As Dust Settles Over Primaries, Questions Remain

In this week's Intelligencer, a special edition of our newsletter covering the primary election this week.

The Intelligencer is a weekly newsletter that gives you a quick overview of La Politica across New Mexico and the U.S., covering topics such as policy, current events, the political landscape, and tech.

Send us any feedback (including chismes and quejas) by going to our website or shoot me an email at dax[AT]nmhispanos.com. And if you are not already subscribed, sign up here.


Dax Contreras
Executive Director, Hispanos Unidos

1.  Governor (and Lt. Gov)

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Bloody Primary: Mark Ronchetti’s investment in negative messaging worked against Rebecca Dow, while Greg Zanetti and Jay Block were non-factors. Ronchetti blew the competition absolutely out of the water by 20 points more than the others combined!

New Mexicans looking for an escape from MLG’s iron fist are hoping he can do the same to the tiny tyrant come November.

Dow responded to Ronchetti’s accusations with attacks of her own against him. But clearly Dow did not have the ground game nor the messaging to respond effectively.

In contrast, Ronchetti deployed one of his daughters in a light-hearted video to mock criticisms of him on social media, dismissing them as wacky “mean tweets.”

Meanwhile, Jay Block projected strength with plenty of red meat for primary voters, hitting MLG hardest. But he soon got distracted by going after Dow and Ronchetti, and couldn’t raise enough cash to ever really be in the game.

Zanetti, even with his significant leadership experience, was incapable of leading a gubernatorial campaign. Although he was a decent candidate, he was not a great candidate (affectionately called the Jimmy Stewart of politics), whose “aw shucks” disposition was too one-note and did not project the strength frustrated GOPers are desperate for.

Second banana: For Lieutenant Governor, Ant Thornton from Bernalillo dominated Peggy Muller-Aragon to challenge incumbent Howie Morales. After the pre-primary outcome, it’s a bit surprising Muller-Aragon even continued on.

2. State Executives (or “The Democrat Monopoly”)

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Attorney General

Bernalillo District Attorney Raul Torrez defeated current State Auditor Brian Colón by a statewide campaign and portraying his opponent as supporting the radical Defund the Police movement, which Colón, of course, denied.

Colón, a former state Democratic Party chair, was not endorsed by the Albuquerque Journal – nor by the radical leftist Peter Goodman, an activist/columnist for the Las Cruces Sun-News. Goodman dubiously blamed negative ads from Colón but it also seems possible Colón is seen as too much of a career politician by some Democrats.

Torrez touted his career as a state and federal prosecutor and his supposed success in implementing “intelligence driven” crime reduction strategies, especially for gun-related charges. He also hit Colón for following the same shady lawyer schemes current AG Hector Balderas has been accused of – “pay to play” contracts for campaign donors.

It appears that the Albuquerque voters suffering from the worst crime are who got him into the endzone. He won Bernalillo County 57 percent to 43 percent, while essentially losing the rest of the state.

Colón did not comment on his humiliating defeat (and possibly the end of his political career in New Mexico).

Torrez said, if elected, he will use his power as a “bully pulpit” to push his top priorities: target “extremists” (which includes people who disagree with him) and “reform” the criminal justice system.

Torrez will face the late entry and little-seen Republican nominee Jeremy Gay, who would be the first Republican attorney general since the late 1980s. Notably, only three Republicans have won AG in the state’s 110-year-history.

Gay earned his law degree and later served in active-duty military service as a Captain in the United States Marine Corps and Judge Advocate, a military justice trial attorney, as well as a Special Assistant United States Attorney.

He lives in Gallup with his wife and six kids, managing his law firm, The Advocate Law Center, “defending victims of domestic violence, and providing legal services for the financially needy” and is well-known for his focus on Native American law and family law. For the past four years, he has prosecuted and defended federal felony cases.

Rumor is, MLG was already worried. And now with the bigger state-wide name (Colón) out of the race and a more out of touch progressive opponent, Gay has a rare opportunity to crack the Democrats’ iceberg of monopoly power.

Auditor

Long-time politician and federal bureaucrat Joseph Maestas of Santa Fe took his next step up the ladder of political success, defeating his young Democrat rival, who called out Maestas for taking money from the eco-fascist New Energy Economy.

A recurring character in the activities of the Public Regulations Commission, of which Maestas is currently an elected member, the New Energy Economy has big influence in the state.

He also took money from a Big Green executive Joseph Henri, who sits on the board of the lobbying group, Coalition for Community Solar Access.

Maestas brags about his ties to the extreme environmentalist agenda and being a part of a “progressive reform movement”.

The Office of the State Auditor is supposed to function as an independent government watchdog. But with a blue monopoly and party loyalty, the auditor position has been underutilized for decades.

Under this kind of ideologue, the state will not improve – it will maintain the status quo or get worse.

No Republican has held the office (aside from a brief vacancy appointment) in over 50 years. However, it is actually an interesting race. There is a Libertarian, Robert Vaillancourt, running against the Democrat; the NMGOP did not put anyone up.

Vaillancourt has experience in public policy and ran unsuccessfully for the legislature in 2020. He is charismatic and articulate, a genuine person, a successful businessman and dedicated father and husband. Without the GOP scaring off moderate Dems and Independents, and by aligning with the anti-partisan sentiment of last few years, Vaillancourt could theoretically pull it off if he can muster some resources.

Treasurer

Laura Montoya, a former two-term Sandoval County treasurer, defeated two opponents to nab the nomination.

She supports many radical policies, like a government controlled bank, a very left-wing special interest. She wants to create a “local government investment pool”, which sounds an awful lot like a slush fund to funnel money to the politically-connected.

She said her plan is to “combat predatory lending and do what she can to deal with the economic inequity within the state.” The predatory lending reform bill already passed. Is her plan to make it even worse?

She also said she supports a financial literacy program for kids – but she’s not running for Education Secretary (which The Intelligencer knows is an appointed position.)

None of these things are what the Treasurer is supposed to be doing. The job is to manage about $11 billion or so, including the $8.5 billion state budget. And with a history of rampant corruption, the priority for any Treasurer candidate should be integrity and accountability.

Current State Treasurer Tim Eichenberg, a Democrat, slammed Montoya and “wrote a letter asking the state attorney general, secretary of state and the State Ethics Commission to investigate her alleged misconduct.”

Montoya said she was thankful for news outlets (which ones?) that spotlighted the allegations that were false (which ones were not false??)

Montoya will be facing another Montoya in the general. Harry Montoya (no relation) is the Republican nominee, an ex-Democrat from Santa Fe. With some name-confusion on the ballot and a well-disciplined, organized, and funded campaign Harry has a shot in this down-ticket race.

Secretary of State

Current SOS, Maggie Toulouse Oliver, has run the office as a proxy for the state Democrat Party and the left-wing League of Women Voters – for which she once the leader.

Maggie has two Political Science degrees, worked for over a decade as a campaign consultant and a community organizer, has awards from radical leftist organizations FairVote, the Kellogg Foundation, and the pro-abortion group EMILY’s List.

She has exploited her office for political gain by targeting her opposition’s fundraising ability and even trying to scrub legitimate candidates from the ballot.

Maggie is vulnerable, especially in this time of election insecurity. Yet, the only candidate the state GOP could bother to find has a history of thoughtless social media posts that indicate a lack of awareness, if not much worse.

Last month, Republican candidate for Secretary of State, Audrey Trujillo, was blasted for a horrendous 2021 re-tweet (that included 12 references to Jewish “nepotism”) attacking Jews for intentionally creating poisonous vaccines for mass murder, and tagging them with the Star of David (a symbol of the Jewish people), in a twisted modern version of  Medieval blood libels against Jews in Europe that ultimately led to the “final solution” to the “Jewish problem”.

Though she denied and tried to spin, her response was (politically) almost worse than the actual post because she contradicted herself multiple times in a single interview with the Albuquerque Journal.

The state Republican Party wouldn’t comment on the posts at the time, and evidently still has not. Obviously, NMGOP is incapable of damage control public relations – especially since they already had to publicly apologize to the Governor for one of Trujillo’s idiotic re-tweets, which she made in 2019 as an intern with the party.

Trujillo is at best an ignorant person with no common sense/message discipline – but at worst she’s a slanderous bigot who reinforces the Left’s (false) caricature they peddle to Independents that Republicans are racist Nazis. Does anyone think the Left won’t spend tons of money highlighting Trujillo’s PR problems?

Unless the Republican leadership can find the backbone to replace Trujillo with a viable candidate, it looks like we’ll be stuck with Maggie for another four years in a time when election integrity is in dire need of reform and accountability.

3. House Highlights

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District 19

This district saw an expected win for progressives with a wide-margin win for Janelle Anyanonu, who was endorsed by Heinrich, along with Planned Parenthood Votes and a long list of other progressive organizations. Anyanonu will face Republican Kathleen Jackson in November. 

The district’s seat was left open when Kay Bounkeua announced she would not run for election for a full term. Bounkeua was picked to replace former House Whip Sheryl Williams Stapleton after New Mexico Attorney General’s office charged Stapleton with a number of felony counts including money laundering and resigned from the Legislature. 

Anyanonu won the primary against Colton Dean by 50 percentage points. 

She will face Republican Kathleen Jackson, who did not have an opponent.

District 26

This seat was also left open when incumbent Georgene Louis decided not to run for reelection after she was charged with drunk driving earlier this year. 

Backed by a list of progressive groups, former legislator Eleanor Chavez won the primary election easily against Cherise Quezada, who is a former staffer for Louis. Quezada is also married to Bernalillo County Commissioner Steven Michael Quezada. 

Chavez will go on to face Republican Patrick Sais, a self-proclaimed “Die-hard Trump Supporter” in November. 

District 38

Rep. Rebecca Dow, R-Truth or Consequences, left her historically Republican seat open when she decided to run for governor. 

This race saw two Republicans and two Democrats vying for their respective party’s nominations. 

Sandra Hammack, a former Socorro County Republican Chair, easily won the Republican primary by 54 points against science teacher Melba Aguilar. 

Tara Jaramillo, who was endorsed by progressive groups also won easily, defeating  Socorro Mayor Ravi Bhasker.

District 40

Rep. Roger Montoya, D-Velarde, lost his spot in the Legislature last night after getting 14  percent fewer votes than his opponent and former legislator Joseph Sanchez as of 11:00 p.m. on election night. A political advocacy group, that is not officially associated with Sanchez, targeted Montoya, namely for his work in adult movies as a young adult. Montoya recently announced he would turn his attention away from his campaign in order to help victims of wildfires in his district in Northern New Mexico. 

Montoya has held the seat since 2020 when he ran to fill the vacancy left by Sanchez when Sanchez made an unsuccessful run for Congress.

Sanchez will face Republican Jerald McFall in November. 

District 46

Incumbent Rep. Andrea Romero, D-Santa Fe, easily won her three-way race against Democrats Ryan Salazar and Henry Roybal. Romero will go on to face Jay Groseclose in the November general election. 

Romero was previously criticized for spending taxpayer money on lavish meals and baseball tickets. More recently, though, Romero was an instrumental part in passing the state’s Cannabis Regulation Act, which legalized adult-use cannabis in New Mexico. 

District 51

Incumbent Rep. Rachel Black was just two points behind her opponent Republican John Block as of 11:00 p.m. on election night. The winner will face Democrat Sharonlee Cummins in November.  

District 70

Incumbent Rep. Ambrose Castellano, D-Serrafina was two percentage points ahead of his progressive-backed opponent Anita Gonzales as of 11:00 p.m. on election night. No Republican filed to run in the district.

 

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