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Primary elections can sneak up on us


One of the questions in a recent news quiz for the Saturday morning show from the farmer’s market on KTAL-LP FM community radio was, can you name any of the five Republican candidates running for governor?

Not only was the contestant stumped, but so was just about everyone else who was there.

Greg Zanetti, Ethel Maharg, Mark Ronchetti, Rebecca Dow and Jay Block are engaged in a fierce battle for the opportunity to take on incumbent Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham this November.

Campaign filings show the five have spent a combined $1.36 million since October, according to a recent story by the Santa Fe New Mexican.

But, because much of that money was spent on TV ads that never reached southern New Mexico, the candidates are still not well known by many of the voters here. Ronchetti, a former TV weatherman in Albuquerque, has spent more than $150,000 on media advertising, but none of his ads have made their way into my living room yet.

The decision to include Las Cruces in the El Paso TV market may make sense for advertisers, but for news viewers it means we learn a lot more about Texas candidates, and what’s happening in the Texas Legislature, than our own.

It’s probably not surprising that Dow, a state lawmaker from Truth or Consequences, is the only candidate whose ads I’ve seen in our TV market. And, her message of border security is targeted toward southern New Mexico.

The Republican race for governor may get the most attention during this primary election, but other statewide races are probably more important. With incumbents vacating the offices of attorney general, treasurer and auditor, those positions will likely be decided in the Democratic primary, if historical trends continue in the general election.

In local races, both incumbent County Commissioner Lynn Ellins and Sheriff Kim Stewart will face challenges in the Democratic primary.

New Mexico continues to hold closed primaries, meaning only those registered as Republicans or Democrats can vote, and only for races in their party. Independent voters, who the primary winners will undoubtedly by courting in the fall, will again be left out of the process in the spring.

The general election in November is always preceded by so many weeks of relentless campaigning that it is a relief when election day finally arrives. But the primary election has a way of sneaking up on us.

The start of early voting on May 10 is only a couple of weeks away. If you are a registered Republican or Democrat, this is the time to do your research and determine which candidate will best represent the party in the critical midterm election coming up this fall.

Walter Rubel is a freelance journalist based in Las Cruces. His 40-plus-year career includes work in Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas and— since 2002 — in New Mexico, covering Las Cruces and the state Legislature. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Las Cruces Bulletin. Rubel can be reached at waltrubel@gmail.com.