Trumpers hope to rebound as state legislators

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Mar. 31—Donald Trump, twice a loser in New Mexico, says he can flip the state in this year's presidential election.

At perhaps 280 pounds, Trump would have to pull off the equivalent of an aerial somersault and stick the landing. He is that much of a long shot to strike gold in New Mexico.

Joe Biden carried the state four years ago, whipping Trump by 100,000 votes. Having lost all statewide races in 2022, New Mexico Republicans remain weak as a Biden-Trump rematch approaches. Most of their clout is confined to rural areas and towns in the oil-producing Permian Basin.

Based on history and self-interest, many down-ballot Republican candidates might distance themselves from Trump. But there are at least three exceptions.

One is Rebecca Dow, who spoke glowingly about Trump when she ran for governor in 2022. Dow also labeled rival Republican candidate Mark Ronchetti as a "Never Trumper."

Her strategy of embracing Trump flopped. Dow's vote total in all 33 counties was 18,185.

Ronchetti in Bernalillo County alone received 21,893 votes. He trounced Dow statewide by 50,000 votes and won the nomination.

Out of her league as a gubernatorial candidate, Dow is again running for a seat in the state House of Representatives. She won three terms in House District 38 before giving up that office to campaign for governor.

Dow, of Truth or Consequences, remains in District 38, but only the district's number is the same as the territory she once represented.

Heavily redrawn after the last census by a dominant Democratic Legislature, the district no longer is solidly Republican. District 38 takes in parts of Sierra, Socorro and Doña Ana counties. Voter performance tilts in favor of Democrats.

The incumbent is freshman Rep. Tara Jaramillo, D-Socorro. She won a close race two years ago for an open seat.

Jaramillo will be adequately financed, and her campaign is well-managed. Neither she nor Dow has a primary opponent, meaning both can run to the center in hopes of picking up support from independents and swing voters. That will be easier for Jaramillo than for a booster of Trump.

Jay Block, another failed Republican candidate for governor, also is seeking a seat in the Legislature. Like Dow, Block hailed Trump during the 2022 gubernatorial campaign.

Block, then a sitting Sandoval County commissioner, fared even worse than Dow. He finished third in his own county in the field of five Republican candidates for governor. Block placed fourth statewide, 56,000 votes behind Ronchetti.

Block is running for the open seat in Senate District 12, which was reshaped after the last census. He faces a difficult primary against former Sen. Candace Gould, who served one term in a different district before losing to a Democrat.

District 12 will be much more competitive than when it was dominated by retiring Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque. Block's allegiance to Trump might hurt him in Albuquerque, but it's not Block's style to hide his feelings. Unlike many politicians, Block doesn't say "no comment" or ask to go off the record.

Gould might have the edge. She was well-liked by senators of both parties, and she made a real effort at bipartisanship. She would stand a better chance than Block of winning over conservative Democrats in the general election. Democrat Phillip Ramirez will face either Block or Gould in November.

Manny Gonzales, a politician on a downhill slide, is a third Trumper trying to revive his career in a legislative election.

Gonzales was a two-term sheriff of Bernalillo County as a Democrat, but no one called him progressive. He dawdled for years in outfitting his deputies with body cameras.

State lawmakers finally mandated cameras for law enforcement officers. Gonzales relented, but not before tangling the issue in his usual doublespeak.

He followed up with a bumbling campaign for mayor of Albuquerque in 2021. Gonzales failed to qualify for critical public financing after submitting fraudulent signatures on qualifying documents.

Incumbent Mayor Tim Keller easily defeated Gonzales and another candidate.

Gonzales converted to the Republican Party and announced his candidacy for this year's U.S. Senate race in New Mexico. After endorsing Trump for president, Gonzales failed to gather enough valid signatures to make the ballot.

He followed that embarrassment by becoming a candidate in state Senate District 23 in Albuquerque. Gonzales has a Republican primary ahead. If he breaks his losing streak, he would face Democratic Sen. Harold Pope in the general election.

Gonzales, an inefficient campaigner and awkward public speaker, would be an underdog for another reason.

District 23's composition favors a Democrat, and Pope's populist style connects with voters. He was one of only three senators this year to vote against a 50% increase in legislators' pensions.

Trumpers Dow, Block and Gonzales hope the campaign trail is the comeback trail. Maybe it is. More certain is much of their journey is uphill.

Ringside Seat is an opinion column about people, politics and news. Contact Milan Simonich at or 505-986-3080.

Ringside Seat is an opinion column about people, politics and news. Contact Milan Simonich at or 505-986-3080.