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Funding for police likely safe no matter who wins NM governor’s race

Ronchetti sheriff campaign photo
Ronchetti for Governor campaign
Republican candidate for New Mexico governor, Mark Ronchetti, is seen speaking with a sheriff's deputy in a campaign video. Both he and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham are running on platforms of funding and supporting law enforcement.

In the race for New Mexico governor, both candidates are running on platforms of supporting law enforcement. Following a summer of progressive protesters calling to decrease police funding in 2020, Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is attacking Republican challenger Mark Ronchetti on who will boost the budgets more.

Lujan Grisham and Ronchetti differ on plenty of key issues — from abortion access to climate change and the economy. But for voters who want to see law enforcement budgets shrink — like the thousands of New Mexicans who protested racist police violence and called to defund and demilitarize the police  — the race may lack an attractive candidate.

A new critical ad from the Lujan Grisham campaign asserts that Ronchetti, “will slash budgets for police and law enforcement agencies.”

“Ronchetti said it himself,” a voiceover says. It then quotes the candidate as saying in a GOP primary debate on KOAT-TV, “They don’t want more money and they don’t want more guns.”

But that soundbite is incomplete and out of context. In the same breath in the debate, Ronchetti went onto say, “They want to know that the governor of the state of New Mexico and their leaders backs them up.”

Ronchetti’s campaign site lists “fund and support the police” as part of the candidate’s crime plan. 

And while the ad said he opposed the governor’s budget, which included 16% raises for state officers, his criticism has not included the raises.

In a statement, Ronchetti’s campaign called the ad’s claim that he’s interested in cutting law enforcement funding, “a complete fabrication.” Spokesperson Enrique Knell went on to say that the candidate “is clearly on the record supporting funding for law enforcement throughout the state.”

As an example of how Lujan Grisham doesn’t “back the blue” in that same debate, Ronchetti highlighted the governor’s signing of a 2021 bill that opened officers up to prosecution for civil rights violations, saying it makes doing their jobs harder.

However, Lujan Grisham has boosted support, funding and recruitment efforts for law enforcement during her first term.

This week alone, her office announced an $800,000 investment in the Law Enforcement Training Assistance Fund, which invests in training and equipment for new officers at small agencies across the state. She also marked the groundbreaking of a new “public safety complex” in Sandoval County Tuesday, which will house the county’s Sheriff’s Office and Emergency Operations Center, and for which she contributed over $5 million in capital outlay funds.

UPDATE, 8/4/22: This story has been updated to reflect comment from the Ronchetti campaign.

The Your New Mexico Government project is a collaboration between KUNM and New Mexico PBS with support from the Thornburg Foundation.

Nash Jones (they/them) is a general assignment reporter in the KUNM newsroom and the local host of NPR's All Things Considered (weekdays on KUNM, 5-7 p.m. MT). You can reach them at nashjones@kunm.org or on Twitter @nashjonesradio.
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