SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Lawrence Rael, who helped start the Rail Runner commuter rail system, entered the race for governor on Wednesday, becoming the fifth Democrat seeking to unseat Republican incumbent Susana Martinez.
In announcing his c andidacy at the Capitol, Rael said his more than 30 years of experience in local, state and federal government jobs will help him strengthen New Mexico’s economy and improve public education.
“I believe my record of getting things done with Republicans and Democrats, with people living in urban areas and rural areas, bringing them together to work together to resolve issues is how we move New Mexico forward,” said Rael.
He joins Attorney General Gary King, state Sens. Linda Lopez of Albuquerque and Howie Morales of Silver City, and Santa Fe businessman Alan Webber in seeking the Democratic nomination.
Rael recently resigned as state executive director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency. He retired in 2009 after eight years as head of the Mid-Region Council of Governments, a regional planning agency that oversees the commuter rail service running between Belen and Santa Fe.
Rael once worked as chief administrative officer for the city of Albuquerque, a legislative assistant to former Democratic Sen. Jeff Bingaman, and in state government jobs, including as acting deputy transportation secretary in the 1980s. He ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor in 2010.
He was among seven children raised by a single mother after his father was killed in an automobile accident involving a drunken driver.
“The heavy hand of poverty and alcohol have hit so many New Mexicans across this great state. My family is but one example of what perseverance, working together as a community can do to bring you above that and make you successful in your life,” said Rael, who was surrounded by his wife, three children and his 83-year-old mother.
Rael criticized Martinez, a former district attorney, for being divisive — particularly in pushing for educational policies that include a newly implemented teacher evaluation system that critics say is too heavily based on student test scores.
“We have a governor who looks at problems and immediately … tries to find who’s to blame — not who needs to be at the table to potentially resolve the issues and work together. But that’s what you get when you get a governor who is a prosecutor. New Mexico cannot afford another four years of prosecutorial leadership,” he said.
Martinez campaign spokesman Danny Diaz said the governor has worked in a bipartisan manner to win approval in the Democratic-controlled Legislature of initiatives such as a package of business tax cuts earlier this year.
“We are confident New Mexicans would rather have a results-oriented former prosecutor serving as their governor rather than a partisan like Lawrence Rael,” Diaz said.