ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) — The latest ad making the rounds for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham broadly touches on what an announcer associates with crime and safety. Starting with a critique of recent ads from Republican opponent Mark Ronchetti, the ad ends with a series of headlines tied to children and education policies that changed during the Governor’s first term as head of the state’s executive branch.
So are all the claims made in the ad true, and what’s the context for each claim? To give you the context you need, KRQE News 13 is looking into the gubernatorial candidates’ political advertisements over the next several months in the run-up to Election Day to help voters get the full story.
Critiquing Ronchetti’s “attack ads”
From the start, the ad states: “Mark Ronchetti’s attack ads on crime: ‘deceptive.'” That descriptor of “deceptive” comes from a recent CNN story, published on September 16.
The CNN story is a fact check story itself, written by reporter Daniel Dale. The story is not singularly focused on Ronchetti, but includes a profile of Ronchetti’s recent personal crime ad among three advertisements accused of showing (according to CNN) that “new Republican attack ads deceive on policing and crime.”
KRQE News 13 already fact checked Ronchetti’s ad where his wife talks about a personal crime experience. In fact, CNN notes that local news, including KRQE News 13 pointed out that the incident in Ronchetti’s ad happened a decade ago. And the CNN story says that because Ronchetti didn’t note in the ad that the incident happened years ago, it’s among several potentially “deceptive” ads.
Lujan Grisham’s ad also claims Ronchetti’s “attack ads” commit “sins of omission.” That claim comes from an opinion column published by the Santa Fe New Mexican.
In the opinion column, editor Milan Simonich does write that Ronchetti committed “sins of omission” in his ad on personal crime. But the column isn’t solely about Ronchetti’s ad tactics. It also criticizes Lujan Grisham for a different ad where she critiqued Ronchetti on the topic of public safety . Simonich writes in the opinion piece: “[Lujan Grisham] should be embarrassed by her ad’s clumsy manipulations and disregard for truth.”
In a third statement against Ronchetti’s campaign, Lujan Grisham’s recent ad also points to a tweet criticizing Ronchetti’s ads. “Even a Republican leader said his ads make our side look like idiots,” Lujan Grisham’s ad claims.
That’s not quite what the tweet by Sandoval County Commissioner Jay Block actually said. Block lost to Ronchetti in the June Republican gubernatorial primary.
In a September 8 tweet, Block does note that Ronchetti’s campaign “should have done just a little bit of homework” before releasing the ad about the Ronchetti family’s personal experience with crime. “Mistakes like this make it easy for MLG [Michelle Lujan Grisham] to make our side look like idiots,” Block tweeted.
After moving away from the topic of political ads, Lujan Grisham’s advertisement gives the Governor credit for a series of accomplishments focused around children and education over her first term in office. It starts off by saying Lujan Grisham “invested hundreds of millions to protect at-risk children.”
That claim is talking about the state budget passed earlier this year. When budget season rolls around, each state department asks the state’s legislature to approve a certain amount of funding as their operating budget. For fiscal year 2023, the state’s Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) asked for $254,948,200 from the state’s General Fund.
The state’s Legislative Finance Committee recommended that lawmakers give the agency 89.6% of what they were asking for. Governor Lujan Grisham recommended that lawmakers give 94.5% of what the department asked for from the General Fund. In the end, lawmakers approved a little over $230 million for CYFD, which is broadly tasked with carrying out state policies to support children and families.
Amid that claim about protecting “at-risk children,” the ad also points to a news article by a non-profit called “Youth Today.” That article notes that the state’s funds do provide a higher budget than the Children, Youth and Families Department had the year before and that funds “will be used to improve services for foster youth” and services for youth experiencing mental illness.
The ad goes on to say Lujan Grisham “partnered with our schools to recruit and train skilled social workers.” What the ad is talking about is funding for New Mexico’s public colleges and universities to create faculty positions and programs to help college students study social work. As part of the state’s budget for fiscal year 2023, the legislature approved $50 million to pay for college teachers to teach social work.
In the final ten seconds of the ad, a series of buzz-words blitz across the screen: “free child care, pre-school, and vocational training,” the ad says. “It all keeps our kids safe.”
The ad does not explicitly say that Lujan Grisham played a role in each of those, but that’s seemingly the implication. But there’s more to how legislation surrounding those topics passed in New Mexico.
When it comes to child care, Lujan Grisham’s ad references a news outlet’s story about the state’s move to cover the costs of child care for families earning 400% of the federal poverty level or less. That, combined with other recent expansions of child care funding in the state, means a total of about 30,000 families will get free child care, according to the Washington Post, which cites New Mexico officials. In addition to the funding, Lujan Grisham signed a bill to create a cabinet-level position to oversee childcare in the state. Called the Early Childhood Education and Care Department, that initiative was broadly supported by both Democratic and Republican state senators in 2020.
As for free pre-school, the ad is referring to the Early Childhood Trust Fund, which uses income from the state’s oil production to support the Early Childhood Education and Care Department. That department operates the “New Mexico PreK” program that provides free services for 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds. Legislators passed legislation creating the fund in 2020.
Finally, for vocational training, Lujan Grisham’s ad is talking about the Opportunity Scholarship Act, a bill passed by legislators in 2020 and expanded earlier this year. It aims to cover full tuition and fees for residents of all ages who are working towards a certificate, associate, or bachelor’s degree either part-time or full-time at any New Mexico Public or Tribal college or university.
To be clear, that scholarship covers some vocational programs, or “trade” programs. According to state documents, the Opportunity Scholarship will cover costs for “students enrolled in certain certificate programs leading to careers in high-need fields including healthcare, education, STEM, and technical trades are eligible to receive the Opportunity Scholarship,” with the Higher Education Department releasing a list of qualified programs yearly.
Editor’s Note: KRQE News 13 fact checking and contextualizing television ads used in the 2022 race for New Mexico’s Governor’s office. Ads reviewed are ads from the candidates, not from political action committees. The review period consists of ads either released, or running between September 5, 2022 and the November election. For more KRQE News 13 Fact Check articles, visit KRQE.com/elections