Name recognition won the day in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, as Attorney General Gary King beat four challengers for the right to face Gov. Susana Martinez in November.
The attacks started immediately, with Republican operatives faulting King for weak leadership and, pointedly, quoting current Democratic Party Chairman Sam Bregman (he once called King the worst attorney general in New Mexico history). And, if the race is about King and his record, the governor will be the shoo-in for victory that many already think she is. Not because King really was the worst attorney general in history, but because anyone with a long record of service provides fodder for attack ads.
But Democrats — or independents, Republicans, Libertarians, Green party members — need to focus on what this election is about. It’s not about King or Martinez. It’s about New Mexicans and their future.
The focus must turn to the best way to teach children, grow jobs, keep smart young people at home, rebuild the state’s broken behavioral health system, improve police training methods, fix infrastructure and protect water and the environment.
By focusing on what matters, candidates can debate ideas, policy and offer solutions. That’s a much better way to fight an election than spotlighting personalities.
What’s more, the race for governor isn’t the only important decision voters will make come November. They have to choose a new attorney general, decide whether to re-hire the incumbent Republican secretary of state or elect her challenger, as well as choose a new state treasurer and auditor.
One U.S. Senate seat is on the ballot, along with three seats for the U.S. House of Representatives.
Perhaps most at stake? The state House of Representatives, with the GOP close to gaining control for the first time in decades.
(Sadly, many local races were decided in closed primaries, with decisions already made on who will be a county commissioner or assessor in a low turnout election. We will watch with interest the lawsuit by an Albuquerque resident who is contending closed primaries disenfranchise citizens unaffiliated with parties.)
Voters tend to tune out during the summer — and with attacks already starting, we think they will stop paying attention sooner rather than later. But really, now is the time for all citizens to start paying attention.
They can’t vote for someone because of a last name, whether for dynastic or ethnic reasons. They shouldn’t choose based on party affiliation or a winning smile. No, voters need to examine issues, decide their priorities and vote because they believe their choice can make a difference in improving the lives of New Mexicans.
They can’t do that without paying attention — not to the noise, but to substance.
— The Santa Fe New Mexican