Ronchetti touts crime-fighting plan during Farmington visit

GOP gubernatorial nominee takes aim at Democratic incumbent

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Ronchetti addresses a crowd of supporters during a campaign rally at Berg Park in Farmington on June 28.

FARMINGTON −Having secured his party's nomination for governor in a heated battle against Rebecca Dow earlier this month, Republican Mark Ronchetti turned his attention to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham during an appearance in Farmington on June 28, blasting the Democratic incumbent for what he described as a lack of support for the law enforcement community throughout the state.

"There will be no daylight between our administration and law enforcement," Ronchetti said to a round of applause while speaking to a crowd of more than 100 people at Berg Park.

Ronchetti made the trip here to discuss his plan for fighting crime in New Mexico, which his campaign spokesman, Enrique Knell, said the candidate has been rolling out all week in appearances across the state.

The highlights of the plan are putting an end to the so-called catch-and-release rules for pretrial detainees and changing a 2021 state law that ended the qualified immunity legal defense in cases that included law enforcement officers and other public employees.

"She's made it easier to be a criminal than a cop in New Mexico," Ronchetti said.

If he is elected, Ronchetti vowed to have his supporters in the Legislature quickly put forward a bill to end catch-and-release and strengthen penalties for those convicted of committing crimes that involve a gun. He said he would then visit communities throughout the state to lobby for the measure.

GOP gubernatorial nominee Mark Ronchetti describes his plan for addressing crime during a campaign rally on June 28 in Berg Park in Farmington.

Ronchetti said a handful of state lawmakers at the Roundhouse were successful in blocking an attempt to modify the catch-and-release rules during the legislative session this year, and he said those who want to see the rules reformed must demand a seat at the table of decision makers.

"The arrogance in Santa Fe has to stop," he said.

Ronchetti also vowed to return the New Mexico National Guard to the border to assist U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents in the task of securing the border. He also said he would put together a border strike force devoted to battling the importation of the synthetic opioid fentanyl and human trafficking.

Noting that the campaign is still in its early stages, Ronchetti told the crowd he would return to San Juan County many times before the November election.

"By the time we're done with this, you'll see plenty of me," he said.

San Juan County Sheriff Shane Ferrari, holding microphone, introduces Republican gubernatorial nominee Mark Ronchetti, in blue shirt, during a campaign rally June 28 in Berg Park in Farmington.

Speaking on Ronchetti's behalf during the event was San Juan County Sheriff Shane Ferrari, who recounted his disagreements with Lujan's staff, noting that when changes to state law regarding criminal activity are discussed at the Legislature, "we're never called to the table to help address these things," he said.

Ferrari said law enforcement has "taken a beating" under the Lujan administration. He accused Democrats of demonizing peace officers and making the occupation so unattractive to potential new employees that his office is down 17 deputies from its full roster.

Ferrari saved his most pointed criticism for the catch-and-release rules, which he said have made a joke of law enforcement efforts.

"I am so sick and tired of the revolving door of criminals," he said, describing how he and his deputies seem to encounter the same offenders again and again. " … We spend 97% of the time dealing with 3% of the population."

The general election date in New Mexico and across the United States is Tuesday, Nov. 8.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription: http://bit.ly/2I6TU0e.