- Associated Press - Monday, March 10, 2014

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - Attorney General Gary King is committed to staying in the race for governor despite his last-place finish at a Democratic pre-primary nominating convention, his campaign manager said Monday.

King has more than enough nominating petition signatures to secure a place on the ballot for the June primary election, said Jim Farrell, his campaign manager.

Gary King enjoys the strong support of Democrats at the grassroots across New Mexico, but who do not count among the convention insiders,” Farrell said in a statement. “Our 10,000 plus nominating signatures for Gary demonstrates it. Our focus has been, and remains winning the nomination on June 3rd when the rank and file Democrats of our state will decide who has the right stuff to defeat Susana Martinez.”

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez is running unopposed in the GOP primary.

King has the best name recognition among the Democrats seeking the party’s gubernatorial nomination. He’s a two-term statewide elected official, a former state legislator and the son of the late Bruce King, the state’s longest serving governor.

But at the Saturday convention, King finished last in the field of five gubernatorial candidates, with about 10.5 percent of delegate votes. Candidates needed 20 percent support to automatically earn a place on the ballot, but they can remain in the race if they have enough nominating petition signatures.

Farrell said King’s campaign submitted nearly 10,400 signatures to the secretary of state when filing for office in February. That’s more than twice as many as needed. Candidates who don’t earn the party’s endorsement at the convention must have a total of 4,373 petition signatures from registered Democrats.

Two-term Sen. Howie Morales of Silver City finished first at the convention, with 29 percent. Political newcomer and Santa Fe businessman Alan Webber came in second, with 21 percent, and Lawrence Rael, a longtime government administrator, got 20 percent.

About 18 percent of convention delegates backed Sen. Linda Lopez of Albuquerque. Lopez did not immediately return a telephone message and email seeking comment on her campaign plans in the wake of the convention.

The convention determines ballot order for candidates, so Morales will be listed first and Webber next.

The outcome of convention voting doesn’t indicate how the primary election will turn out. But no candidate has missed the 20 percent threshold and gone on to win their party’s nomination.

Two-term Republican Gary Johnson barely reached the 20 percent mark in his first run for governor in 1994, but he won the primary and then the general election.

Brian Sanderoff, an Albuquerque pollster who’s long watched state politics but doesn’t work for candidates, said the convention outcome “will be forgotten very quickly.” But he said there’s a lingering question of why King did so poorly among party loyalists given his extensive personal and family political experience.

Convention delegates favored “new faces to the political scene” rather than King, he said.

Gary King should have had the potential to do well at the convention,” Sanderoff said. “If you do well among the delegates, you’ve got a built-in group of people who can help you organize for the primary and later for the general election.”


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

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