Friday marks the first day candidates for statewide public offices can begin gathering signatures to get on the ballot for the June primary.

While nominating petition forms for the governor’s race weren’t available until now, the field of candidates seeking the Republican nomination already has taken shape.

Or has it?

Seven Republicans have announced their intention to seek the nomination, touting their varying experiences and skill sets as the best to go toe-to-toe against Democratic incumbent Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in November 2022.

But at least two questions remain: Will anyone else get in the race? And with only nine months until the primary, will they have enough time to run an effective campaign?

Senate Minority Whip Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho, said would-be contenders still have time, though it’s running out.

“We’ve seen it before, you know, when someone comes in at the last minute,” he said. “If they have the backing that they need, I don’t think [it’s too late]. I think it’s getting close to there, though. I think probably if you haven’t come in by middle of November, that may be pushing it.”

Brandt said the pool of GOP candidates seeking the nomination for governor may grow.

“There’s been several names floated around,” he said. “I’ve talked to a couple of people personally, but I can’t share any information.”

While he wouldn’t divulge details, Brandt acknowledged he’s spoken about the governor’s race with Mark Ronchetti, a popular TV weatherman who launched a close but unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate against Ben Ray Luján last year.

“It’s really between him and his wife as to whether or not he wants to do that again,” Brandt said. “It’s a really tough thing. He’s still got young kids at home, needs to be able to support his family. It’d be quite a sacrifice personally for him to get in this race.”

Ronchetti did not return messages seeking comment.

But if he did throw his name into the hat, he would have an advantage over the seven Republicans who already have announced their intentions, Gabriel Sanchez, a political science professor at the University of New Mexico, wrote in an email.

Of the seven hopefuls, none has statewide name recognition, Sanchez wrote. “That is why there is a lot of interest in whether Ronchetti will announce a campaign, as he has strong and positive name recognition and has shown the ability to perform well in a statewide race.”

Sanchez added: “If he were to announce he would be the front-runner for the GOP nomination in my view.”

He believes there is still plenty of time for someone to mount a strong campaign for governor. But he said they would need two important resources: the ability to raise campaign funds and name recognition.

“For a statewide race it is critical that a candidate have positive name recognition across the state, and although candidates that do not bring that asset to the race when they announce can generate name ID through their campaign, this takes time and costs a lot of money,” Sanchez wrote.

Of the seven Republicans seeking the nomination, state Rep. Rebecca Dow of Truth or Consequences is said to have the highest name recognition.

The other candidates in the race are business owner Karen Bedonie, who touts herself as the only Native American contender; Jay Block, a Sandoval County commissioner and retired Air Force officer; Ethel Maharg, a former mayor of the village of Cuba who now serves as the executive director of the Albuquerque-based Right to Life Committee of New Mexico; Louie Sanchez, a medical sales representative and shooting range owner; Tim Walsh, a retired teacher who worked as an education adviser to former Gov. Gary Johnson; and investment adviser and West Point graduate Greg Zanetti.

Dow calls herself the front-runner.

Louie Sanchez, who sought the Republican nomination for a U.S. Senate seat in 2020, wrote in a statement, “Any assumption that there’s a ‘frontrunner’ is just that — a baseless assumption undermining the vital role Republican primary voters will play in vetting the candidates and doing their own research to decide who is best equipped to take the fight to Lujan Grisham.”

Louie Sanchez called the race “wide open,” which gives each of the candidates the opportunity to take their message directly to the voters.

“I look forward to the campaign ahead and the opportunity to continue traveling the state so that New Mexicans can make their voices heard,” he wrote.

Steve Pearce, chairman of the Republican Party of New Mexico, declined a request for an interview. The party also declined to answer a number of questions sent by email, including whether any other candidates are considering seeking the nomination for governor or which of the seven has the best chance of unseating Lujan Grisham.

“Right now it’s too early for RPNM to address the many candidates who are seeking the Republican gubernatorial nomination or to discuss the campaigns,” spokesman Mike Curtis wrote in a statement.

Delaney Corcoran, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Party of New Mexico, asserted the field of GOP candidates for governor is in disarray.

“The only thing the Republican candidates have demonstrated is that they’re in a race to see who can be most like Donald Trump and appeal to the far right,” she wrote in an email. “From the infighting to the amateurish organizations to the out-of-touch policies, it’s clear GOP Chairman Steve Pearce has lost control of the Republican Party of New Mexico. The future of the GOP in New Mexico looks bleak.”

In a statement, Pearce fired back, writing that the Republican Party of New Mexico is “more organized and prepared to take back our state than ever before.” He also wrote the party has a vision, strong candidates and is determined to see that the rights and freedoms of New Mexico citizens are protected.

“Gov. Lujan Grisham has consistently failed New Mexico and its residents: she has destroyed our economy, shuttered businesses, stripped away the freedoms of New Mexicans, exceeded her authority as governor with her decrees and has even had to pay hush money surrounding her sexual harassment of her staff,” he wrote, referring to a settlement with her former campaign spokesman, who accused the governor of grabbing his crotch.

“Her record is miserable, and her progressive agenda continues to embarrass us as a state. She has driven families out of New Mexico to seek a better education, and businesses have also fled our state. This Governor has also failed our citizens when it comes to crime, and she flatly refuses to acknowledge the ongoing crisis at the southern border,” Pearce wrote. “Any Republican gubernatorial candidate would do a better job, and we are determined to take the governor’s office next year.”

Will Reinert, a spokesman for the Republican Governors Association, also took aim at Lujan Grisham, writing in an email that “countless personal and professional scandals” continue to distract the governor and leave her incapable of effectively governing the state.

“A violent crime wave, the worst public school education in the country, and an overrun southern border deserve a Republican governor capable of focusing solely on turning the state around,” he wrote.

Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter @danieljchacon.

(13) comments

B. Rosen

The Republican Party has become a cult of personality to that orange faced neofascist hate monger in FL…Fealty to this monstrous person pays dividends in the GOP primaries but not in the general elections in a state like ours. If the GOP here doesn’t want to wind up like the Republicans in CA, they should choose someone who distances themself from all association with the former inhabitant of the White House,

Khal Spencer

Given the DPNM has dominated the legislature for much of New Mexico's statedom, I'd not brag too much. But the RPNM has consistently shot itself in the foot with bad campaigning, ideas out of touch with the public, and a fanatical devotion to Donald Trump. The GOP has only one out of five Federal seats and has been reduced to minority status in the Roundhouse.

Mr. Pearce, maybe its time to tell your folks to put down the shovel and stop digging. Pete Dominici and Heather Wilson were viable candidates, in large part because they weren't crazy nor to the right of Atilla the Hun. Subtle hint.

Mike Johnson

Very true Khal, the GOP has no bench at all, no good candidates who are not far right wing and thus unacceptable to NM voters in general. As a Democratic Capitalist, aka conservative Democrat, I am still holding out hope for moderate and conservative Democrats to overcome the corruption and huge out-of-state special interests financial advantages that entrench the current sorry crop of left wing Democrats (organized by the Santa Fe Ring and Emerge NM), aka Democratic Socialists, who run everything in our state today. And of course we will stay last in the US as long as they do.

paul pacheco

What a great opportunity for Republicans and the great state of New Mexico! Are you better off today than 3 years ago? Restaurant owners, government employees, NM small businesses, your children in schools and colleges? The polling places will tell us, not only in the primary but in the general election. As for a front runner for the RPNM? Let the upcoming debates give the voters, yes [democrat and republican], the plate of information to put aside the political corruption aside on both sides, and let’s vote for the people of New Mexico! Except for the newcomers who’ve moved here with their money, the poverty rate for the rest of New Mexico sits at a whopping 18.2% (Wikipedia). Are you better off today than 3 years ago or could your lifestyle be better?

Kelly Belly

You seem to forget that it was Susana Martinez, the Republican governor for 8 years who brought us down to the lowest in the nation in terms of poverty and education. Remember her? Meanwhile, Lujan Grisham has had one of the best pandemic responses in the nation, thanks to her expertise as a New Mexico Health Secretary. She's most qualified and she will win another term. The Republican party is made up of Ivermectin-popping, science and election-denying wack jobs who support a sexual predating pathological liar and the biggest clown to have ever occupied the White House in the history of this country - Donald J. Trump. Republicans should be ashamed of themselves attaching themselves to this sickness. Don't be dragging MLG through the mud when we all know it was Susana Martinez who put New Mexico where it is today. MLG has been working her bum off to pull us out!

Robert Fields

Very well said! [thumbup]

paul pacheco

I have to respond which I normally do not! Who was the governor prior to Susanna? Some crook named Bill? It's too bad that liberal "know it alls" such as yourself can't get over President Trump. He's gone; now we have some nut who doesn't even know what day it is. But this is about New Mexico! Are you better off today/are the residents of New Mexico?

Kelly Belly

Actually yes, we all are better off today because twice as many of us would be dead had it not have been for Governor Lujan Grisham's leadership through this global pandemic. So let me get this straight. What you are saying is that poverty and poor education is the fault of Bill Richardson - A governor that hasn't been in office for over 11 years. Hmmm. And somehow the eight years that Susana Martinez was in office, cutting education budgets and slashing social programs has nothing to do with the state we are in now? And then three years of MLG has made us worse off. Makes zero sense, Paul Pacheco. It's called "cause and effect. " MLG has given massive pay raises to teachers so that they can actually do their jobs and not worry so much about paying their bills. She has passed legislation that provides for protections of animals, women, and Native American voting rights. She has passed bills into law that cut gas emissions and taken guns out of the hands of mentally ill people. Are we better off? You better believe it. Better off then we would have been had the wing nut, Trump-loving, climate chaos denying, boot-licking Steve Pierce had won.

Robert Fields

This state has suffered recently but pretty much most or all of the pandemic-related issues are thanks to the “republican” who stole your party - Donald Trump. And as much as it pains me to even say it, the only reason we didn’t have more death until January 20th of this year was Jared and Ivanka mobilizing the vaccine race. Jared was convinced we were all going to die so he backed vaccines. This country got no covid response from Trump. He denied covid was even a threat. He caught it and the only reason he lived was he was able to get Regeneron when it was very experimental because he was president. Instead of coming around he still called it a hoax publicly but got vaccinated in private.

Michelle Lujan Grisham, on the other hand, navigated New Mexico through a pandemic made much worse by Trump and Trump followers. New Mexico per capita death rates are just a small fraction of what republican-led states suffered as they kowtowed to Trump.

Most in New Mexico have suffered a lot these last couple of years. Many are unemployed, many lost their homes, etc. It’s been a bad couple of years. But things would have been much worse without MLG. Had the anti-mask, anti-vax Trumpers had their way, we’d have many more dead and sick with our hospitals full. We may even have had to buy refrigerated trailers to store the dead like Florida and Texas and their republican governors did. DeSantis and Abbott have presided over 55k and 65k dead in their states, respectively. New Mexico is still well below 5k. We have lower population but run the numbers to normalize for population — We’re still way lower than those states. New Mexico is above average for handling covid and that’s thanks to MLG and her background in public health.

So no, I don’t buy it for a second that MLG did bad by New Mexico. It was Trump and his GOP cabal. Had we had a republican governor we would almost certainly be looking at much higher death tolls and much more battered and bruised of an economy.

If you look at the New Mexico GOP, however, what you see is a whole lot of competition to see who can fall over themselves to show who is the most faithful Trumper. If he runs, Ronchetti’s previous pro-Trump ads were disgusting. Pathetic, really. But you are right. It is an opportunity. An opportunity to show republicans the door. Here’s hoping New Mexico pays the GOP back for all the pain they’ve caused and embarrasses whoever floats to the top of this bowl of candidates.

Kelly Belly

This ^^^

Stan Biderman

The place for out of touch Republicans is Texas. Hope they spend lavishly to lose here.

Emily Koyama

Yeah, Dems have done so well in NM over the last 8 decades. At or near bottom of every good list, at or near top of every bad list.

Woohoo!

Red Eagle

[thumbup]

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