As a kid, John Block marched up to the fourth floor of the state Capitol and demanded an audience with the governor.
“I was quite a precocious young child,” recalled Block, who was 8 or 10 years old at the time and serving as a legislative page in the state House of Representatives, where his late grandmother, Eloisa Block, was assistant chief clerk.
Though it didn’t happen on the spot, John’s assertiveness paid off. He said he met face-to-face with former Gov. Bill Richardson.
“I really don’t remember what I talked about with him,” he said. “But I just thought it was interesting to be able to meet someone like that and, you know, get there through force, I suppose.”
Now 24, Block is an even bigger force.
He has become one of the biggest champions — and bullhorns — of conservatives in New Mexico as the founder and editor of the Piñon Post, a no-holds-barred website of news and opinion pieces that routinely fling Democrats into the crosshairs of unflattering coverage.
Block, who remains convinced Donald Trump won the 2020 presidential election, has been called the unofficial spokesman of the Republican Party of New Mexico — given to writing incendiary things on politics and politicians that perhaps the party structure would not.
He started blogging about politics in New Mexico in 2018 and said readership “grew exponentially” from 2019 to 2020 as he wrote more about the administration of Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham — a favorite target of the website, which generates about 100,000 page views monthly.
“We were pushing back as one of the only conservative outlets that was bringing the true news about what she was doing in office and how we could fight back,” Block said. “I think it really had the activism arm tied to it, which gave it that popularity that it has today as the Piñon Post.”
The website of “conservative journalism” was born in 2020, he said.
But is it really journalism? Or is it, as some critics contend, a tool for far-right propaganda?
“It is journalism,” Block said. “Every piece that we do, we cover all the bases. We look to bring the true story. Like all these Michelle Lujan Grisham articles for instance, every time we run something about her, we call and ask for comment.”
Block said he has never received a response from the Governor’s Office.
“But that doesn’t mean that we won’t keep on asking,” he said. “We’re not here to just run a propaganda website. This is actually to bring a conservative perspective to New Mexico.”
Block doesn’t just call the Governor’s Office for comment.
Earlier this year, he filed an ethics complaint against the governor, alleging she violated New Mexico’s campaign finance laws by spending $6,000 on hair and makeup services. The Secretary of State’s Office found no evidence of violations. Block said he filed the complaint in a personal capacity, not as the editor of the website.
“I’m not going to let corruption slide,” he said.
Nora Meyers Sackett, the governor’s press secretary, declined to comment about Block.
“We’re not interested in participating in this kind of story,” she wrote in an email.
When Block writes about the governor, she is repeatedly referenced as a “scandal-ridden alleged serial groper” on the website.
But Lujan Grisham, whose campaign has paid $150,000 in a settlement with a former campaign staffer who accused her of grabbing his genitals, isn’t the only Democrat to get roasted on the Piñon Post. Among the headlines in recent days:
“MLG’s spokesman who called GOP a ‘death cult’ quits over mental health”
“Vengeful Dem Senate boss to boot ex-Democrat from Finance Committee”
“Open gov’t watchdog group blasts Dems’ partisan closed-door special session”
For his part, Block said his reporting is factual — and there’s a big appetite for it across New Mexico.
“I think people in this state didn’t really get the full picture the whole time, conservatives especially,” he said. “We read the Albuquerque Journal or the Las Cruces Sun-News or another one of these publications and a lot of the editorial content is very far to the left. Maybe there’s a letter to the editor here and there, but there is not a news organization that is predominantly there to bring the full picture of news that the mainstream media doesn’t necessarily cover.”
The website runs off mostly small donations and digital ads.
“It runs more like a nonprofit because we don’t make too much money,” said Block, who declined to disclose annual revenue.
“Mainly what we run on is a massive amount of small-dollar donors — $5, $10, $3 — and these people are what really build a movement,” he said. “That’s why we call ourselves a grassroots movement because the regular everyday New Mexican is funding this news.”
Block calls himself a reporter, but critics say he’s anything but objective.
Rep. Matthew McQueen, D-Galisteo, called the Piñon Post “fundamentally dishonest.”
“Everything I see is just a disingenuous, negative spin,” he said, adding he tries to avoid the website. “I think they’re intentionally and dishonestly stoking the negativity, and that’s why they exist.”
McQueen said the website doesn’t contribute to the political discourse in New Mexico.
“It contributes to the discord,” he said.
Asked whether the website has a slant, Block said “there’s a slant when it comes to all journalism.” He said the Piñon Post distinguishes news from opinion, though many news articles contain an obvious bent.
The road to red
The son of an elementary school teacher and a state government employee who are now both retired, Block said he had an average childhood. He attended Santa Fe’s Piñon Elementary and De Vargas Middle School and then started high school at Santa Fe High.
But “I just didn’t really see what I was looking for in an education” at Santa Fe High, said Block, who later enrolled in The MASTERS Program, a dual-credit charter high school at Santa Fe Community College. He graduated in 2015 and finished his associate’s degree in film production and documentary and environmental media the following year.
After attending a semester at Dallas Baptist University, Block returned to New Mexico.
“I just couldn’t afford it, so I came back home,” he said, adding he worked while taking online classes that led to a bachelor’s degree in business administration. He has since obtained a master’s from Eastern New Mexico University in Portales.
Block said he started delving into politics from a young age. He was galvanized by former President Barack Obama, whose policies he could not tolerate. When Obama was elected, Block said, he remembers a teacher holding the front page of a newspaper up to the class and remarking that history had been made with the election of the first African American president.
“I wasn’t one of the people celebrating,” he said.
Santa Fe to Alamogordo to controversy
That Block is now a right-leaning resident of Alamogordo isn’t so surprising; Otero County is largely conservative.
But his roots suggest a different political path.
Block’s family name is well known in the north: His late grandfather, John Block Jr., was the mayor of Española from 1948-52. A cousin, Jerome Block Jr., is also a former public regulation commissioner, though his political career ended in scandal when he pleaded guilty to fraudulent use of a government credit card and embezzlement in 2011.
Block, who is Hispanic, said members of his father’s family have been Democrats “since the dawn of time.”
“I guess they probably brought their Democrat streak with Oñate,” he joked, referring to conquistador Juan de Oñate.
Block, who is gay, said his political beliefs have made him something of a family outcast.
“I don’t talk to many people in my family anymore,” he said. “Politics is just very important to them, I guess, and they’re all very Democrat. So, yeah, it’s pleasantries at Christmas and stuff, but I don’t exactly get a red carpet.”
The family strains grew when Trump ran for office and then won the presidency, he said.
“It was kind of like a bubble popped,” he said.
He said he likes Southern New Mexico so much he’s preparing to run for the Alamogordo-based House District 51. He didn’t volunteer his looming candidacy during interviews but later confirmed he plans to seek elective office.
As Block gets ready to launch a campaign, incumbent Rep. Rachel Black, R-Alamogordo, said she’s not too concerned about facing off against someone from Santa Fe.
“I’ve been raised here,” she said, referring to Alamogordo. “I have deep community roots, so I feel confident that we’ll keep going.”
Black said she doesn’t know much about Block. But she knows how Santa Feans think.
“Generally speaking, people with mindsets from Northern New Mexico have a different mindset than people from Southern New Mexico,” she said. “I guess that’s the best way to say it. I think he would be better off running for one of those districts up there. I mean, I think he fits in better.”
In the middle of things
Regardless of where he is, Block always seems to find controversy — whether he’s chronicling it or is just in the general vicinity.
In January, he flew to Washington, D.C., to attend a massive pro-Trump demonstration that turned violent when a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol. Block has said he didn’t get close to the building.
“Everyone I spoke to was very peaceful and just fired up to take our country back,” he said at the time.
And last year, he was one of more than a dozen New Mexicans featured on a virtual deck of “PokeFash” cards — modeled after the Pokémon card game. A group that identifies itself as anti-fascist created the cards and posted them on Twitter.
The card with Block’s image showed him posing with Gavin McInnes, founder of the right-wing extremist group the Proud Boys.
Block has said he posed with McGinnis after the Proud Boys leader spoke at a rally but didn’t know much about the group.
Block also has volunteered for years as a “pro-life sidewalk advocate” outside Planned Parenthood.
He said he plans to continue the Piñon Post, which he describes as a side gig for now. He said he also writes for Pop Acta, a conservative news site.
“That’s my main gig, but the Piñon Post is my passion,” he said. “I would like it to be my main gig someday once it grows to that size, which I believe it will.”
Block said he’s “very proud” of the website.
“It’s probably the most proud I’ve been of anything that I’ve done so far in my life,” he said. “I think the Piñon Post has truly made a difference in our state and finally brought back opposition to the crazy left-wing extremism that has seeped through unaccountable for years.”