My dream job would probably be teaching American history and coaching baseball. That’s just the type of simple life I would like to live, because once you’ve been in politics … you really enjoy your privacy, you really do — Jay Block
ALBUQUERQUE – It’s 8 o’clock on Election Night, as Republican gubernatorial candidate Jay Block leaves his watch party at The Office at Paradise Hills Golf Course for a media interview.
At about that same time, Albuquerque TV stations proclaim Mark Ronchetti, with 59 percent of the vote, as the GOP nominee to face Democrat Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in November.
Block, though, the first candidate from Rio Rancho to aspire for the state’s highest office, was still hoping for Sandoval County results to turn the tide.
“No, I’ve not conceded,” he said. “There’s only 30 percent of the vote in right now and Sandoval County (results), from what I’ve seen, hasn’t come in yet. We’re still pressing ahead.”
The “pressing ahead” soon ended.
At about 9 p.m., Ronchetti delivered his victory speech.
Name recognition – Ronchetti has been known throughout the state, thanks to his career as a meteorologist for an Albuquerque TV station.
“You’ve got to remember, I’m really not part of any faction of the Republican Party,” Block said. “I’ve always been an independent type of guy. I’ve gone after Democrats and Republicans on the county commission. I’m not there to be anybody’s friend, I’m there to get a job done and leave the place better than when I found it.”
As for his fourth-place finish Tuesday, when he got 10 percent of the votes, Block lamented, “I think I’m the best candidate, but I didn’t have the most money. I’m competing against a guy telling us the weather who has the most money.
“Life’s not fair. The guy who’s on the weather has no experience. He’s never led anything in the military. He’s never put his life on the line in Afghanistan. He’s never been a leader in private industry, building teams in a firm and expanding our market share. He’s never been an elected official, working local government officials. He doesn’t have a clue. So life’s not fair; I have all this experience, but he’s been on TV … for 20 years. I accept that.”
Where it began
Block grew up on the East Coast, proud of a multitude of relatives who served in the military.
He was always a Republican.
“Since I was 10 years old, when (Ronald) Reagan was elected,” Block said. “He reminded me of my grandfather, a very patriotic man.”
When Jack Kemp staged a run for president in 1988, Block had been working for him as a 16-year-old.
“In 1987, I was attracted to what Kemp was saying,” he said. “I was knocking on doors to get him to win the New Hampshire primary, where he came in third. It went (George H.W.) Bush, (Bob) Dole, Kemp, (Pete) DuPont.”
He was intrigued by the process. So in college, he interned for his U.S. Senator at the age of 16 and found that he liked talking to people and getting the vote out.
Landing in New Mexico
Desiring a place to live that had quality education, Block moved to Rio Rancho seven years ago,. Two of his three children graduated from Rio Rancho High School, where each was a student-athlete.
“We looked hard at the best place to raise a family, and Sandoval County was a great fit,” he said. “I really didn’t think about going into politics, because I was still in the military (USAF). I retired in 2016.”
His interest in politics took a back seat. “I was a commander; I was in front of my airmen a lot as their commander. I was really focused on getting the specific mission done, whatever mission we were doing, whether it was a nuclear mission or whether it was a space-operations mission, it was always about the mission – we didn’t talk about politics.”
Coincidentally, it was because of his Air Force career that Block eventually thought about entering the political realm.
“That was something that was always been ingrained in me: Your Air Force core values are integrity first, service before self, excellence in all we do, and you always give back to the community, and that was something I always wanted to do.”
Block, 51, says he’s ended his foray into politics, and after his current term as a Sandoval County commissioner ends in 2024, he won’t run for a third term.
“I don’t know if I’ll ever run for anything again. I have two more years on the county commission and I really enjoy that. I’ll tell you what: I would never run for a third term on the county commission – I’m vehemently believe in term limits … Eight years on the county commission is more than enough is what I feel.”
There’s still work to be done on the commission, where he’s happy with what’s been done in his six years there.
“I’m very proud that we’ve been able to reduce unemployment. We’ve focused on small businesses and bringing them to Sandoval County. We’ve been able to revitalize the rural areas,” Block said. “Algodones has two manufacturing companies that we brought there. We’ve worked with Intel. The county commission didn’t touch Intel from 2004 to 2017, and Intel is thriving back. We’ve worked with the sheriff’s department – crime in 2021 went down in every single category.”
Block won’t need a lot of campaign money to find fulfillment after 2024.
“My dream job would probably be teaching American history and coaching baseball,” he said. “That’s just the type of simple life I would like to live, because once you’ve been in politics … you really enjoy your privacy, you really do.”