It’s not just green chile New Mexicans are roasting this fall.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Ronchetti is also on the burner — the subject of dozens of memes across social media seeking to demonstrate he isn’t a true New Mexican.
Among the memes floating around on the internet:
“Mark Ronchetti thinks Al Hurricane is a storm in Florida.”
“Mark Ronchetti calls the cops on the tamale lady.”
“Mark Ronchetti warms up his tortillas in the microwave.”
The memes coincided with a slew of tweets with a “Bad for New Mexico” tagline that trended with “Mark Ronchetti” on Twitter last week in New Mexico. Some of the tweets included a meme — in this case, a picture of Ronchetti with a blank stare — while others were just standalone text.
Among the most popular tweets:
“Mark Ronchetti wants to ban lowriders. Bad for the homies. Bad for New Mexico.”
“Mark Ronchetti doesn’t think La Llorona is real. Bad for ghosts. Bad for New Mexico.”
“Mark Ronchetti calls the Balloon Fiesta the ‘Balloon Festival.’ Bad for balloons. Bad for New Mexico.”
A few Ronchetti supporters have tried to counter the attacks by creating memes and tweets unflattering to Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who is facing a formidable challenge in the Nov. 8 midterm election from the former longtime TV weatherman.
But their efforts fell flat and didn’t receive even a tiny fraction of the social media traction the anti-Ronchetti memes and tweets did.
Jessica Feezell, a political science professor at the University of New Mexico, called the authenticity of the social media posts “priceless.”
“You cannot manufacture this in a campaign,” she said. “This was grassroots politics, really, and the fact that it’s so widely shared and so easily understood is really the power of these memes.”
Were they — to borrow from the tagline — bad for Ronchetti?
“I don’t think it helped at all,” Feezell said. “You know, these are local people with strong networks and big family ties that go very deep in New Mexico sharing funny stories that are sort of critical of Mark Ronchetti. I mean, his reputation is a little bit of a carpetbagger, especially when compared to somebody with so many generations [in New Mexico] as the governor, so I think this meme trend really reinforced that perception that he’s not from New Mexico, he’s not a New Mexican and therefore should not be governor.”
Feezell, who teaches political communication and behavior, among other topics, said memes are “one of the most important and impactful ways of online political participation these days.”
They’re also growing in popularity for a couple of reasons, she said.
“They’re funny, often, but they’re also very easy to understand, and they’re easy to produce,” she said. “It’s really hard to say that memes will make people more likely to go vote, but I can say that because memes tend to be funny, first and foremost, and informative, secondarily, that they’re very catchy to people who otherwise wouldn’t be drawn to politics because they’re drawn to the humor, and they’re drawn to the joke.”
Not everybody was laughing.
The serious issues affecting New Mexico are no joke, according to Ryan Sabel, Ronchetti’s communications director.
“New Mexico is currently the second most violent state in the country, is last in education, and has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. Given her atrocious record, it’s no wonder that the governor and her supporters are resorting to using internet trolls to launch silly attacks and avoid discussing the issues that truly impact the lives of New Mexicans,” he wrote in a statement.
Even members of the governor’s campaign and state government staff have gotten in on the action, retweeting memes and messages disparaging Ronchetti.
The governor’s press secretary, Nora Meyers Sackett, for example, retweeted a meme asserting “Mark Ronchetti likes Rachel Ray’s pozole.”
Delaney Corcoran, a spokeswoman for Lujan Grisham’s reelection campaign, declined to comment. But she, too, has shared the memes and tweets on Twitter, including a tweet with a picture of Ronchetti and his wife, Krysty, posing next to Cowboys for Trump founder Couy Griffin. The picture was taken when Ronchetti was running for US Senate in 2020 and before Griffin, a former Otero County commissioner, was removed from his post and disqualified from holding public office for his participation in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol .
The tweet shared by Corcoran states “Mark Ronchetti hangs with fake cowboys. Bad for the ranch. Bad for New Mexico.”
Ronchetti is no stranger to mean tweets. In fact, he occasionally records what he calls “Mean Tweets” episodes with his youngest daughter, Ella.
Exactly how the memes and tweets poking fun at Ronchetti originated is unclear, but several Twitter users pointed to vile stickers with the “Bad for New Mexico” tagline that have been posted on light posts and other places in Albuquerque.
“There was one on the sign next to my parking spot,” said Feezell, the political science professor at UNM.
Designer Teresa Robinson, who lives in Albuquerque, is believed to be the person who started the template that has been used in the memes.
Robinson said her idea came from a vulgar tweet that was doctored to appear as though it came from Ronchetti’s official Twitter account, as well as what she called the “harsh” sticker that, she said, says “Mark Ronchetti does particular things to dogs. ”
A Lujan Grisham supporter, Robinson said she didn’t want to be coarse or crude with her memes.
“My little journey started because I woke up one morning and wasn’t in the mood to deal with political ads,” she said. “I thought to myself, ‘Well, you know what? I’ve seen people make some really harsh, really harsh memes,’ and I didn’t want to go that route and wanted to be more lighthearted, so I started with a line that reminded me of a ’90s commercial that I used to watch . It was one of my favorite commercials, which was for Orbit gum. There’s a line in there calling one of the ladies a ‘lint licker’ and so that was the first meme I put out there.”
Robinson said her memes and the others that followed suit show Ronchetti is out of touch with New Mexico.
“It’s just really emphasizing that while New Mexico needs to really focus on changing the state, bringing Mark Ronchetti in is just not the answer,” she said.
Robinson, who is disillusioned with politics, said she’s been encouraged by the dialogue the memes started.
“I’ve had people reach out to thank me for bringing this laughter in during this time,” she said. “All I keep encouraging is every time I put something out there, it’s like, ‘You gotta vote. That’s the only way change happens.’ You have to vote, so while I’ll be laughing to the polls, I’ll be going to the polls, and I want people to be doing the same thing.”
Daniel Garcia, a spokesman for the Democratic Party of New Mexico, said the slew of memes and tweets show voters recognize Ronchetti isn’t the right candidate for governor.
“New Mexicans have a great sense of humor and seem to be picking up on something Ronchetti has even admitted himself — that he doesn’t have a deep understanding of the issues in our state,” Garcia wrote in a statement, referring to a comment Ronchetti made in April during a forum with his Republican primary challengers.
“What’s not a joke though is Ronchetti’s plan to ban abortion in New Mexico — bad for women, bad for New Mexico,” Garcia wrote.
Feezell said she saw “Mark Ronchetti” and the “Bad for New Mexico” phrase attached to it trending on Twitter, too.
“Every time I clicked on it, these memes would come up that were really sort of critical of him and very funny but critical,” she said.
“I think it’s surprising that that is the information that flooded the Twitter universe during the week when he had former Vice President Mike Pence here. hey had [Virginia Gov. Glenn] Youngkin here. hey [recently] had [Florida Gov. Ron] DeSantis here trying to raise money and drive attention to his campaign. So I’m not sure if it was intentional or accidental, but I definitely think that the online story of Mark Ronchetti during a week when he was trying to generate a lot of really positive attention wasn’t necessarily that because of the effectiveness of these memes and the virality with which they were being shared, mostly because they’re fun and funny, but none of them are complimentary.”
Feezell also said the “meme outbreak” is a case in point to support the notion that young people today are tired of American politics “as they always have been.” She said younger voters are more trusting of “these authentic sort of grassroots campaigns” than they are of an official campaign.
“I don’t know who was the first person to come up with this ‘Bad for New Mexico’ version of these Ronchetti memes, but it was brilliant. And it was brilliant because it’s funny, and because it’s funny, it will go viral and because it goes viral, it will reach eyes that otherwise would not be paying attention to politics,” she said.
“When elections are won and lost with small margins, those margins of people who otherwise would not have participated who now are going to [vote] because they thought that was funny and it makes a good point, those are the people who are going to move the election,” she said.