Thursday, April 28, 2022

Game On: Ronchetti Comes With Rapid Response To Dow Negative; Slams Her On Illegal Immigration; "Trust The Act Or Trust The Record?" Plus: Say What? Former GOP House Leader Foley And Spouse Donate $41,000 To MLG 

The Mark Ronchetti camp may have been surprised when Rebecca Dow launched the first negative TV attack of the GOP Guv campaign Tuesday but by Wednesday morning they were up with their own attack ad, tearing into Dow's record as a state representative. 

Like Dow's TV hit, the Ronchetti scorcher seeks to poke holes in their foe's image. 

Dow went after Ronchetti's standing as a longtime TV weatherman, calling him a climate change activist and a "Never Trumper." In turn, Ronchetti takes on Dow's TV image striding on horseback with county sheriffs at the Trump border wall and messaging that she is tough on illegal immigration.

Referring to that ad, Ronchetti's spot asks Republican voters: "Trust The Act? Or Trust The Record." It cites two budget bills Dow voted for at the November 2020 special legislative session, declaring:

Dow voted to give illegal immigrants taxpayer funded stimulus checks not once but twice and was "one of only five Republicans to vote to give jobs licenses to illegal immigrants."

The ad also unveiled a new website--dowrecord.com--to back up those claims and more to come. 

Campaign analyst Greg Payne, one of several following the action for the blog this cycle, called the ad "good" and noted that illegal immigration has long been a "favored theme" of Ronchetti consultant Jay McClesekey. 

But Payne added Dow doesn't need to be in any hurry to answer and can stick to her Never Trumper ad so it can have the impact intended.


While Ronchetti's first negative of Campaign '22 may hit the spot, the ad he has up now decrying "Catch and Release" polices had to be pulled down and corrected because it erroneously identified an alleged criminal as an illegal immigrant who was in fact a US citizen. 

Not the end of the world but any mistakes like that going forward are not going to fly under the radar. The stakes are too high. 

The primary isn't until June 7 so these late April attacks are sooner than usual and will continue until the finish line. 


Dan Foley
That's what you might say when you learn that former NM House Minority Whip Dan Foley and his wife Deborah have donated a whopping $41,600 to the campaign coffers of Dem Governor Lujan Grisham.

The money was donated April 1 and came in four separate $10,400 donations and is the maximum allowed under the law for the gubernatorial election cycle. 

So what is going on with ardent Republican Foley, known for his street-fighting approach to politics and who got knocked out of his Roswell House seat in a brutal primary with Dennis Kintigh in 2008?

As usual, the answer is follow the money. 

Foley is a longtime insurance agent and since at least 2013 has been associated with the Poms agency, founded in California by entrepreneur David Poms. Foley is based in ABQ and is the regional sales director for Poms. Here's the New Mexico connection:

Over his career, Poms has been a driving force behind the creation of many public entity pools in the western U.S., including the New Mexico Public Schools Insurance Authority (NMPSIA), which helps New Mexico’s school system provide unique coverages that are not commercially available in the insurance market. 

And that works this way

NMPSIA, one of those clunky, educational acronyms that actually gets pronounced by those who have to say it a lot ("NIMP-suh")—self-insures schools for property, liability and worker's compensation claims up to $1 million. It also pays $12 million dollars a year in premiums to a secondary insurer for coverage above that threshold. 

David Poms and his agency are currently consultants with the NMPSIA. 

The latest campaign report shows Poms donated $20,800 to MLG in two separate donations of $10,400 coming on Nov. 1 and July 16 of 2021. 

So Foley who served in the House from 1999 to 2009 is now giving a full embrace and hefty checks to the Democratic Governor who is reviled in GOP circles. But that's also the Democratic Governor who appoints three members to the board that supervises NMPSIA and that presides over the distribution of those $12 million in annual premiums.


There is also a cannabis connection. Foley's wife, Deborah, lists herself as CEO of Canna Conceierge which "specializes in providing services for patients to obtain their medical cannabis card in New Mexico" and is located in ABQ.


In recent years Foley has served as a regular panelist for the KNME-TV public broadcasting program "In Focus" which discusses current affairs and where he is identified as a former House Minority Whip. That signals to viewers that Foley is there to provide balance and represent the conservative and/or GOP view. But how does he do that in this election year after he and his wife publicly supported MLG's candidacy and policies with $41,600 in contributions, putting him on the list of her biggest contributors? 

Just asking.


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Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Dow First To Attack; Hits Ronchetti As Pretend Conservative And "Never Trumper" As GOP Guv Race Catches Fire, Plus: Who Would Be Tougher For MLG? 

Rebecca Dow continues to surprise in the race for the 2022 GOP Guv nomination, coming with the first attack ad of the campaign aimed at rival Mark Ronchetti in which she makes his chief strength —his TV stardom—his main weakness. 

It's the third time this month that the feisty state representative from T or C has upset the conventional wisdom that the contest is in the bag for the longtime TV weatherman with high name ID and a fat campaign kitty. 

The first was her ad riding on horseback with border county sheriffs along the Trump Wall. That demonstrated she had come to play. 

The second was her unexpected ad pivot to critical race theory that is a touchy issue in much of New Mexico but not with likely Republican primary voters. Now this attack ad called "Pretender" that indicts Ronchetti's conservative credentials. 

Ronchetti's claim to fame is his lengthy stint on the state's TV screens via KRQE that vaulted him to the 2020 GOP US Senate nomination. Dow works to deconstruct that popular image in her new spot, accusing him of being both a "climate change activist" and a "Never Trumper" but not without stretching the truth to get there. 

Still, the spot gets the job done, says Dem consultant David Alcon, whose father is a state rep from the Grants area: 

It is exactly what she needs. 

Both of the charges in the attack ad against Ronchetti were heard in that '20 Senate campaign but never packaged with the power and force that they are now being presented. That includes video of Ronchetti dissing Trump, saying:

I used to be a Republican until The Orange One. . . 

And there is a memorable segment not seen before in a political context where Ronchetti is shown in his TV weatherman role presenting an animated photo of himself with orange hair and mocking the ex-president. That is a striking reversal of his TV image for most GOP voters. 

Here's the transcript:

Mark Ronchetti pretends he's a Trump Republican but do you really believe someone who worked with climate change activists funded by George Soros is a true conservative? And do you really believe a Never Trumper who quit the GOP will secure our borders? Mark Ronchetti. Climate change activist. Never Trumper. 


The Ronchetti campaign snapped back with this on the climate activist charge:

Dow’s ad wildly accuses Ronchetti of “working with” George Soros climate activists because of a speech Mark gave at the University of New Mexico as part of his job as KRQE’s chief meteorologist. The claim is embarrassingly false.

And on Ronchetti quitting the GOP, they retorted:

Dow claims Mark left the Republican Party, which official voter registration records prove is false. Mark is a registered Republican and did not leave the party. Dow’s claims are all regurgitated attacks that didn’t work in the 2020 Republican primary and won’t work now.

The campaign also promised to soon expose Dow's "liberal voting record," her "ethics scandals" and "legal troubles."


Greg Payne
Still, left on the table is the potent "Never Trump" charge which has haunted Ronchetti since he entered politics. The bedrock principle of his campaign is to steer clear of the controversial former president and position himself for the general election. 

Veteran campaign consultant Greg Payne, 55, weighs in: 

Notice Ronchetti did not address the "killer line": "I used to be a Republican until the Orange One." If I were Dow, I'd hit Ronchetti again and again with that one. 

Dow is starting to act like a candidate who knows the GOP nomination is within her grasp. Ronchetti, on the other hand, seems to have assumed the nomination was his and has been running a general election campaign months before the primary vote. Ronchetti has promised a response but this round--with this ad--definitely goes to Dow. 

A funny thing is happening on the way to November. There is a real primary election. And after Dow's stellar April she and Ronchetti are starting to look like even money bets.


Dow has found her media footing and also her financial footing. National media firm AdImpact reported on Twitter: 

Mark Ronchetti currently leads in GOP Primary spending at $738K. Rebecca Dow is second and has spent $554K. 

That's close enough for Dow to effectively compete and her supporters believe Republican juices are now starting to flow and the attack ad will bring in big donors to further flatten Ronchetti's money advantage. 


A consultant with ties to MLG did not give a direct answer Tuesday when asked who would be the stronger foe for the Governor come November. 

I don't know. But Dow is showing spunk. She would be a scrappy opponent. 

Much depends on whether Dow could effectively pivot from a conservative primary run to a more moderate platform for the general election. MLG may feel they have that solved with Dow and that Ronchetti still remains the larger threat. But they could fear Dow is a wild card in a wild, chaotic political environment. Nothing is certain in the fog of political war and that's what we have. 


One of the media mavens reports that a pre-recorded TV debate for the five GOP Guv hopefuls will be broadcast Thursday, May 19th by KOAT-TV. No other debates have been announced. 

Unfortunately, our informed source told us the KOAT-Journal sponsored face-off will not be face to face because they can't confirm all the candidates have had Covid vaccinations so the debate will be conducted via Zoom. 

That sucks a lot of life out of the affair and seems silly as it comes even as pandemic restrictions have been lifted in the state. KOAT has a big studio. Can't they just do social distancing and give us the debate we deserve? After all, this may be the only one we get. 

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Tuesday, April 26, 2022

GOP Pushes Out CRT Event As Dow Pounds Away On Issue; Upcoming Seminar Sponsored By Dow Supporter, Plus: State Treasurer Money Race Updated  

No sooner had we blogged Monday of the momentum GOP Guv candidate and state Rep. Rebecca Dow is deriving from her TV ad criticizing Critical Race Theory (CRT) then this promotion from the state Republican party shows up touting a seminar on the hot button issue.

The May 12 event featuring former Vanderbilt University professor Carol Swain plays right into the hands of Dow,  intentionally or not. 

The event is being presented by New Mexico Alive!, a group that concentrates on social issues of particular interest to Republicans.

The session is being sponsored by TLC plumbing. TLC is owned by major Republican donor Dale Armstrong, husband of state GOP Rep. Gail Armstrong. Dow lists the couple as endorsers of her candidacy on her web site. 

Rep. Armstrong represents District 49, a Socorro and Catron county district where she grew up. She was first elected in 2016. The Armstrongs have a ranch in the district. Dow also represents a rural area--Grant, Hidalgo and Sierra counties--and was also first elected to the House in 2016. 

CRT is a hardcore conservative Republican value but Mark Ronchetti, Dow's chief rival for the Guv nomination in the five way race, has so far steered clear of the potentially divisive general election issue. Dow has filled the void.

The state party's long-standing split is fully intact, with the faction including GOP Chairman Steve Pearce not in the Ronchetti corner and supporters of former Gov. Susana Martinez backing him. 

Moderate Dem political consultant Sisto Abeyta says he believes Dow has cemented her southern rural base with her TV messaging on border security and now has hopped on the CRT wagon and is driving into Ronchetti's ABQ area base:

This issue may have its broadest appeal in the conservative south but it also can motivate votes here in the metro. Look at what happened in the November ABQ School Board election when three business backed candidates won--not those endorsed by the teacher unions. That doesn't happen every day and in that Virginia governor election last November CRT had great appeal in the suburbs. The Republican won the state, a point to remember when looking at the Bernalillo, Sandoval and Valencia county Republican vote. 


The first batch of campaign money numbers reported here in the race for the Dem nomination for state treasurer were actually from last October. Here are the fresh ones covering the six months from early October to April 4. 

Laura Montoya, who won the Dem preprimary convention, is also winning the money race over opponent Hearter Benavidez. Montoya, a former Sandoval county treasurer, reports raising $51,000 in the period and having $49,000 in cash on April 4. 

The IBEW union gave Montoya $2,000. Former Attorney General Gary King donated $600.

Benavidez, who has worked on programs under current Treasurer Tim Eichenberg and is a former Valencia County magistrate judge, reports raising $17,000 and having $24,000 in cash. 

Among her donors was her father-in-law, former state Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez and his wife who gave $700 and former Lt. Governor Diane Denish who donated $250.

If the Dem nominee wins the treasurer's post in November she will be the first female treasurer in state history. 


Reader Janet Blair writes:

Joe, the League of Women Voters of New Mexico is working on its first statewide online voter guide, VOTE411. We are contacting all statewide candidates including all legislative hopefuls. Could you urge candidates respond to our questionnaire and get their information out to voters? We know candidates get lots of questionnaires, but we are hoping a nudge might encourage them to answer our questions and help us educate voters. 

Candidates wishing to be included in the League's voter guide can email Janet at jkblair@swcp.com.

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Monday, April 25, 2022

Dow Turns To Hot Button CRT Issue To Drive Momentum; Ronchetti Sticks To Crime Beat; Other Candidates Still Dark On Media; Veteran Analysts Assess State Of GOP Guv Race 

Dow and Ronchetti
Let's catch up on the '22 GOP Guv clash. 

Interviews with a variety of observers indicate Rebecca Dow appears to have tightened up the chase for the Republican Guv nomination due largely to her hard-hitting TV ad on critical race theory but just how far she has come against Mark Ronchetti and how much further she can go remain open questions.

Dow has pivoted from the border issue and onto CRT with a pure conservative punch that left the more middle of the road Ronchetti at the side of the road for the time being. 

Her ideological play appeals to the most likely GOP primary voters while Ronchetti tries to walk a tightrope of embracing his conservative party but not giving away positioning for the more moderate electorate in the November election. 

His latest ad focuses on the state's crime problem, citing "catch and release"of notorious criminals. 


Longtime Dem consultant David Alcon called the Dow CRT move effective but says she still faces a hurdle with Trumper Jay Block:

Dow definitely scored well with the Trump crowd but Block might peel some of that off with a late push. If Dow can convince Block to back her up, good night Mr. Ronchetti. Republicans love red meat and Dow is feeding them. 

And here is that red meat in the form of a transcript of Dow's CRT ad:

Would you talk to her about explicit sex? Teach them to hate each other? Force girls to compete against boys? With Critical Race Theory, and a woke agenda, that’s what radical progressives want. I’m Rebecca Dow. CRT is racist and un-America. That’s why I wrote the bill to ban it in our schools. To protect kids from radical indoctrination. As Governor, I’ll make sure parents are in charge – not politicians.

Because of his widespread name ID, a 2020 run for the US Senate and a hefty campaign war chest, Ronchetti, a former weather forecaster for KRQE, has been the presumed frontrunner in the five way race but Alcon sees that shifting as the June 7 primary nears:

The race is now a toss up. Dow has made inroads and Ronchetti has only maintained his base. 

There are no public polls to confirm that assessment but it is also shared by longtime campaign consultant Greg Payne, a former Republican, state legislator and attorney who agrees that Block's appeal to Trump supporters remain an obstacle for Dow.


The campaigns are polling regularly but no results have been released. In February Ronchetti's camp released a survey they conducted and boasted that it showed him "crushing" his primary foes. But since then Dow has gone on the air and no additional polling has been released from Ronchetti. 

A source in the Dow camp said several weeks ago her first TV ad on the border and that featured her on horseback with sheriffs from border counties cut Ronchetti's lead by 8 points but did not indicate how much of a lead remained. 

The race is expected to move into negative territory soon with absentee voting set to begin May 10. Ronchetti can be expected to attack Dow over an ethics flap in her role as a state representative and Dow can be expected to paint Ronchetti as a pretend conservative. 


Candidate Greg Zanetti has yet to be seen on the airwaves but has enough money for a later TV buy. Block has been underfunded and how much media visibility he will have in the final weeks is undetermined. However, he did win the February GOP preprimary convention, demonstrating his appeal among the party's most faithful members.

Also in the contest is anti-abortion activist Ethel Maharg who is also underfunded.


We've mentioned that Dow's campaign consultants have close ties to Senator Ted Cruz but we did not report that Axiom Strategies was the chief consulting firm in 2021 for Virginia GOP governor candidate Glenn Youngkin who scored an upset win over the Dem nominee. Now Youngkin, with the help of Axiom, is being rolled out onto the national scene as the 2024 presidential contest nears.

Youngkin employed CRT in his successful governor campaign and only hours after he took the oath in January he issued an executive order banning CRT in the state's public schools.

Axiom promotes their business as "an unyielding force for success." They lived up to that hype and then some in Virginia. Now New Mexico waits to see if the group with the hot hand can pull another one off. 


Southern NM newsman Walt Rubel reports from Las Cruces that the leading GOP Guv candidates are still struggling to establish themselves there. That's because their TV ads are not popping up in living rooms. He notes that Cruces is in the El Paso media market so even former TV weather star Ronchetti, known in the south for his Senate run, still has to establish himself as a Guv contender. Rubel says of the overall race:

 While Democrats have had control of the state Legislature and most statewide offices for decades, voters have been more willing to consider Republicans in the gubernatorial races. Between them, Republicans Susana Martinez, Gary Johnson and Garrey Carruthers have won five of the last nine races for governor. I expect that Gov. Lujan Grisham’s aggressive public health order in response to the COVID-19 pandemic may leave her vulnerable among some voters in November.

The addendum to Rubel's analysis is that no Governor seeking re-election--Dem or R--has been defeated since 1994. 


Reader Ryan Stark is one reader not amused by the tough talking GOP Guv ads:

The appalling tone of the TV ads for Rebecca Dow and Mark Ronchetti is bad enough, but the near silence of the elected political class is worse. Dow's homophobic and transphobic ad and Ronchetti's dog-whistle racism obviously demonstrates the "culture war" rot from the national scene. But where are the voices of people named Lujan Grisham, Egolf, Keller, Colon, et al? Are they cool with this rot coming to New Mexico unhindered? Are they so risk averse that they're scared to forcefully denounce this hateful crap? I have three Hispanic children, one of whom is out gay. This isn't an abstract issue for my family. Take a risk, damn it. Show someone you're not going to let DeSantis-style bull take root here at the cost of a real negative impact on real people who are still trying to make New Mexico their home. Because, if not, why should we bother in November? Thanks again, Joe. Stay safe swimming with those Gators.


Another reader advises Rebecca Dow to just say no when it comes to pursuing an endorsement from Trump:

I don’t think accepting a Trump endorsement to take out Ronchetti in June is a good gamble. Dow is fairly moderate, going full on Trump she might lose moderates to Ronchetti and help him. If she does manage to secure the nomination, in my opinion she will have a hard time pivoting back to center right by dumping Trump to win the state. Good luck with that. 

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