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Zanetti seeks to be next governor

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Greg Zanetti (Alex Ross Photo)

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

For Greg Zanetti, much of what ails New Mexico stems from what he views as the concentration of power in Santa Fe, a dynamic he vows to reverse if elected governor.

A financial advisor from Albuquerque — and retired New Mexico National Guard brigadier general who served as deputy commander of the Joint Task Force of the U.S. detention camp at Guantanamo Bay — Zanetti is one of seven Republicans competing for the party’s nomination in next year’s election for governor.

The other contenders are business owner Karen Bedonie; Tim Walsh, who was an advisor to former Gov. Gary Johnson; Sandoval County Commissioner Jay Block; Louie Sanchez, a medical sales representative; state Rep. Rebecca Dow, R-Truth or Consequences; and Ethel Maharg, former mayor of the village of Cuba.

Following the June primary, the winner will go up against Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, in the general election.

In a recent interview with the Roswell Daily Record, Zanetti, 63, said his knowledge of sprawling bureaucracies gained during stints in the U.S. Army and later New Mexico National Guard, combined with his financial expertise, distinguish him from his primary opponents.

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“Who has the skill sets to guide the state? I believe it’s me. That is why I am running,” he said.

Zanetti, who is married with two sons, has never before held elected office, but he is no stranger to politics. He has served as chair of the Republican Party of Bernalillo County, made an unsuccessful bid in 1994 to be the party’s nominee for lieutenant governor and ahead of the 2010 elections briefly considered a run for governor.

In his current campaign, Zanetti is framing the future of New Mexico as a choice between what he calls “big government” and “big community.”

“We’ve gone off the deep end in this state on the big government side,” he said.

Zanetti accuses state government agencies and the Legislature of forcing polices and rules on communities across the state regardless of their individual circumstances, something he says is ineffective and autocratic.

Policy solutions and most decisions, he said, should be made on a community-by-community basis, with state government playing a supporting role.

“If you are looking for a philosophical view on how to govern, it would be we need to shrink government and encourage community,” he said.

Zanetti cites the New Mexico Public Education Department as an example of what he describes as a top-down government approach that has taken hold in Santa Fe.

He assails the Department for what he considers their failure to improve the state’s education system, and for its decision in August to suspend members of the Floyd School Board for voting to make mask wearing optional instead of mandatory within their district.

Zanetti said he would probably like to eliminate the Department or diminish its authority through the executive branch’s rule-making process, with most power on education issues being returned to school boards.

Such a message, Zanetti insists, is resonating with voters across the political spectrum.

“They are saying ‘Yeah, I am for that.’ The people are tired of being told what to do,” he said.

Zanetti spent most of his life in Albuquerque. He went on to graduate from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1980, before spending six years on active duty in the U.S. Army, including being stationed in eastern Europe.

He holds a master’s degree in business administration from Boston University and began working in finance. He would later become an independent financial advisor, while simultaneously serving in the New Mexico National Guard.

Zanetti accuses Lujan Grisham of what he calls “governing by decree,” or proclaiming a broad objective without following up with a rational, coherent and consistent plan to implement it.

Lujan Grisham, he said, has failed to adequately explain the reasoning behind her public health orders, and he accuses her of imposing a single statewide standard without looking at how such orders impact individual communities.

“It is these blanket pronouncements that cause … chaos. It is no way to run a state,” he said.

Lujan Grisham has credited the orders with saving lives and easing the strain the pandemic has placed on the state’s medical system. Zanetti argues measures taken to curb transmission of the virus should be decided at the local level.

An opponent of vaccine mandates, Zanetti said whether an individual receives the vaccine is a matter of individual choice.

On the economy, Zanetti believes the combination of New Mexico’s wealth of natural resources and research facilities demonstrate the state has ample potential.

New Mexico, he said, should maintain its status as an energy producing state, lifting regulations on the oil and gas industry while also seeking to harness solar and wind power as well as technologies in the early stages of development.

“I think there are breakthroughs coming in hydrogen and fusion,” he said.

Rather than chasing larger established companies such as Google, Zanetti said New Mexico needs to lure and encourage newer tech companies and draw manufacturers to the state.

To do that, he said, the state will have to remove many state regulations on industries and overhaul the state’s tax structure by eliminating New Mexico’s personal income and gross receipts taxes. The state, he said, could be funded using property taxes and a more traditional sales tax.

For more than a decade, Zanetti’s conservative activism included being an executive member of New Mexico Right to Life.

Abortion rights have now once again been placed at the center of the political arena. In Texas, a law was passed and signed into law that outlaws all abortions after six weeks and allows individuals to file civil suits against physicians or individuals who assist a woman in obtaining an abortion.

Zanetti said as governor he would want to restrict late-term abortions, and while there are some government solutions that can be effective, Zanetti said reducing abortions can be better achieved through persuasion.

“You have to change their hearts,” he said. “So, yeah, I am open to legislative solutions to cut down on abortions, particularly later term (abortions), but this other way longterm is more effective.”

Like many Republicans, Zanetti believes voters should have to present a valid ID in order to cast a ballot.

Prosecutions for voter fraud are rare, but Zanetti nonetheless said he wants safeguards in place to prevent it from happening. “The election integrity thing is a big deal,” he said.

When it comes to crime, Zanetti believes the state needs to get tougher. He accuses the state of prioritizing the rights of criminals over public safety.

New Mexico’s bond reform measure that did away with bail for most criminal suspects is something Zanetti said has morphed into a catch-and-release program for criminals.

Solutions to the issue of crime, Zanetti said, will be achieved through community efforts and not a single statewide plan.

“How are we in Roswell going to handle it with our neighbors, our friends, our courts, our community, versus Jal, which will handle it in a different way, versus Albuquerque, which will handle it in a different way?” he said.

Should he be elected, Zanetti will likely have to work with a Democratic Legislature to enact his agenda. Though he expresses a desire to work across the aisle, Zanetti said if that cannot be done he would take a page from Trump and use his executive authority to implement his agenda of local control.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or breakingnews@rdrnews.com.

To keep up with coverage of this and other elections of local and regional interest, go to rdrnews.com/category/news/elections/.

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