- Associated Press - Saturday, March 8, 2014

LAGUNA PUEBLO, N.M. (AP) - Sen. Howie Morales of Silver City made a strong showing Saturday at a Democratic Party nominating convention, earning the top spot on the June primary ballot in the race for governor.

Attorney General Gary King, viewed by many as the front-runner in the Democratic gubernatorial contest, finished last in delegate balloting.

The winner of the Democratic gubernatorial primary will face Republican Gov. Susana Martinez in the November general election. Martinez is running unopposed in the GOP primary.

Morales received 29 percent of delegate votes at the party’s pre-primary nominating convention at Laguna Pueblo near Albuquerque.

Santa Fe businessman and political newcomer Alan Webber finished with about 21 percent, according to unofficial results released by party officials.

Longtime government administrator Lawrence Rael got 20 percent.

King and Sen. Linda Lopez of Albuquerque didn’t get the necessary 20 percent support to earn an automatic spot on the June primary election ballot.

Although the convention balloting doesn’t indicate what will happen in the primary, no candidate has won a party’s nomination after failing to get 20 percent of the vote from delegates.

Lopez finished with about 18 percent of delegate votes.

King finished last in balloting with about 10 percent. King has topped early fundraising in the Democratic gubernatorial contest and enjoys the greatest name recognition as a two-term statewide elected official, a former state legislator and son of the late Bruce King, the state’s longest serving governor.

King and Lopez can still get on the ballot by submitting extra signatures on nominating petitions to the secretary of state.

Candidates will appear on the primary ballot based on their performance, with the Morales listed first.

Morales‘ campaign received a boost coming into the convention by getting the endorsement of an educational union, the American Federation of Teachers-New Mexico.

“Today’s results have shown that not only am I the only candidate who has the drive and passion to beat Susana Martinez, but my campaign has the organization to get the job done,” Morales said in a statement.

Webber said in an email to supporters that his second place finish was “an astounding showing for the least-known candidate in a five-way race.”

“Clearly, our feisty campaign to defeat Gov. Martinez is picking up steam,” said Webber.

About 1,500 delegates were eligible to vote in the party’s nominating convention at the pueblo’s Route 66 Casino and Hotel.

In the 2nd Congressional District contest, Roxanne “Rocky” Lara of Carlsbad got 85 percent of the vote to beat out Leslie Endean-Singh of Alamogordo.

In the 3rd Congressional District, incumbent Ben Ray Lujan easily won most of the delegates, with 98.4 percent of the vote. Challenging the incumbent was Robert Blanch, an assistant district attorney who lives in Albuquerque.

In the state treasurer’s contest, former state Sen. Tim Eichenberg received 52 percent of the vote; former state Democratic Party chairman John Wertheim got 40 percent; and 7 percent went to former Bernalillo County Treasurer Patrick Padilla.

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