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The field of Democrats seeking to unseat New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez in next year’s election grew to five on Wednesday.
Lawrence Rael, who has held various government agency jobs, including chief administrative officer for Albuquerque, announced his candidacy yesterday. Rael pointed to his more than 30 years of experience in local, state and federal government jobs, saying they will help him strengthen New Mexico's economy and improve public education.
"I believe my record of getting things done with Republicans and Democrats, with people living in urban areas and rural areas, bringing them together to work together to resolve issues is how we move New Mexico forward," said Rael.
He joins Attorney General Gary King, Santa Fe businessman Alan Webber, and state senators Linda Lopez of Albuquerque and Howie Morales of Silver City, in seeking the Democratic nomination.
Morales formally entered the race for governor in October.
He was quoted in The Las Cruces Sun-News as saying that Martinez’s government policies have hurt the state’s residents.
"I think people are looking for a fresh, energetic candidate, a leader who is not part of institutional politics," Morales said to the newspaper.
"The administration is putting policies in place that are really hurting our state, hurting people," Morales said.
Martinez made history when she became the first Hispanic woman to be governor of a U.S. state.
Martinez spokesman Danny Diaz balked at Morales’ criticism, the newspaper said.
"Senator Morales' attack against Governor Martinez is laughable, untrue and lacks any credibility,” he is quoted as saying. “Morales cannot conceal his out-of-the-mainstream record, which includes voting to reinstate the food tax on hardworking New Mexicans while also voting to increase his own legislative retirement pension."
Lopez announced her candidacy in April.
Lopez ran for lieutenant governor in 2010, coming in fourth out of five candidates in the Democratic primary.
Lopez’s campaign website said: “As a small business owner she knows the sacrifice and hard work that goes into making a business successful, especially during the never-ending economic downturn that has been the hallmark of Governor Susana Martinez’s failed policies.”
“As Governor, she will represent all New Mexicans, and not just deep-pocket political donors and those with political connections, as has been the case for far too long.”
Before she announced she was running, Lopez was generating a buzz in the state about her possible candidacy.
State Sen. Bill Soules, a Democrat, tweeted: “Martinez will NOT be the only Latina running for Gov. Sen Lopez IS running. Only one truly cares about NM and New Mexicans.”
Rael criticized Martinez, a former district attorney, for being divisive -- particularly in pushing for educational policies that include a newly implemented teacher evaluation system that critics say is too heavily based on student test scores.
"We have a governor who looks at problems and immediately ... tries to find who's to blame -- not who needs to be at the table to potentially resolve the issues and work together. But that's what you get when you get a governor who is a prosecutor. New Mexico cannot afford another four years of prosecutorial leadership," he said.
Diaz, the governor's spokesman, said the governor has worked in a bipartisan manner to win approval in the Democratic-controlled Legislature of initiatives such as a package of business tax cuts earlier this year.
"We are confident New Mexicans would rather have a results-oriented former prosecutor serving as their governor rather than a partisan like Lawrence Rael," Diaz said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.