On Thursday, all seven Republican contenders for the governorship gathered at Legacy Church in Edgewood for an East Mountains forum organized by Republican volunteers in the area. At the event, all the candidates distinguished their unique platforms, experience, and focuses they would take if elected governor for the first time in a forum setting.
Former Cuba mayor and Right to Life Committee of New Mexico executive director Ethel Maharg focused on all the issues at the event, but focused on the state being the “abortion capital of the world.” She said, “You see, we can save schools, the economy. We can do the audits. We can do Border Patrol, all these different things that we’ve been talking about. But when it comes down to it, I want to ask you this question: For who? If we do not take care of the most vulnerable, it won’t really matter.”
Former Gary Johnson official and educator Tim Walsh focused on education, telling the audience that the Children, Youth, and Families Department was a “cancer sore” that has “never worked appropriately.” He said as governor he would consolidate the agency into the New Mexico Department of Public Safety. He also focused on charter schools and school vouchers.
Sandoval County Commissioner Jay Block was one of the few candidates who took subtle jabs at other candidates, including Rep. Rebecca Dow (R-Truth or Consequences) for some of her votes and financier and retired Brigadier General Greg Zanetti of Albuquerque for his past work for Bill Gates. Block touted his law enforcement endorsements and his past championing Right to Work in the state.
“I will also get rid of vaccine passports and forced vaccines,” said Block. “I as your governor will never shut down your business, your church, or your school, and I will never overrule a school board. That is for you to decide on the local level. You elected those school board members. You vote them out if you want to.”
Zanetti agreed with many of the other candidates on issues and distinguished himself with his focus on water. “Without water, we got nothing,” he said. “Do you know that New Mexico, by some estimates, has 15 billion — billion — acre-feet of brackish water? It’s amazing. Now, some people say that’s too high. Some people say it might be a tenth of that. All right, let’s just say it’s 2 billion acre-feet. That’s enough for Albuquerque to have water for 1,000 years.”
Dow spoke at length of her experience in education and her experience as a representative but made clear the Constitution came first. “This is a divinely inspired document; this is non-negotiable,” she said. “And when we have a governor who has a reverence and a respect for our constitutional republic, who understands what it means to fight for individual state rights, especially as a Western state, that will be my priority.”
Businesswoman Karen Bedonie of Mexican Springs differentiated herself from the other candidates, putting a forensic audit of the 2020 election front and center. She said, “Without a forensic audit, none of this matters.” She made clear, “We need it here in New Mexico. We are dirty, very dirty. And right now, nobody wants to get any county done because they say, ‘Oh, it costs too much money.’ But guess what? There’s people out there that are willing to help us. I have been on the ground. We need at least one county or two counties to actually go through this forensic audit to trigger the rest of them.”
Louie Sanchez, who has experience as a co-owner of Calibers gun store and shooting range and as a long-time medical professional, said, “Everyone up here is saying, ‘I’m the only candidate. I’m the only.’ Well, I’m the only candidate who actually owns a gun store.” Sanchez mentioned how he would focus on health care, whereas other candidates had not put it as central to their campaigns. “Why aren’t we talking about health care?” he asked. “That’s the only thing we really have good going in this state. We’re 33rd in health care.”
The reception of the event from attendees seemed mostly well-received, with all candidates getting equal time to speak and differentiate their priorities in one place. But despite all the differences between these candidates, they all focused on one priority: taking out Democrat alleged serial groper Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in 2022.