Oct. 28—Former TV weatherman Mark Ronchetti announced his campaign for governor Wednesday, ending months of speculation about whether he would jump into the race and join a crowded field of Republicans seeking the nomination.
"This race won't be easy," Ronchetti, 48, said in a taped announcement. "They'll attack us. They'll lie about us. And they'll do anything to hold on to power. But they're going to lose, and they're going to lose because they're not on the side of hardworking New Mexicans."
Ronchetti's announcement isn't exactly a surprise. It comes after he abruptly resigned Oct. 21 as KRQE-TV's chief meteorologist, with the station reporting he was leaving to consider a gubernatorial bid.
Political blogger Joe Monahan wrote Ronchetti had "tripped out of the starting gate."
Ronchetti lost a hotly contested U.S. Senate race last year against Ben Ray Luján, and before the TV station announced he was resigning last week, his Senate campaign website was changed to read "Mark Ronchetti Governor," though it was quickly taken offline.
Ronchetti joins seven other Republicans who so far have announced their intentions to seek the GOP nomination. Unlike the other hopefuls, Ronchetti has statewide name recognition and has proven to be a formidable fundraiser. A political science professor at the University of New Mexico has said Ronchetti would be the front-runner among the Republican contenders.
Whoever wins the Republican primary will face off against Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in November 2022.
The Democratic Party of New Mexico pounced on Ronchetti less than an hour after he formally announced his candidacy.
"Without leadership experience or a record to run on, Ronchetti has taken up a platform of the GOP's most extreme policies and former President [Donald] Trump's most divisive ideas," the party wrote in a news release.
Ronchetti, a married father of two, said in his nearly four-minute announcement video politicians "have forgotten us."
"Politicians we elected don't represent us anymore," he said. "They don't even listen. I'm running for governor because it's time for that to change."
Ronchetti said New Mexico has been his home for decades.
"This is an amazing place," he said. "I'm a proud New Mexican, but I'm not proud of our politicians and the direction they're taking the state."
The state is ranked last in education, grappling with "sky-high violent crime" and disappearing jobs, Ronchetti said.
"The drug trade is destroying our state," he added. "President [Joe] Biden has completely opened our border. Illegal drugs, human trafficking — they're driving our violent crime. And the governor, she could help. Instead, silence."
Ronchetti pinged Lujan Grisham on several other issues, from giving what he called "massive pay raises to her political insiders" to her COVID-19 restrictions, which were some of the most stringent in the nation.
"I'll be a governor who does more than talk; I'll listen," he said. "That's something our governor just hasn't done. She's lectured us. She's wagged her finger at us. She's robbed us of our freedoms. I've had enough. Our state's had enough."
Kendall Witmer, a spokeswoman for Lujan Grisham's campaign, said in response the governor "is building a stronger New Mexico for all by creating thousands of jobs, growing the economy, lowering costs on health care, higher education, child care, and prescription drugs, and cutting taxes for half a million middle class families."
Witmer's statement continued, "Governor Lujan Grisham delivered for New Mexico families all while implementing one of the most successful responses to COVID-19 in the world, saving tens of thousands of lives. That's a record New Mexicans stand behind."
Jessica Velasquez, chairwoman of the state's Democratic Party, said in a statement Ronchetti "got a clear answer" from New Mexico voters when he ran for the Senate.
"No amount of lies can distract from his inexperience or his support for dangerous far-right policies," Velasquez said. "We've already seen how Ronchetti is unfit to lead New Mexico, and this desperate run for governor is no different. Our state cannot afford four years of incompetent Republican control."
Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter @danieljchacon.