Home News Elections Republican Jay Block eyes governor’s office

Republican Jay Block eyes governor’s office

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Alex Ross Photo Jay Block, pictured here during an earlier visit to Roswell, is among a crowded field of Republicans seeking their party's nomination for governor in 2022.

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Even after he was successfully reelected last November to another term on the Sandoval County Board of Commissioners, Jay Block has still not left the campaign trail.

A 51-year-old retired U.S. Air Force Colonel and Rio Rancho resident, Block in April became one of the first Republicans to enter what has evolved into a crowded field for the party’s nomination for governor in 2022.

In a recent interview with the Roswell Daily Record, Block said that since first being elected to the county commission in 2016, Republicans have tried to convince him to run for Congress. But he believes the office of governor is a better fit.

“As a county commissioner, I’ve really enjoyed working the local issues from public safety, to infrastructure, to economic development to ethics,” he said. “I love having that hands-on experience as a commissioner and I would want to carry that forward as governor.”

Seven other Republicans are competing for the nomination. They are: Karen Bedonie, a business owner; state Rep. Rebecca Dow, R-Truth or Consequences; Ethel Maharg, former mayor of the village of Cuba; Mark Ronchetti, a former meteorologist and 2020 U.S. Senate candidate; Louie Sanchez, owner of an Albuquerque shooting range; Tim Walsh, who was an advisor to former Gov. Gary Johnson; and Greg Zanetti, a retired National Guard brigadier general.

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The winner of the primary will face Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, in the general election.

Block is one of two elected office holders vying to be the party’s standard bearer. Nonetheless, he portrays himself as a political outsider and conservative populist.

“In my party, the Republican Party, I think you see a lot of people tired of seeing people run for office, lose and then run for office again,” he said.

Block insists his campaign’s appeal goes beyond his party’s conservative core.

“This is not about galvanizing the base for me, this is about galvanizing New Mexicans who are tired of what the governor has done to them,” he said.

Twenty-five years in the military and five years in county government stand out on Block’s resume. Raised in Manchester, New Hampshire, Block earned his bachelor’s degree in Political Science from North Dakota State University and a Master of Science in International Relations from Troy University.

He would serve in the U.S. Air Force, specializing in nuclear weapons and being stationed around the globe, including a stint in Afghanistan. He was stationed at Kirkland Air Force base in 2015, shortly before his retirement.

On his campaign website and social media pages, Block relentlessly blasts Gov. 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 migrant crossings.

Chief among Block’s criticisms is the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Block is a vocal opponent of current state orders requiring state employees to either be fully vaccinated or submit to regular testing, and of another requiring employees in New Mexico hospitals or congregate living facilities to be vaccinated.

“People don’t want government making private healthcare decisions, so I am not going to support that at all,” Block said.

Block has denounced the use of health orders at the start of the pandemic, which suspended operation of businesses deemed non-essential while also prohibiting in-person classroom learning and public gatherings.

Lujan Grisham has said the policies saved lives. Block argues the orders were overly broad and that local governments were not included enough in the decision making.

“It wasn’t tailored to certain areas of the state because certain areas didn’t have any cases for weeks or months,” he said. Block believes the orders exacerbated the state’s high unemployment rate, and worsened the state’s issues with mental health, substance abuse and education.

Individual local governments and businesses, Block said, should have been allowed to craft their own strategies for dealing with the pandemic.

He said he backs proposed legislation to limit how long future emergency declarations or public health orders remain in place without legislative approval.

“When I am governor I want the Roundhouse to pass that bill and I will sign it immediately,” he said.

On the economy, Block wants to slash regulations and overhaul the state’s tax structure, moves he said are necessary for New Mexico to boost its economy and population.

“We’ve got to compete with our neighboring states that are just beating 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 waiving 50% of the property taxes of retired police officers and first responders who live in New Mexico. Additionally he wants to consider scrapping the state’s income tax and either reforming or abolishing New Mexico’s Gross Receipts Tax, which he said is unfair to industry.

The proposals would cut off significant sources of revenue to the state, but Block said he believes the losses would be offset by boosts in sales and property tax revenue from what he predicts will be an influx of new residents and industry.

“I think doing some of those things would attract people, it would grow the tax base and we would be a lot more prosperous and a lot more diversified,” he said.

Motivated by a heavily conservative U.S. Supreme Court, states across the nation have begun enacting laws curtailing access to abortion services.

The laws include one in Texas that bans abortions after six weeks and allows individuals to file civil suits against physicians or individuals who assist a woman in obtaining an abortion.

Block vows to veto any state budget that includes funding for abortion services, but concedes a law like the one in Texas stands virtually no chance of passage in New Mexico.

“You would never 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 by any means,” he said. He argues the state currently makes the rights of suspected criminals a higher priority than public safety. The state, he said, needs to revisit the bail reforms that were approved by voters in 2016.

He also thinks the state should consider building more facilities to help those with mental health and addiction issues.

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

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