5 Republicans Vie For Governor In New Mexico Primary

5 Republicans Vie For Governor In New Mexico Primary
The winner of Tuesday's Republican contest will take on incumbent Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in the November general election.

Republican voters are choosing a nominee for New Mexico governor from a field of five candidates in Tuesday's primary election campaign dominated by concerns about the economy, violent crime and security at the southern U.S. border.

The winner of Tuesday's GOP contest will take on incumbent Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham as she seeks a second term after guiding New Mexico through the coronavirus pandemic with aggressive public health restrictions and a surge in state government spending linked to record-setting oil production.

Former television meteorologist Mark Ronchetti and state Rep. Rebecca Dow of Truth or Consequences are prominent Republican contenders that spent extensively on ads.

The nomination also was pursued by Sandoval County Commissioner Jay Block, investment adviser Gregory Zanetti and anti-abortion activist Ethel Maharg.

Former Republican President Donald Trump has not weighed in directly on the race after losing the New Mexico vote in 2020 by 11 percentage points and fleeting attempts to challenge the result through a lawsuit and a slate of fake electors.

Ronchetti, a seasoned broadcaster and household name, lost a Republican bid for U.S. Senate in 2020 by 6 percentage points to Democrat Ben Ray Luján. None of the GOP candidates has held federal or statewide elected office.

New Mexico has alternated between Democratic and Republican governors since the early 1980s. The last incumbent governor to lose reelection was Democrat Bruce King, defeated in 1994 by then-Republican Gary Johnson.

Amid bruising attack ads, candidates in the Republican primary have emphasized plans to send soldiers or law enforcement personnel to the state's remote international border with Mexico, which echoes border deployments by Republican governors in Texas and Arizona.

Support for gun rights and opposition to abortion were on prominent display in the primary, along with concerns about New Mexico's last-place employment rate and lagging student proficiency in schools.

The fall election will test the staying power of a Democratic governor who revoked a state ban on most abortion procedures, ushered in new controls on gun access and sought greater police accountability by lifting immunity provisions for law enforcement agencies amid concerns about police brutality.

About 122,000 ballots were cast through absentee and early in-person voting as of Monday — with about 9% of registered voters participating. Absentee voting by mail or drop-off ballot accounted for about 15% of voting prior to Election Day.

Registered Republicans had the highest rate of participation at about 17% of registered voters, versus nearly 12% among Democrats.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.