The gubernatorial race is getting crowded as more and more Republicans have officially announced their candidacy. Five Republicans so far have announced their candidacy for the 2022 race in hopes of usurping incumbent Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. This begs the question: who exactly is running for the GOP nomination, and what can we expect from their campaigns?
The candidate that has attracted the most attention thus far is State House Representative Rebecca Dow, who represents District 38 (Grants, Hidalgo and Sierra Counties) in southern New Mexico.
In a campaign ad from June 7, Dow presents herself as a candidate with deep roots in southern New Mexico and the agriculture community, and a candidate deeply critical of Lujan Grishman’s handling of the COVID pandemic. Dow, an outspoken conservative and rising star in the New Mexico GOP, has touted her experience as a businesswoman and consultant with for-profit and community-based early childhood providers. Her campaign focuses on the state’s unemployment, education, and childhood well-being as issues she seeks to tackle. In the state legislature this year, Dow voted against the legalization of cannabis, which ultimately passed and has been touted as a major job creator for the state.
In 2016, Dow was named in a lawsuit for hiring Alejandro Hernandez, a registered sex offender, who worked for the Sierra County chapter of the Boys and Girls Club. The lawsuit alleged negligence after Hernandez was sentenced to prison for sexually abusing two 13-year-old boys. The lawsuit named Dow, Amelia Wilcox, AppleTree Educational Center and the Boys & Girls Club of Sierra County. Dow is the founder of AppleTree Educational Center. In 2017, Dow settled the lawsuit for over $250,000. Hernandez is now serving a six-year prison sentence for harming both children.
Sandoval County Commissioner Jay Block was the first to throw his hat into the gubernatorial race. A former lieutenant colonel who served in the USAF for 21 years, he now lives in Rio Rancho.
Block successfully ran for Sandoval County Commissioner in 2016 and won reelection in 2020. An outspoken conservative and supporter of Donald Trump, Block has heralded his conservative record. Block unsuccessfully pushed to deregulate drilling in Sandoval County in an effort to allow drilling operators to bypass baseline water testing and post-drilling monitoring.
In an ad featured on his official election website, Block is critical of the governor’s handling of the pandemic and the restrictions that the state has put on businesses during the reopening process, echoing other GOP gubernatorial hopefuls.
Retired New Mexico National Guard Brigadier General Greg Zanetti is another GOP hopeful that is seeking to capitalize on his military and business experience to gain his party’s nomination.
Zanetti has long been an outspoken pro-life advocate in New Mexico politics. He served on the New Mexico Right To Life board for 15 years, as well as being elected as Chair of the Bernalillo County GOP for two terms. His campaign website states that Zanetti “has been a leader for conservative causes for the last 25 years.”
The retired Brigadier General currently owns Zanetti Financial. Zanetti manages his friends and family’s financial assets, or as his campaign website puts it: “Anyone whom God puts in my path,” through the company.
Zanetti’s official campaign website states that as governor Zanetti will “put his financial expertise and leadership skills to work for the people of New Mexico, cleaning up our state Government’s finances, giving our kids a world-class education and restoring integrity to the Governor’s office.”
Businesswoman and former congressional candidate Karen Bedonie of the Navajo Nation is the last candidate to announce her gubernatorial candidacy. Bedonie’s official election website states: “The hardest working American, Karen is a wife, a mother of eight wonderful children, a business owner, an educator, a Diné historian by traditional teachings and a Constitutionalist.”
Bedonie is a fierce advocate for the second amendment rights and is a member of the NRA. She owns a floral shop in McKinley County.
Bedonie has been an outspoken critic of any attempts to expand social programs in the state. In an outline of her beliefs, she states: “Social dependence is the death of prosperity and heavy taxation is the only vein for government to bloom socialist platforms.”
A relatively unknown candidate in the race, former education advisor to Governor Gary Johnson Tim Walsh announced his candidacy on June 30.
Walsh’s election campaign does not yet have an official website. Walsh did speak with the Albuquerque Journal shortly after announcing his candidacy and spoke about his views aligning more closely with his former boss’ libertarian views. If elected, Walsh said that he would eliminate New Mexico’s film incentive program and the Rail Runner commuter train. Both were introduced under Democratic Governor Bill Richardson.
Like other GOP candidates, Walsh hopes to address crime in New Mexico by addressing the state’s 2016 bail overhaul amendment, which has been criticized for releasing violent and repeat offenders.
Primary elections will be held next summer followed by the general election Nov. 8, 2022.