King faces tough task to oust Martinez

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King faces tough task to oust Martinez

New Mexico political figure Gary King could be facing the toughest task of his 24-year career as he lags in the polls and trails in fund raising for the gubernatorial race.

King, the state’s attorney general since 2006, is running as the Democratic challenger to Republican incumbent Martinez.

Though King’s campaign is struggling, a UNM political science professor said it is too soon to make a prediction for the Nov. 4 election.

“You never can call an election before an election because you never know what scandal might break or how something that happens might fundamentally change opinions,” UNM political science professor Lonna Atkeson said. “But obviously, the polls show that he’s behind.”

King earned his shot at the general election after defeating four candidates in the June primary: Howie Morales, Alan Webber, Lawrence Rael and Linda Lopez.

Although the governor’s office would mean more responsibilities than his current position, King said his work has prepared him to transition to the state’s highest elected office.

“We deal with almost every issue that’s of importance in the state,” King said in an interview before a Labor Day event on Sept. 1.

According to his biography on his campaign’s website, King served 12 years as a state legislator prior to his two terms as attorney general. Having worked in environmental law, King also worked as a political advisor to the Department of Energy in Washington, D.C., starting under the Clinton administration.

One issue King and his campaign have been stressing during the governor’s race is education. New Mexico has notoriously ranked in the bottom tier of states when it comes to graduation rates.  King has been touring New Mexico talking to various communities about his education plan, which he said relates to pulling families out of poverty.

“We have children going to be hungry every night, children who are basically unprepared to go to school because of a variety of issues related to poverty,” King said.

Another prominent issue in this governor’s race is the economy, specifically jobs and minimum wage. Sam Bregman, the chairman of the state’s Democratic Party, says King would boost wages.

“We have too many people working a 40-hour week that are still below the poverty line,” Bregman said. “The minimum wage needs to be increased. This governor (Martinez) has already vetoed that and Gary King wouldn’t. He would in fact make sure the minimum wage was raised for working men and women.”

A recent poll conducted by Research and Polling, Inc, published in a copyrighted Albuquerque Journal article on Sept. 14 showed Martinez holds a 54 percent to 36 percent advantage, an increase from her lead over King in August of 50 to 41.

“I see the polls like everybody else and that Gary is behind right now,” Bregman said. “But I got to tell you the the only poll that it really counts and we’ve heard this time and time again, is on election day. What I’m hearing out there is that people are excited for a change.”

King lags significantly in terms of campaign finance. He currently has $157,730 in the bank for campaign funds, according to data from the Secretary of State’s office released Sept. 8, while Martinez has $3.8 million.

“She seems to have enough money that she can say basically say anything in her campaign ads whether it’s true or not,” King said. “It’s a challenge to answer that in a way that’s a positive, effective way, and certainly when she has $4 million and I don’t.”

King also lost his campaign manager on Sept. 15 when Keith Breitbach resigned after two months.  In a statement from King’s campaign, Breitbach said he had to put parts of his personal and professional lives on hold to help, “but I must now redirect my focus.”

Though King is the challenger, he seems to approach his campaign like a veteran, perhaps in part because of the influences of his father, Bruce King, a three-term New Mexico governor

Gary King was born in 1954 two months before his father won his first office on the Santa Fe Board of County Commissioners, so the younger King grew up surrounded by politics. He said even took six months from his graduate school work to help his dad’s governor’s campaign in 1978, and the two had long talks regarding politics and public service.

One piece of advice that stuck with Gary King over the years was something former President Bill Clinton said at Bruce King’s 2009 funeral.

King said, quoting Clinton, “Bruce King taught me that the people elected you to do a job, and he said if you show up every day and work hard and do the job they elected you to do, then everything else will work.”

Before Gary King can get his chance to do a job he really wants, King in the next seven weeks has to make his message resonate with more New Mexicans.

“You know we are having a lot of fun,” King said. “I think it’s exciting to see what the voters will do here in about two months.”[/text_output][share title=”Share this Post” facebook=”true” twitter=”true” google_plus=”true” linkedin=”true”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/4″][image type=”none” float=”none” info=”none” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover” src=”2485″][text_output]Attorney General Gary King plays a saxophone during a Labor Day Event at Tractor Brewing in Downtown Albuquerque on Sept. 1, 2014. King, a Democrat, is running against incumbent Gov. Susana Martinez in the upcoming election. Photo by J.R. Oppenheim / NM News Port[/text_output][text_output]

Governor at a glance

Job description: State’s chief executive

Term: Four years

Salary: $110,000

Incumbent: Gov. Susana Martinez[/text_output][/vc_column][/vc_row]