POLITICS

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez to debate midterm election rival in Spanish

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez  (AP )

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez will debate her Democratic opponent, Gary King, in Spanish on Monday night.

The governor speaks Spanish fluently; King, New Mexico’s attorney general, will use an interpreter.

The debate, in a KLUZ-TV Univision-sponsored forum, will be their second.

Political observers say the debate is unique since only one of the candidates is fluent in Spanish.

According to the U.S. Census, around 47 percent of the state's population is Latino — the largest percentage of any state. Roughly 40 percent of New Mexico’s eligible voters are Hispanic, the largest Hispanic eligible voter share nationally, according to Pew Hispanic Research.

Martinez is the state’s first female and Latina governor. She is also the nation’s first Latina governor.

Absentee voting begins Tuesday by mail and at county clerks' offices. Early in-person voting expands to more locations on Oct. 18.

King has taken aim at Martinez’s handling of the state’s economy, criticizing her, for example, for giving large corporations tax breaks.

The Republican Party of New Mexico said Martinez is the better choice.

Recent polls showed Martinez doubling her lead over King since mid-August, apparently due to more support from Democrats, Hispanics and independents who had been backing King, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

Martinez had the support of 54 percent of likely New Mexico voters, compared with King's 36 percent.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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