ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Gov. Susana Martinez and Attorney General Gary King debated each other for the first time Monday. They both came to the debate prepared to answer questions about the state’s economy and education.
“If you could propose one or two pieces of legislation to make our state economically competitive and to grow jobs and population, what would they be?” asked the moderator.
King said there’s not just one or two solutions. He said he wants to encourage entrepreneurship, grow small businesses and increase minimum wage.
“I think it should be a significant enough minimum wage so that a person who’s working at the minimum wage doesn’t have to live at the poverty level,” explained King.
Martinez, too, focused on small business, a common theme for both candidates. Yet she also spoke to the crowd about the important to be competitive, diversify the economy and grow the high-tech industry.
“Grow the job creation fund so that we can expand the small businesses that are here in New Mexico and recruit businesses from all of the country and the world,” says Martinez.
The two also shared similar ideas when it comes to energy – both touting New Mexico’s resources. But while King pushed for lab expertise to help propel the industry forward, Martinez focused more on loosening regulations that limit production.
With fewer federal dollars coming into the state, each also offered ideas on how to grow private sector jobs.
“We have to recruit companies to New Mexico and ensure that our small businesses stay in New Mexico,” Martinez says.
“We need to invest in the infrastructure that it takes to build incubators, to build buildings where new companies can come in,” says King.
King also stated New Mexico has lagged behind other states in job growth and has the second-highest poverty rate in the nation.
Martinez went after King for supporting tax increases during a budget crisis when he was in the legislature two decades ago.
What about education?
Martinez spoke about the importance of making sure kids know how to read at an early age and education reform.
“That’s what we ask you to do is to collaborate with K-12 and your higher education institutions to make sure that we are producing the students for the jobs of tomorrow, for the jobs that you are providing to those students,” explained Martinez.
Yet, King had different ideas. He said that the first step is to include educators in the decision-making process.
“The best thing that we can do to improve our education is to put control of education back in the hands of professional educators and take it out of the hands of corporations that are now driving massive standardized tests,” said King.
Each candidate took a few jabs at the other, starting with Martinez: “You stay on the side of extreme environmentalists and extreme special interest groups and I fight for New Mexican families,” King was quick to respond with, “My shoes are all dusty and worn out from talking to New Mexicans every day and the governor’s shoes are highly polished from meeting with corporate executives.”
Yet, overall, it was a cordial discussion. Both candidates did agree that their top concerns were jobs and education.
The candidates did receive their debate questions ahead of time.