By MORGAN LEE – Associated Press
SANTA FE, NM (AP) — Republican voters are choosing a candidate for governor of New Mexico from a field of five candidates in Tuesday’s primary election campaign, dominated by concerns about the economy, violent crime and security on the U.S. southern border .
The winner of Tuesday’s GOP contest will face incumbent Democratic government leader Michelle Lujan Grisham as she seeks a second term after leading New Mexico through the coronavirus pandemic with aggressive public health restrictions and a surge in government spending related to health problems. record-breaking oil production.
Former television meteorologist Mark Ronchetti and state representative Rebecca Dow of Truth or Consequences are prominent Republican contenders who spent a lot on advertising.
The nomination was also 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 New Mexico lost the vote in 2020 by 11 percentage points and fleeting attempts to challenge the result through a lawsuit and a string of fake voters.
A seasoned broadcaster and household name, Ronchetti lost a Republican bid for the US Senate in 2020 by 6 percentage points to Democrat Ben Ray Luján. None of the GOP candidates has held federal or state elected office.
New Mexico has alternated between Democratic and Republican governors since the early 1980s. The last sitting governor to lose reelection was Democrat Bruce King, who was defeated in 1994 by then Republican Gary Johnson.
Amid bruising over attacks, candidates in the Republican primaries have highlighted plans to send soldiers or law enforcement officers to the state’s remote international border with Mexico, echoing border implementations by Republican governors in Texas and Arizona.
Support for gun rights and opposition to abortion featured prominently in the primaries, along with concerns about New Mexico’s latest employment rate and students’ lagging ability in schools.
The fall elections will test the stamina of a Democratic governor who repealed a state ban on most abortion procedures, introduced new controls on gun access and sought greater accountability for the police by lifting immunities for law enforcement agencies amid concerns about police brutality.
On Tuesday’s vote, new same-day registration regulations allow unaffiliated voters to participate if they register with a major party — if only briefly.
New Mexico still follows a closed primary system that limits participation to voters registered with a major party, who cannot change parties once the early voting begins.
As of Monday, about 122,000 votes were cast through absenteeism and early personal voting – with about 9% of registered voters taking part. Absentee voting by post or via a drop-off ballot accounted for approximately 15% of the pre-election day vote.
Registered Republicans had the highest participation rate with about 17% of registered voters, compared to almost 12% among Democrats.
Democratic voters decide on a nominee for top law enforcement post as Attorney General Hector Balderas resigns. Albuquerque-based District Attorney Raúl Torrez is up against state auditor Brian Colón for the nomination. The winner will face Gallup Republican attorney and US Navy veteran Jeremy Michael Gay.
First-term congresswomen run for reelection in New Mexico’s three congressional districts, with no primary challengers.
In the 1st district, which includes most of Albuquerque and rural communities in the south, the GOP nomination to challenge Democratic US Representative Melanie Stansbury is being sought by shooting range owner Louie Sanchez and former police detective Michelle Garcia Holmes.
In Southern New Mexico’s 2nd District, Las Cruces City Councilman Gabe Vasquez vies with rural physician Darshan Patel for the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican U.S. Representative Yvette Herrell.
Two Democratic candidates are vying to succeed Colón as state auditor in the race between Albuquerque’s Zackary Quintero and Public Regulations Commissioner Joseph Maestas, without a Republican contender in the general election.
Former Sandoval County treasurer Laura Montoya is battling for the Democratic nomination for state treasurer against former Albuquerque magistrate judge and Treasury officer Heather Benavidez to replace unsubscribed state treasurer Tim Eichenberg. The winner will face Republican former Santa Fe County Commissioner Harry Montoya.
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