ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gary King is returning fire in a new ad that says Republican Gov. Susana Martinez “lied” in her recent commercial that charged King “paid women less” than men in his Attorney General’s Office.
Martinez’s campaign – after King has promoted a campaign pledge to ensure equal pay for women – has highlighted a series of four gender discrimination lawsuits filed against King by former female employees who alleged they were underpaid.
One of those claims was dismissed by a federal judge on summary judgment. Three others were settled for between $5,000 and about $15,000 apiece, an amount so low that the state Risk Management Division required King to accept the settlement, King has said.
But a recent Martinez ad said bluntly: “Gary King paid women less than men.”
Nearly one week later, King is pushing back.
“A federal judge’s ruling proves Gov. Martinez latest attack ad is a lie,” a narrator says in the King ad that launched Wednesday.
The opinion King refers to is the court order dismissing one of the suits, finding that the female employee failed to demonstrate that men who were paid more worked in a comparable position.
The King ad also attacks Martinez for the state’s lack of job growth, continued No. 50 ranking in child well-being and for vetoing a $8.50 minimum wage backed by the Legislature in 2013.
Martinez that year said she would have backed a $7.80 minimum wage instead to keep New Mexico’s wage in line with those of neighboring states.
The ad goes on to label Martinez as being “at the top of a list of America’s worst governors.” Headlines cited in the ad to support the “worst governor” claim stem from a 2013 report compiled by the left-leaning Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington that ranked 18 governors (16 Republicans and two Democrats) on its “worst” list.
The group cited the Martinez administration’s past use of private email to conduct state business, and claims of impropriety surrounding the long-term racino lease at the Downs at Albuquerque.
Martinez has ordered state employees to use state email, and an investigation by the state auditor into the Downs deal found no evidence of corruption.
Martinez spokesman Chris Sanchez responded to the King ad, saying: “Gary King began his campaign by launching a false attack against Governor Martinez on equal pay, and now that his shameful record on the subject has come under public scrutiny, he’s desperately trying yet again to mislead New Mexicans.”
PARTY HELP: The Democratic Party of New Mexico weighed in on the governor’s race with its own radio ad in support of Gary King this week.
The ad picked up audio from an earlier commercial funded by the Better New Mexico PAC and produced by the liberal group ProgressNow New Mexico. After its release in May, the original ad was made available for public release.
The ad targets Martinez for leaked 2010 audio recordings obtained by Mother Jones magazine that include a staff member making a derogatory comment about the English-speaking ability of then-House Speaker Ben Lujan, a Santa Fe Democrat.
James Monteleone can be reached at email@example.com.