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Even after being successfully re-elected last November to another term on the Sandoval County Commissioners Council, Jay Block has still not left the election campaign.
A retired U.S. Air Force colonel and Rio Rancho resident, 51, Block in April became one of the first Republicans to enter what has become crowded grounds for the party’s nomination for the post of governor in 2022.
In a recent interview with the Roswell Daily Record, Block said that since his first county commission election in 2016, Republicans have tried to convince him to run for Congress. But he thinks the governorship is better suited.
“As County Commissioner, I really enjoyed working on issues ranging from public safety to infrastructure, economic development and ethics. I love having this practical experience as a commissioner and would like to continue it as a governor, ”he said.
Seven other Republicans are in the running for the nomination. They are: Karen Bedonie, business owner; State Representative Rebecca Dow, R-Truth or Consequences; Ethel Maharg, former mayor of the village of Cuba; Mark Ronchetti, former meteorologist and candidate for the US Senate for 2020; Louie Sanchez, owner of a shooting range in Albuquerque; Tim Walsh, who was an adviser to former Governor Gary Johnson; and Greg Zanetti, a retired Brigadier General of the National Guard.
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The winner of the primary will face Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, in the general election.
Block is one of two elected officials vying to be the party’s flag bearer. Nevertheless, he presents himself as a political outsider and a conservative populist.
“In my party, the Republican Party, I think you see a lot of people who are tired of seeing people run for office, lose and then run again,” he said.
Block insists his campaign’s appeal goes beyond his party’s conservative core.
“It’s not about galvanizing the base for me, it’s about galvanizing New Mexicans who are fed up with what the governor has done to them,” he said.
Twenty-five years in the military and five years in county government is evident in Block’s resume. Raised in Manchester, New Hampshire, Block received his BA in Political Science from North Dakota State University and an MA in International Relations from Troy University.
He would serve in the US Air Force, specializing in nuclear weapons and stationed around the world, including a stint in Afghanistan. He was stationed at Kirkland Air Force Base in 2015, shortly before his retirement.
On her campaign website and social media pages, Block relentlessly criticizes Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham on issues ranging from energy policy to Lujan Grisham’s refusal to deploy the National Guard to the southern border in response to an influx of migrants.
The main criticism of Block is the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Block is a vocal opponent of current state orders requiring that state employees be fully immunized or undergo regular testing, and another requiring employees at New Mexico hospitals or health facilities. lives get vaccinated.
“People don’t want the government to make decisions about private health care, so I’m not going to support that at all,” Block said.
Block denounced the use of health ordinances at the start of the pandemic, which suspended the operation of businesses deemed non-essential while banning in-person classroom learning and public gatherings.
Lujan Grisham said the policies saved lives. Block argues that the ordinances were too general and that local governments were not sufficiently involved in decision-making.
“It wasn’t suitable for some areas of the state because some areas had no cases for weeks or months,” he said. Block believes the ordinances have exacerbated the state’s high unemployment rate and worsened the state’s mental health, addiction and education problems.
Local governments and individual businesses, Block said, should have been allowed to develop their own strategies to deal with the pandemic.
He said he supports the bill to limit the length of time that future declarations of emergency or public health orders will remain in place without legislative approval.
“When I am governor, I want the Roundhouse to pass this bill and I will sign it immediately,” he said.
Economically, Block wants to reduce regulations and overhaul the state’s tax structure, steps he says are necessary for New Mexico to grow its economy and people.
“We have to compete with our neighboring states who only beat us at every turn,” he said.
Changes Block champions include eliminating New Mexico’s tax on veterans’ pensions and Social Security benefits, as well as a 50% exemption from property taxes for retired police officers and first responders who live in New Mexico. In addition, he wants to consider eliminating state income tax and reforming or abolishing the New Mexico gross revenue tax, which he says is unfair to the industry.
The proposals would remove important sources of revenue for the state, but Block said he believed the losses would be offset by increased tax and property revenues resulting from what he expects to be an influx of new residents and industry.
“I think doing some of these things would attract people, it would increase the tax base and we would be a lot more prosperous and a lot more diverse,” he said.
Motivated by a very conservative US Supreme Court, states across the country began to enact laws restricting access to abortion services.
The laws include a law in Texas that prohibits abortions after six weeks and allows individuals to bring civil suits against doctors or people who help a woman get an abortion.
Block vows to veto any state budget that includes funding for abortion services, but concedes that a law like Texas has virtually no chance of being passed in New Mexico.
“You’re never going to get that through the Roundhouse with the makeup in there,” he said.
New Mexico’s high crime rate is something Block seeks to highlight.
“What we are doing now is not working in any way,” he said. He argues that the state currently makes the rights of suspected criminals a higher priority than public safety. The state, he said, must review the bail reforms that were approved by voters in 2016.
He also believes the state should consider building more facilities to help people with mental health and addiction issues.
Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at [email protected]