After New Mexico voters cast their ballots on Tuesday, June 7, 2022, Republican Mark Ronchetti secured the Republican nomination to challenge incumbent Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. Plus, re-districting means congressional races may be more competitive this year. (Photo by Mario Tama / Getty Images)
After winning the GOP primary for governor by a long shot on Tuesday, Republican Mark Ronchetti will take on Democratic incumbent Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in November’s general election.
“We have a governor that has decided that she will look out for the best interests of the elites in Santa Fe instead of you,” Ronchetti said in his victory speech.
Beating out four other opponents, including state Rep. Rebecca Dow, Ronchetti’s campaign stances like strict border security, opposition to abortion and support for gun-owners’ rights contrast Lujan Grisham’s positions favoring reproductive health care access and gun policy reform.
The candidates share some similar crime policy positions with calls for additional law enforcement funding and lessening the number of people who are released before their trials.
Both seek to transform New Mexico’s low-ranking education status. Lujan Grisham recently signed legislation for teacher raises, less administrative paperwork for teachers and free in-state college tuition. Ronchetti is focused on eliminating liberal ideologies he says are being taught in school through boosted local authority and control, as well as a return to education basics he says were lost due to remote education during the pandemic.
CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 1
Retired Albuquerque police detective Michelle Garcia Holmes, a Republican, will face the incumbent member of Congress in a new central New Mexico district. She outpaced her opponent Louie Sanchez in the primary by 18 percentage points, according to unofficial election results Wednesday morning.
Garcia Holmes, of Albuquerque, will vie for Democratic Rep. Melanie Stansbury’s seat in November. The district is a new one, thanks to the recently completed redistricting process, which analysts say cut into Democrats’ previous steep advantage.
CD 1 used to generally cover all of northern New Mexico on either side of Albuquerque and was a very safe seat for Democrats. They had an estimated 14-point advantage before redistricting, and now have a 11-point advantage, according to FiveThirtyEight.com.
Garcia Holmes shot ahead of her opponent Louie Sanchez by midnight on primary day Tuesday, earning nearly 60% of the vote with 580 of the districts 766 precincts reporting.
She is a retired and a former chief of staff in the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office under Gary King between 2007 and 2014. She told the League of Women Voters that her priorities if elected would be crime, the border and inflation.
CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 2
Democrat Gabriel Vasquez, a city councilor for Las Cruces, far outpaced his primary opponent to take on Republican U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell in the newly redrawn Second Congressional District in November. He’d cornered 76% of the vote in the final tally of unofficial election results on the Secretary of State’s website.
Vasquez will challenge Herrell in a newly competitive district for Democrats. Redistricting in December meant that a southern New Mexico region political wonks at FiveThirtyEight.com said was previously a 14-point advantage for the GOP became a district that favored Democrats by five points.
Vasquez jumped to an early lead against his primary competitor Darshan Patel, a physician in Lovington, N.M. As of 10:40 p.m., with 161 of 650 precincts reporting, Vasquez was already up 76% to 24% — a lead he retained.
Vasquez’s campaign platform includes championing the contributions of migrants to building communities and industries in the state. He supports abortion rights and access to reproductive health care.
N.M. ATTORNEY GENERAL
Democrat Raúl Torrez eked out a win in his primary late Tuesday night, beating state Auditor Brian Colón for the slot by six percentage points.
Torrez is the Bernallillo County district attorney and a prosecutor from Albuquerque. He told the League of Women Voters that if elected, his priorities would be to bring his experience and “modern approach” to prosecuting crime and corruption. He said he would also use the office to take on corporations who target workers, elderly people and the environment.
He’s been criticized for championing tough-on-crime approaches that aren’t evidence-based, like changes to pre-trial release rules, which he backed along with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham during the 2022 legislative session. The measure failed.
Torrez will face Jeremy Michael Gay, a Republican from Gallup, in November.
Democrat Laura Montoya won her primary Tuesday night, despite a barrage of attacks ads from incumbent Treasurer Tim Eichenberg. He’d reached his term limit and backed Montoya’s opponent Heather Benavidez.
Montoya, who spent eight years as the Sandoval County treasurer, will face Republican Harry Montoya in the general election and could become the first woman to hold the position.
After a competitive campaign, Democrat Joseph Maestas secured the nomination for state auditor. With decades of government service already under his belt, Maestas said he wants to prevent fraud, waste and abuse, as well as provide government accountability.
Republicans haven’t held the office for over 50 years. Masteas’ opponent in the general election will be write-in candidate Libertarian Robert Jason Vaillancourt.
BERNALILLO COUNTY SHERIFF
The field of candidates was crowded heading into the primary for this job, with 11 people vying for their party’s nomination and one Libertarian having it on lock.
Democrat John Allen outpaced six primary challengers to secure the nomination, garnering 41% of the vote. In second place, Rudy Mora captured just 27%.
Allen spent 19 years working in the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office before retiring in 2020 and becoming an instructor at Central New Mexico Community College’s law enforcement academy. In his time with BCSO, he worked homicide cases and focused on crisis intervention, according to his campaign website. He helped create the Mobile Crisis Team, pairing deputies with clinicians for mental health calls.
He’ll face Republican Paul Pacheco, who shot ahead of three primary opponents with a significant lead. He got 48% of the vote, with Dereck Scott coming up a distant second with 23%.
Pacheco’s also spent his career in law enforcement, working at the Albuquerque Police Department for 27 years and spending another four with the state’s Department of Corrections. He was also a state House representative.
Manny Gonzales, who’s sheriff today, could not pursue another four years because of term limits. He lost his bid to become mayor of Albuquerque last year against incumbent Tim Keller.
Libertarian Kaelan Ashby Dreyer famously flew the “Dong Copter” — a drone dangling a rainbow dildo — at a Gonzales mayoral campaign event last year. Dreyer ended up in a scuffle, grazing the sheriff in the process, according to Gonzales. Dreyer was arrested on battery charges. He’s on the ballot for Gonzales’ job, too.
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