- Associated Press - Friday, June 6, 2014

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - A national Republican group threw its first punch Friday in New Mexico’s race for governor with a television ad critical of Democratic nominee Gary King.

The ad by the Republican Governors Association started on the same day that GOP Gov. Susana Martinez’s re-election campaign launched its own TV spot portraying the incumbent as a supporter of small business who’s trying to improve New Mexico’s economy.

Both ads are airing statewide on broadcast and cable television. They were launched only days after King defeated four other Democrats for the gubernatorial nomination to challenge Martinez in the November general election.

The Martinez ad recounts how the governor’s family started a security business and includes a photograph of her in high school when she worked as a guard. The family snapshot shows Martinez wearing a handgun, cowboy hat and badge.

King said in an interview that he expected his campaign to respond to the GOP barrage by broadcasting an ad next week.

The early negative attack by Republicans, he said, “indicates that they’re much more concerned about my viability than they would admit publicly.”

Martinez said Friday she hadn’t seen the ad from the Republican Governors Association and can’t coordinate with them by law. But she said she didn’t feel that any ad talking about King’s record was an unfair attack.

“We should not have an attack ad that’s personal,” said Martinez, who spoke at a Fidelity Investments meeting announcing 150 new jobs in Albuquerque. “But ads on their record? Absolutely.”

Asked if she will run any negative ads against King, Martinez said she will talk about her record as governor and show how she stands on the issues versus King. “You can’t pretend you don’t have a record,” Martinez said.

The RGA ad says King “was a terrible attorney general. He’d be a worse governor.”

Much of the RGA ad relies on newspaper editorial criticisms of King’s handling of Medicaid fraud investigations and public corruption cases.

However, King said the recovery of money from Medicaid by his office has increased substantially since the 2011 report that’s cited in the GOP ad.

His campaign will emphasize “where the attorney general’s office continues to improve every day and under her administration we continue to get worse,” he said.

“We get worse in jobs, and we get worse in child welfare,” King said.

Government statistics indicate New Mexico is one of the few states losing jobs. New Mexico was ranked worst in the country in child well-being, according to a report last year by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

King said Republicans are attempting to negatively define his candidacy for voters before he can shape his imagine in the general election campaign.

But he doesn’t think that strategy will work.

“My feeling about New Mexico voters is that they make their decisions based on a lot of things other than television ads. I am confident that over the course of the summer that we’ll all get a chance to get our message out,” King said.

Advertising records for TV stations in Albuquerque indicate the RGA is spending almost $120,000 to broadcast its ad nearly 200 times over the next week, but that doesn’t include the cost of showing ads on cable TV. The Martinez campaign is spending about $37,000 to have its ad appear about 76 times in the next week on the three major TV stations in Albuquerque, which reach viewers throughout most of the state.


Associated Press writer Russell Contreras in Albuquerque contributed to this report.


Follow Barry Massey on Twitter at https://twitter.com/bmasseyAP

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