SANTA FE – In an uncommon move for a state chief executive, Gov. Susana Martinez got personally involved in this week’s Albuquerque Public Schools board election.
The Republican governor recorded an autodial phone message for voters in APS District 2, where Peggy Muller-Aragon was running against incumbent Kathy Korte, a fierce critic of Martinez’s education initiatives.
The recorded message urged voters to vote for Muller-Aragon and described Korte as beholden to a teachers union-driven agenda.
Muller-Aragon, a retired teacher, won the APS District 2 race decisively, winning 63 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results from Tuesday’s election.
Asked about the governor’s involvement in a local race, Martinez political adviser Jay McCleskey indicated Korte’s criticisms of the Martinez’s agenda played a role.
“Kathy Korte chose to make her campaign a referendum against meaningful education reform supported by Gov. Martinez and boasted about receiving thousands of dollars from unions, so the governor wanted to ensure that Peggy Muller-Aragon had the support she needed to level the playing field,” McCleskey told the Journal.
Korte, who had served as the board’s vice chairwoman, disagreed with the playing field assertion, claiming much more money was spent on her opponent’s behalf than on her behalf.
She also said Republican friends had warned her to expect hard-hitting attacks.
“I’m a little bit flattered that a mom from the West Side … can generate that kind of ire,” Korte said Thursday.
Martinez was not the only high-profile elected official to get involved in the contest between Korte and Muller-Aragon.
Sen. Howie Morales, D-Silver City, who sought the Democratic gubernatorial nomination last year, endorsed Korte and appeared in campaign mailers on her behalf.
Morales said Thursday that he supported Korte because he “respected her advocacy on behalf of all educators, parents and, most importantly, our students.”
Among other criticisms, Korte has spoken out against the teacher evaluation system implemented by the Martinez administration.
Candidates for APS board seats do not have to file spending reports with the state until mid-April, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.