SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Democrat Gary King is punching back in New Mexico’s race for governor with a television ad criticizing Republican Gov. Susana Martinez’s record in running state government.
The ad began airing Tuesday and came in response to hard-hitting advertising by the Republican Governors Association against the Democratic nominee.
King’s ad points out that New Mexico is among the few states to have lost jobs in the past year. It also refers to allegations of contracting violations and other wrongdoing in the Martinez administration made in a whistleblower lawsuit by two former Economic Development Department workers.
King “will clean up her mess,” the ad said.
The King campaign is spending about $82,000 to air the ad across the state about 160 times through next week, according to advertising contract records filed with the three major TV stations in Albuquerque.
King launched the ad as he’s looking for a new manager for day-to-day operations of his campaign for the general election.
Jim Farrell, King’s campaign manager for the primary election, stepped down last week after King won the Democratic gubernatorial nomination by defeating four other candidates.
Farrell told The Associated Press he wanted to be near his wife and two children in Las Cruces after spending nine months running the campaign out of Albuquerque. He said he wasn’t able to shift the campaign operations to Las Cruces.
“I left on good terms with Gary. I said, ‘If I can be of help, let me know,'” Farrell said.
King praised Farrell, saying he did an excellent job.
“There is no animosity between us,” he said.
King said he’s interviewing candidates to become campaign manager and may select one by the end of the week.
The ad war in the governor’s race has heated up quickly.
The Republican Governors Association launched an ad three days after the primary that said King “was a terrible attorney general. He’d be a worse governor.”
The Martinez campaign is broadcasting an ad recounting how the governor’s family started a security business. The ad includes a family snapshot of Martinez in high school when she worked as a security guard.
King’s ad also stressed two hot-button political issues — raising the minimum wage and providing pay equity for women doing the same work as men.
During the primary campaign, King and other Democratic candidates backed raising the minimum wage to at least $10.10 an hour. The wage rate has been $7.50 an hour since 2009.
Martinez vetoed a measure last year that would have raised the minimum wage to $8.50 an hour. But Martinez has expressed support for an increase to at least $7.80 and potentially $8 an hour.
New Mexico’s Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination because of someone’s gender, and Martinez signed legislation into law last year that supporters say expanded protections against pay inequality.
King said in the ad that he would demand gender pay equity. The state GOP pounced on that statement, pointing out that King was sued in 2010 by three women lawyers in the attorney general’s office who alleged pay discrimination. Two of the lawyers settled their claims. A federal judge tossed out the case involving the other attorney, saying there was no evidence her work was “substantially equal” to higher paid male lawyers.