Mark Ronchetti wasn’t candid with voters about his comeback. That’s a shocker, I know, a meteorologist-turned-politician looking for cloud cover to maximize media exposure.

Ronchetti, 48, would not have quit his six-figure job at television station KRQE unless he were running for governor.

Still, he claimed he would decide whether to enter the Republican primary only after prayerful contemplation and conversations with his wife and daughters. It’s a heck of a story. Someone out there might even believe it.

Ronchetti ran for New Mexico’s open U.S. Senate seat last year. He started late, then steamrolled over a no-name Republican field before losing the general election to Democrat Ben Ray Luján.

The brass at KRQE welcomed Ronchetti back to the airwaves after his defeat. Loyalty isn’t always a two-way street. Ronchetti has put his broadcasting career in abeyance to again seek high public office.

Let him dance until his, ahem, dramatic formal announcement. Ronchetti is going to run, and he will instantly become the favorite to win the Republican gubernatorial nomination.

My odds-making is based on a simple formula. Ronchetti has been on television in the Albuquerque market for most of the last 23 years. His name is more familiar to viewers and voters than those of the other half-dozen Republican candidates combined.

Recent history shows the rest of the field what it’s up against.

Few people remember the Republicans Ronchetti defeated in last year’s Senate primary. (They were Elisa Martinez and Gavin Clarkson). Ronchetti received 20,000 more votes than their combined total.

His showing was another sign that the culture of celebrity has never been more important in politics.

Trump University, Trump Vodka, Trump casinos, Trump Steaks and Trump Airlines all flopped. Former President Donald Trump, underwhelming as a businessman, won a term as president in large part because he starred on a reality television show.

New Mexico has few celebrities, and Ronchetti doesn’t meet the definition in a traditional sense. But it’s undeniable that his popularity as a television weatherman was the key to his winning the Senate primary.

Ronchetti also ran respectably in the general election against Luján, who was a well-known figure after serving 12 years in the U.S. House of Representatives.

There are no moral victories in politics, but Ronchetti received 16,000 more votes in New Mexico’s general election than Trump did. That’s the sort of statistic that encourages a TV personality to have another go at professional politics.

Ronchetti can expect a rough reception from his competitors.

Sandoval County Commissioner Jay Block, a Republican candidate for governor, dismisses Ronchetti as “an opportunist.”

“What has he done since November for the conservative movement?” Block asked. “The guy doesn’t have an original thought in his head.”

Block was no fan of Ronchetti’s during last year’s Senate campaign.

“He came to my house, begging and pleading for my endorsement,” Block said.

Block backed Martinez, as did many Republican officeholders. The hard truth was the public didn’t know Martinez. Voters recognized Ronchetti before he ran his first political advertisement.

Oddly enough, Ronchetti’s emergence sets the table for a fact-based gubernatorial campaign.

If Block or state Rep. Rebecca Dow or any other Republican candidate is to stop Ronchetti, he or she will have to demonstrate a superior command of government.

It won’t be enough for anyone to say the incumbent, Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, somehow mishandled the coronavirus pandemic.

Every candidate will have to outline how to curb the spread of deadly COVID-19. They will have to specify their stances on vaccinations, booster shots, masks and safety practices in schools.

Generalities won’t work on a hundred other issues, either. What’s the strategy to curtail the black market when government-sanctioned recreational cannabis goes on sale? Does the state need a centralized Public Education Department, or should it pour that money into impoverished school districts? Don’t tell us addiction and crime are scourges. Specify how to reduce them.

Democrat Fred Harris lives in New Mexico now, but he became a national figure by defeating a celebrity Republican in a U.S. Senate race in Oklahoma. Harris upset legendary Oklahoma football coach Bud Wilkinson by outpointing him on every issue, from race relations to national security.

If Sooner nation could reject Wilkinson, all things are possible under the right conditions. Harris was an exceptional candidate. Wilkinson oozed overconfidence.

Republicans have been in a long slump in New Mexico. Ronchetti knows his party’s bench is shallow for statewide elections.

In turn, Block says Ronchetti lost to one Luján and couldn’t beat the other. The campaign is about to get more interesting as the weatherman’s life turns stormy.

Ringside Seat is an opinion column about people, politics and news. Contact Milan Simonich at or 505-986-3080.

(61) comments

Jim Klukkert

Katherine Martinez yesterday engaged in the worse sort of attack, falsely accusing me of being in league with violent domestic terrorists, in reply to my comment which included a reference to the January 6th Insurection. Here is what Martinez wrote in her first personal attack:

“Jim, your radical party bombed the Capitol once before and got a pass on it. So ferme la bouche."

Katherine Martinez later wrote, in part, Jim, you subscribe to radical, leftist ideologies … you may have not advocated the bombing of the Capitol in 1983, you certainly fail to point that incident out … Where is the righteous indignation there?

Well everyone, I also have a fair amount of English blood in my veins, but alas, I did not point out, nor did I disavow that the Brits burned the White House in 1814. No one was discussing what happened in 1983! Katherine Martinez only called upon that bit of remote history to smear me and my positions.

Perhaps I am overly sensitive here, but I am old enough to remember when Red-Baiting was employed to silence talk of Civil Rights and the tragedy of the Viet Nam War.I had hoped we had finally stilled that avenue of attack, but obviously, that is a smear that Martinez is happy to employ.

For the slanderous, Red-Baiting abuse that Katherine Martinez dished out yesterday, Monday 25 October, I would be happy to Martinez permanently banned from commenting privileges on the SFNM pages.

Khal Spencer

Welcome to the club, Jim. A couple years ago a prominent local activist thinly disguised an allusion to NRA members being domestic terrorists. For that matter, a San Francisco Councilor tried to pass a resolution stating so up front.

Although I long ago quit the NRA, I am on the board of an affiliated club. So there. I am an affiliated terrorist.

No matter if one is on the right, left, or for that matter the center, someone will throw those innuendos around. Its sad that "discourse" has come to that.

Jim Klukkert

Khal Spencer– Thanks for your comment, and for sharing your story regarding the allegations of being a domestic terrorist.

While some may see such charges as being simply one way to harass a political opponent, history tells us that Red-Baiting and other phony charges are one of the first steps in de-humanizing opponents, turning public perceptions of a person or group of people from being human, to being threatening demons.

And it is so much easier to dismiss, injure or even kill a demon than to do the same to another human being.

I still hold Edgar J. Hoover at least partly responsible for the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as Hoover was relentless in spreading lies about MLK. Likewise, I have no compassion for Diçk Nixon and his VP, Spiro T. Agnew, for the damage they did to our political fabric. The great Ronald Reagan? Not great for his dog whistle calls about "Welfare Queens" riding in Cadillacs.

So this is serious business as far as I am concerned. We will see if the SFNM wants to host comments like Katherine Martinez, who so lightly engage in this sort of destructive behavior.

Of course, without such voices, Trump & Co. may have a greater challenge in their next attempt at Insurrection. I would guess that Martinez is aware of that.

Katherine Martinez

Jim, my political nemisis (no hard feelings, truly): you paint yourself as some lilly white saint. As if your endless drum beat of 'alt-right' comments, barbs, and stingers tossed about these pages don't count as harrassment of your opponents--clearly aimed at the conservative agenda. Your melodramatic "red baiting" statement is a good cookie, but in the end you are just as guilty as most people on these pages; we've all witnessed your crass comments. There is no "smearing" taking place here, merely observations and freedom of expression, unless you want to take that away from us as well. And no, I'm no keyboard coward. I welcome the pleasure to meet you at our now hollowed-out town square, that your government acquiesed in destroying, to debate any issue you like, although I know we won't change each others minds. Peace and love always.

Khal Spencer

You are absolutely correct about dehumanizing one's opponents which leads to at minimum, dismissing them out of hand and at worst, engaging in violence as we have seen in some of our cities. I'm happy to dismiss an opinion that I think is based on flawed information, propaganda, or disinformation, but still show everyone some respect. We all have feet of clay.

I wish I had bought the book but I didn't, but back in my U of Hawaii days I used to wander over to the campus bookstore, which was next to the coffee shop. I picked up and browsed a book about the WW II wartime cartoons. You know, the ones that portrayed the Japanese and Germans and fiendish devils, animals, simians, etc. Our adversaries did the same to us. All part of the strategy to ensure that no one had qualms about killing That Other Guy.

When civil discourse becomes so uncivil as to reduce one's political adversaries in the same way, we are on that path. Used to be you had to mimeograph off those lurid tracts in a basement and hand them out or put them in the mail. Nowadays, all you have to do is hit "send", "post comment", or "post blog entry".

Katherine Martinez

Guilt by association--seems to be a long standing crime. This was a good share Khal, and very true. Politics is a nasty game and tempers do flare. I'm confident that at the end of the day we are simply all Americans, period. I do appreciate your level headed, fair and consistent comments however--that point out the flaws on both sides. Peace and love always.

Katherine Martinez

Meanwhile, absolutly NO praise for Joe and his administration here.....CRICKETS. Lets be 2018 and attack Trump. Pathetic. That's all you liberals have left, remnants of 2018. Be afraid of Ronchetti....he may not win, but he is formidable.

Khal Spencer

Why does the paper keep scrubbing Chris Mechels?

DeeDee Downs

How long is it going to take for republicans to work out that TV stars are pretty much garbage in government?

Khal Spencer

Tell that to the American people, who elected Ronald Reagan and re-elected him in a landslide. They obviously disagree.

Comment deleted.
Jim Klukkert

Chris Mechels-That would be a much better choice than any Republican, and I hope your will write in that choice. At least a dead dog could be depended upon to not be a Donald 'Big Lie' Trump sycophant.

Khal Spencer

Ronchetti doesn't have a STEM degree either. Wonder how much about weather and climate he understands, or if he just reads a script.

Comment deleted.
rodney carswell

Have a nice day Mr Mechels

John Tallent

Let's hope his celebrity will keep him out of the mansion. He has no business being gov!


Comment deleted.
Mike Johnson


Cleve Spence

In today's republican party everyone is a trump puppet: The Big Lie, 6-Jan-2021 didn't happen, and all run on the platform of fear, hate and greed, where truth and science doesn't matter!

Khal Spencer

Both parties cater to the special interests that are their activist base, and to the big donor class. Pick your poison according to your own interests. I find it hilarious that MLG wants to make climate a big issue but fails to mention that the outsourcing of our consumer goods to China and elsewhere ensures that no matter what we do here, coal and other fossil fuels will continue to be burned to support the American way of life, i.e., consumerism. Honesty will not get you elected.

Khal Spencer

Liz Cheney?

Dottie Butler

I can't really tell what Ronchetti is or isn't. He might be religious, but I'm not even sure of that. He seems to think that he is a better fit with Republicans than Democrats, but that might be because he knows he could never win a Democratic Primary.

He says what he thinks will get him elected, most politicians are like that to varying degrees, but in spite of seeing him reporting the weather and the few really revealing debates and interviews, I get the feeling that he really doesn't want anyone knowing anything about him. That can't be a good thing for someone running for public office unless they have something to hide that we haven't found out yet.

He can't run away from associating himself with Trump and Trump's attempt to overthrow our government in favor of a fascistic dictatorship.

No, he can't take that one back.

Khal Spencer

The idea of an idea based campaign runs against the grain, Milan. If you doubt that, I'll hand you the pile of luridly colorful Webber mailings that I get every few days. Sometimes distinguished silence is better than the alternative, Mr. Mayor...

Well, I'm glad a sane Republican is running. That said, for Ronchetti to have a remote chance of being competitive in the general election, here is my advice.

1. No allegiance to Trump or Trumpublican wing of the party. Don't even mention them and if 6 Jan comes up, be honest, Mark--that was a disaster to our Republic. Stick to facts, not mythology.

2. Make this about New Mexico and the legacy of (R) folks like Pete Dominici and Heather Wilson, who showed they could win and who were not to the right of Atilla the Hun. Trump and Trumpism, for one thing, is toxic in this state and you can't win with just the 2nd CD.

3. Promise that when elected, you will ask for an amendment to the emergency powers act to require Legislature re-approval every 90 days (or pick a number with the Legislature) in the case of an emergency is long lived. I think a lot of us assume that MLG will milk her emergency powers as long as she can and are losing faith in her honesty about the need for such powers. Power corrupts, and absolute power....when fed on Wagyu beef...

4. Its not enough to slightly elevate graduation rates (Santa Fe) if that just means social promotion and a continued inability of students to matriculate in college without massive remediation (my wife is the subject matter expert on that, having run a university level remedial studies program). We need to fix K-12 education, as our perpetually second to last educational system is the root of a lot of other problems (lousy jobs, high crime, poverty). Dems have not fixed it. Promise to find a way to get real resources to teachers and communities and raise the rate at which our HS grads test directly into college level work. That's the real metric.

5. Crime. Does the rest of NM want to soon look like Albuquerque? Keller's administration has been a flop and now, violence is creeping up I-25. Our criminal justice system is a laughingstock, which is why we rely on the Feds to deal with the worst of the worst. What can a governor do, in two paragraphs or less?

6. Economic growth. Fix our antiquated tax system. How will you make NM less dependent on the Federal pork barrel, preferably without more tax giveaways? How will you bring jobs that pay real salaries to NM, rather than more service-industry jobs that barely pay the rent?

7. Talk intelligently about how to respond to climate change. Promise a board of advisors gleaned from our university system and LANL. Stress your science credentials (I assume you have some). How will you balance our reliance on the extractive industries with national and global goals to reduce carbon emissions? Will you stress STEM fields (that can make us cutting edge in new climate friendly technologies) when you appoint regents rather than Div I sports?

If the GOP makes this about the Trumpublicans or the kind of campaign that made a laughingstock out of Steve Pearce's last campaign, they might as well concede right now and congratulate Michelle Lujan Grisham on her second term.

Get that, guys?

Emily Hartigan

Kahl, it's too late on #1. Flip-flopping won't help him.

Khal Spencer

Maybe. The electorate has a notoriously short memory. But he has to sound honest and not like a chameleon. Oh, he is a politician. Never mind...

Mike Andredi

Any Republican would be better than Comrade MLG, even a weather-person.

Mike Johnson

[thumbup]Indeed, or Elmer Fudd.......

Jim Klukkert

I'm still Chris Mechels if pressed for a candidate in the Republican column.

Write-in a dead dog, who we can all depend on as not being a Donald "Big Lie" Trump sycophant.

Robert Fields

Not so long ago during his run for senate, Mark Ronchetti was slathering himself with all things Trump just as hard as he could. Ronchetti made certain nobody missed how big of a fan he was. Voters need to remember that.

Ronchetti has to decide how much Trump to let out for this election. If he distances himself from Trump to try to con voters into believing he is moderate, he risks Trump noticing and even endorsing someone else. If he clings to Trump like he did last election, Ronchetti is along for whatever ride the many Trump investigations going on now turn up - and it’s looking more and more like Trump’s January 6th insurrection could be very damaging to the Trump brand Ronchetti has already tied himself to.

It’s not so easy to find Ronchetti’s old Trump kissing ads now. He seems to have scrubbed his YouTube channel and added a new video called “I Believe”. In what, Mark? A fascist state? Trump’s innocence? The anti-vax hysteria? Pushing the planet closer to climate ruin? Locking kids in cages with your support of the border wall? Have you also got an “I Really Don’t Care” coat to wear on a visit like Trump’s other wife?

How Ronchetti comes out in this campaign is going to be interesting. He has to position himself so as not to scare moderates but has to signal to the radicals he’s ready to fight for all things Trump. It’s his only path to a possible win. Pay close attention to ambiguities and phrasing as he woos the Trump faithful. This is of course assuming he doesn’t just lead with kissing Trump’s copious behind.

I bet as he rebrands we’ll see some amazing weather from the Trump boot licker — the wind will be blowing both ways. Mark Ronchetti already told us who he was. We would be wise to listen.

Emily Koyama

Wow, Trump's name used 15 times in your post. Think you may be a little fixated?

Robert Fields

Why yes I am. To me, Trump signals tremendous danger as he coddles and admires dictators, stacked the Supreme Court, and systematically dismantled checks and balances. Right now he is trying hard to run a shadow parallel government and spineless republicans are going along because Trump will ruin them politically if they don’t. Watchdog agencies are flashing warnings of what he is doing to our country now, still, and what he is basically guaranteed to do should he run again and win. I am a firm believer in the rule of law and Trump is anything but.

And Ronchetti tied himself to that. He showed us who he admites and who he wants as president. That should scare the bejeesus out of everyone.

And I counted my references to Ronchetti, including pronouns, and that quick count looks like 31. Just over twice as many references to Ronchetti as to Trump.

Call it what you will but that seems appropriate in both cases when discussing someone who so desperately wanted to ride Trump’s coattails.

Emily Hartigan

Empty power-and-money-hungry celebrity enters the jet stream of authoritarianism - redux. The Former Guy and his clones are a radical threat to the republic.

Mike Johnson

Exactly Emily, a true case of advanced Trump Derangement Syndrome, perhaps he can seek help soon with this obsession/compulsion.

John Onstad


Jim Klukkert

Emily Koyama- Seeing as Trump and his Alt-right crew attempted an Insurrection of January 6th, a sharp focus is mandatory for all of us who believe in the promise of the American Experiment in Democracy.

So right on, Robert Fields, and thanks for your insightful commentary.

Gene Hill

Spot on. Let's see what happens in Virginia now, as their GOP candidate is every bit as two faced as weatherman Ronch.

B. Rosen

MLG will easily beat Ronchetti, I think most of the folks in the GOP realize that.

Mike Johnson

True, I would much prefer to vote for a Democratic Capitalist type Democrat, instead of this far left Democratic Socialist one, but will vote for anything not left wing these days. Beggars can't be choosers with politicians today, any conservative will do for me.

Katherine Martinez

You make me laugh Milan; as if Ben Ray wasn’t an anointed ‘culture of celebrity’ himself by way of his daddy. But at least you admitted Mark was a formidable opponent to the bachelor Ben Ray in the last contest—and if anyone can unseat MLG, it will be Ronchetti. Despite the detractors, he is not a "Trump puppet"; Ronchetti has wits and an agenda (yes conservative mind you). Trump is history, let's focus on New Mexico, please...and for those of you who continue to focus on Trump you are so 2018.

Richard Reinders


Mark Blackburn

He has a great chance at winning against the governor with fresh ideas and lots of energy!

Emily Hartigan

Katherine, I'm new here so I need to ask this: why do you call him "the bachelor Ben Ray?"

Chris Mechels

Perhaps his BBA from Highlands, which is rather a joke in these parts. Prior to that he was a blackjack dealer. Fine credentials for a NM Senator.

Khal Spencer


Emily Hartigan

I've had friends in the past, and in the present, who taught/teach there, and they are excellent, extremely well-qualified faculty members. So I guess I don't get the joke.

Mark Ortiz

I could be wrong but since I've heard this "bachelor" reference before, I think in this case, maybe not Katherine specifically, it's usually said with an inferred wink wink. Think in terms of ????'s surrounding Lindsey Graham's sexuality. I think the bachelor reference, in my experience with commenters here, is regarding that.

Jim Klukkert

Mark Ortiz– Believe you are on to something, and sad that some folks still try to smear others with attacks on their sexual identity.

The folks who attack folks based on a perception of sexual identity are low sorts, un-Christian, who simply lack any other substantial basis to oppose their targets.

Sad, but those biased critics are very quickly being consigned to the trash bin of history, by the overwhelming majority of our fellow citizens.

Khal Spencer

I found Sen. Ben Ray's c.v. It says he got a BBA (bachelor's in business administration). My hunch is it is just a cut and paste job, not an innuendo. Your mind, like mine, is always fertile ground for imagination.

Emily Hartigan

Sadly, Mark, it seems so, as the only proffered explanation is baloney. Homophobia is so 20th century.

Jim Klukkert

Emily Hartigan– I too have the same question. Want to bet that we do not hear back on this one from its author, Katherine Martinez.

Mark Ortiz

Jim, I'm going to check you on your listing "un-Christians" in with "low sorts". I'm the non-christian calling out possible homophobia. Furthermore, Let me preface this comment with, I have no idea what it's like to be part of the LGBTQ struggle but IF Ben or Lindsey or any other person in power is gay, fine but, if they "hide" that while making life changing decisions, their may be a cloud of distrust that will follow you. For instance, I was not a fan of former Mayor Javier Gonzales's policies/actions but he found the strength to reveal publicly that part of him. In any case, it's not for me to judge a person's character for acknowledging that part of their real self or not. Besides, if Ben believes in what he's doing and has a better chance of climbing that ladder while in the closet, that's his choice. Myself, I think he's an elitist, born into undeserved political privilege and is a megalomaniacal, corporate democratic shill, with severely compromised ethics. I hope Ronchetti put a scare into is arrogant A $$ and MGL is going to need that war chest.

Katherine Martinez

It's merely and observation, and a fact, Jim.

Jim Klukkert

Katherine Martinez tip toes right up to the line of harassing a public figure for that person's sexual identity as a single person. Quite coy with her comment "It's merely and observation, and a fact, Jim," Katherine Martinez is in fact a closet homophobe, though she knows that in this day and age, that would make her persona non grata.

As it should. Please Kathy, get thee to a nunnery, and freshen your lessons on Love of your fellow being. You seem to have lost your way.

Katherine Martinez

Jim, live and let live! I have plenty of family members in that category. By the way, what is so wrong with a typical family nucleus of male/female/children? I'm also good with any combination thereof. Don't pre-judge me!

Mike Johnson


Tim Herrera

Mark Ortiz summed up Ben Ray Lujan perfectly. Amazing how he got his Highlands Degree so quickly after Manny Aragon became the President there and Javier Gonzales was on the Board of Regents. Before this seems like BRL was in College forever.

Katherine Martinez

It is a fact that he is a bachelor.

Mark Ortiz

Yes it is a fact. I will watch for your future posts to see if you attach descriptions to other public officials like, the widow Lujan Grisham, or the father of 3 Balderas, or if you mean Ben has a bachelor degree, the (juris) doctor Lujan Grisham or master Keller.

Denise Jimenez


Tim Herrera

Well said Katherine.👍

Tommy Martinez

[thumbup] MLG saw the Republican field that was running and probably thought she would be sneaking away with another four years...Guess again! Ronchetti did exceptionally well in the Senate race against a democratic candidate in a democratic state with not much baggage and riding his daddy's coattails. MLG has none of that going for her AND in addition to destroying the NM economy by her COVID response has us last or close to it in just about everything that matters plus as of this morning has us as the 5th highest state in unemployment. If either Balderas or Udall had decided to run against her in the primary, she wouldn't have to worry about Ronchetti because she would be making it out of her own party. If Dems want a chance to keep the mansion, get one of those two to primary her.

Jim Klukkert

Katherine Martinez- please share with us, what importance do you attach to the Senator's martial status, in your reference to "the bachelor Ben Ray."

Are you creeping up to a really cheap shot that is totally yesterday in any power? Is this a Christian comment?

Jim Klukkert

Katherine Martinez- Senator Ben Ray Lujan went to Pojoaque High School, probably drives an American car or truck, and has family along Hwy 503 in the family. Yet the only fun fact that merited your attention was revealed in your characterization of the

Senator as "the bachelor Ben Ray."

What was your intent in this characterization, Kathy? Please be truthful and candid in your reply now. Thank you!

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