- Associated Press - Sunday, October 19, 2014

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Republican Gov. Susana Martinez and Democratic hopeful Attorney General Gary King stuck to their talking points Sunday evening, offering no surprises about where they stood on the key issues facing New Mexico while they traded jabs during their final televised debate.

Martinez referred to King as a politician who has supported tax hikes in the past and would likely do so again. He said she wasn’t being truthful with New Mexicans and hasn’t done enough to turn the state around.

“The problem we have in New Mexico is it’s time for the excuses to end,” King said at the end of the hour-long debate. “It’s time for us to do something in New Mexico that gets us out of the bottom of poverty, that gets us out of the bottom of child welfare.”

King pointed to the high percentage of people in New Mexico who are living in poverty, saying that is the root of many of the state’s problems, including challenges within the education system.

He said more needs to be done than offer low-income school children breakfast before class.

Martinez countered that solving the state’s problems requires recognition that New Mexico is unique in that it relies more heavily on federal spending than another other state in the nation. The research laboratories and military bases that drive the state’s economy are fueled by federal dollars, and continued dysfunction in Washington, D.C., only makes matters worse, she said.

“Because of that we’re hit the hardest,” the governor said. “And that’s why we have to diversify our economy and make sure that there are jobs of all kinds. We have to make sure we welcome businesses from all over the country, all over the world and also help our local businesses grow and expand.”

With Election Day fast approaching, their campaigns also have been hammering one another on the airwaves as voter concerns about the economy and education continue to set the tone for the race.

Martinez said the state is making progress with student achievement and that more money is being spent on education that ever before, including money for specific classroom needs.

Both candidates voiced support for early childhood education, but King - who is backed by labor unions including the National Education Association - said he would be willing to reduce or eliminate standardized testing requirements.

The candidates were allowed to ask one another a single question. King challenged Martinez on her decision to tap people from out-of-state to lead New Mexico’s education and human services departments. Martinez asked King whether he would do anything differently given criticisms that he hasn’t done enough to fight government corruption.

The debate came as early voting got underway at more locations around the state this weekend. Election Day is Nov. 4.

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