SANTA FE – Already cash-poor and trailing badly in the latest poll, Gary King’s rocky road in the governor’s race continued Monday after the resignations of his third campaign manager and another top-level aide.
With less than two months remaining before the Nov. 4 general election, the Democratic attorney general had not decided as of Monday whether to hire a new campaign manager for his challenge to Republican Gov. Susana Martinez or go on without one, a campaign spokesman said.
King, who held an education-focused campaign event in Santa Fe on Monday evening, said in a statement that campaign manager Keith Breitbach made a “positive impact” on his campaign during his stint of two-plus months. However, University of New Mexico political science professor Gabriel Sanchez said the campaign manager turnover is a bad sign for King’s election prospects.
“I do think it’s a good barometer of where things are at with the campaign,” Sanchez said.
Martinez, who attended a fundraising event Monday in Midland, Texas, had $3.8 million in cash on hand at the start of the month, compared with $157,730 for King. A Journal Poll conducted last week said Martinez had widened her lead over King since mid-August to 18 points, with 54 percent of likely New Mexico voters surveyed backing her and 36 percent supporting King.
Breitbach, who was hired in late June and had previously worked on political campaigns in California and Iowa, was King’s third campaign manager this year. He submitted his resignation Sept. 10, the campaign disclosed Monday.
Jim Farrell left the job after the June 3 primary election to spend more time with his family in Las Cruces. Steve Verzwyvelt, who had been hired to replace him, resigned after less than a week on the job because of controversial social media postings.
Breitbach told The Associated Press he had “no hard feelings” with the King campaign and said family considerations played a role in his decision. He said his mother in Iowa is dealing with heart problems.
However, Breitbach also acknowledged that Martinez’s financial advantage – in terms of both fundraising and campaign spending – poses challenges to King.
“It takes resources to run a good campaign,” Breitbach said.
The other campaign staffer to leave is Scott Tillman, a field director for King’s gubernatorial campaign and the former campaign manager for King’s running mate, lieutenant governor candidate Debra Haaland.
Tillman left to work for a group backing a marijuana decriminalization drive, a King campaign spokesman confirmed Monday.
State Democratic Party Chairman Sam Bregman told the Journal he was not concerned by the departure of King’s campaign manager. He said the two-term attorney general and former state House member, the younger son of Gov. Bruce King, is a veteran campaigner who has been working hard in his bid to unseat the incumbent governor.
“I’ve been involved in enough campaigns over the years to know that campaign managers come and go,” Bregman said. “I’ve never seen a voter vote based on who the campaign manager is.”
King campaign spokesman Phil Sisneros said other campaign staffers would pick up the slack.
“We’re all assuming more duties until (King) makes a decision if a new campaign manager is needed,” said Sisneros, who is on temporary leave from his communications job with the Attorney General’s Office to work for his boss’s gubernatorial campaign.
Absentee voting begins in New Mexico on Oct. 7, and early voting is scheduled to get underway at locations around the state on Oct. 18.