continued messaging toward immigration and border enforcement to energize enthusiasm from the base, but also looking toward current affairs surrounding inflation and crime, Sanchez says.
“Republicans can feel the national mood, moving increasingly away from the Democratic party and Biden administration,” Sanchez tells KRQE News 13. Sanchez says he believes the bigger challenge for Ronchetti will capturing moderate voters. “He can do that by focusing on crime, inflation, and framing this as an election of a governor who’s not taking care of those issues on the forefront of voters minds.”
Incumbent Michelle Lujan Grisham is still “the favorite” in the race, according to Sanchez. “New Mexicans historically give incumbents a second term in governors and Governor Lujan Grisham is sitting on a large war chest, and will have more resources, I believe, than Ronchetti, in a state that already leans Democrat,” Sanchez said.
He expects her strategy to include focusing on positive messaging themes. “What she’s done for New Mexicans, how she’s been able to maneuver around COVID, and trying to put some distance between herself and all the bad memories folks have about COVID and the pandemic, and her having to make tough decisions that hurt small businesses, etc.” Sanchez said.
As for the next few months, Sanchez believes the campaign trail mudslinging has just begun.
“I know from the viewers who I hear from, they don’t like the mudslinging and personal attack mode of politics,” Sanchez said. “Whenever those super PACs get involved, and they’re going to get involved in this race, unfortunately we should anticipate some of that dirty, mudslinging type of politics in the months ahead.”