For Gary King, a rough road lies ahead

Attorney General Gary King

Attorney General Gary King (Photo by Heath Haussamen)

Gary King’s record as attorney general – or lack thereof – has led the media to judge him harshly and gives Republicans lots to hammer him with. That’s largely why many Democrats view the gubernatorial candidate as unelectable.

In 2011, I ranked criticism of Attorney General Gary King as one of the year’s top stories. Here’s what I wrote:

“Attorney General Gary King had one of the worst years of any elected official in New Mexico in 2011. The criticism was widespread (and included me), and it covered a range of issues including allegations that his office was “ineffective” in dealing with cop discipline cases, that it trailed those responsible for Medicaid fraud recovery in almost all other states, that he thumbed his nose at campaign contribution limits, that he gave Jerome Block Jr. an overly lenient plea deal, that he was playing fast and loose with Southern New Mexico’s water, that he declined to investigate bribery allegations against a state official the feds later indicted, that his office violated the Inspection of Public Records Act, and that he had a serious conflict with a corruption case his office was prosecuting.

“King has long faced criticism for his handling of corruption cases, but the condemnation of the job he’s doing was deafening in 2011. The Santa Fe New Mexican said King should consider resigning. I slammed King after he attempted to damage my credibility and intimidate me into silence by suggesting that I colluded with Republicans to deflect criticism away from the governor and onto him.”

The criticism has continued this year. King and his office were in the news for downplaying how long they had known about allegations of embezzlement from a Santa Fe hospital. The Elephant Butte Irrigation District accused King of a “sinister” and political motive – “there are more votes north of Elephant Butte Lake, which could come in very handy in a statewide political race” – for his lawsuit that seeks to void an agreement dividing water between Southern New Mexico and El Paso. The Albuquerque Journal called King’s record as AG “woefully inadequate.”

And, finally, the Federal Election Commission ruled that King and his 2002 campaign for Congress broke federal law and FEC rules by using an electronic signature of a one-time campaign treasurer on finance reports that treasurer didn’t review.

What does that add up to? Many Democrats were slapping their foreheads when King announced on Tuesday that he’s running for governor in 2014. The comments I heard from many ranged from “Are you kidding me?” to “He’s going to have a very difficult time.”

Lots to hammer King with in TV ads

King certainly has his supporters. But, time and again, King has disappointed those in the Democratic Party who believe it needs reform. Many Democrats see a candidate who isn’t electable.


The media (including me) has judged King harshly, and that isn’t likely to change. In addition, with his record – or lack thereof – as AG, King has handed Republican Gov. Susana Martinez and her political adviser, Jay McCleskey, lots to hammer him with in TV ads.

Martinez has been bogged down lately by her own controversy about use of personal e-mail for public business and whether the Public Education Department used state resources for political purposes. But before that, her approval among voters had been well over 50 percent for her entire tenure as governor, and sometimes into the 60s. That’s almost unheard of for a Republican governor in this left-leaning state, at least in recent times.

There’s plenty of time for Martinez’s approval to evaporate or King’s record to improve before voters actually go to the polls in 2014. But King has had five and a half years to fight corruption and build up the impressive résumé an AG can… and in recent months the state’s two largest newspapers have accused him of doing the opposite.

Sure, King still has time to win some of the big public corruption cases he’s been investigating or have been awaiting trial for years. He could improve Medicaid fraud recovery. But one Democrat I said that to last night laughed in response.

King has focused much of his tenure as AG on fighting human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of children, but he may have a difficult time distinguishing himself from Martinez – a former prosecutor who put rapists and child killers in prison – on those issues.

Positioning himself with Democrats

The timing and venue of King’s announcement was questionable. He first confirmed to the public radio station KANW 89.1-FM in Albuquerque that he was running. Then he talked with some other media outlets after they heard about the radio interview.

King says he didn’t plan it. From The Associated Press:

“News of King’s gubernatorial campaign first surfaced Monday when he was asked whether he would run during a radio interview with KANW. King said he had to answer the question directly, but that his intention wasn’t to ‘take any thunder away’ from candidates currently vying for office.”

Regardless, the reality is that King announced in July – a month in which few are paying attention to politics – without a news release or news conference. He didn’t get a lot of media attention.

Meanwhile, Albuquerque TV on Tuesday gave a lot of time to the extradition of a child killer from Mexico, and most stories mentioned Martinez helping with the extradition. Even as governor, Martinez is still building a reputation as a crime fighter. Martinez, not King, won the media battle on the day King announced his gubernatorial campaign.

Then again, for King, getting into the race early probably isn’t about winning over the public. It was about positioning himself early with Democrats. King is likely to face a tough primary before he even has the chance to fight the public battle with Martinez.

Will Democrats be convinced? Time will tell.

16 thoughts on “For Gary King, a rough road lies ahead

  1. Any word on the five plus year criminal case against former Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil Giron? Between the bungled case and the alledged theft(s) how much has that cost taxpayers?


    The latest press release for Attorney General King indicates that his office has determined that their prosecution of a 36-year-old man for attempting to having sexual relations with a 17-year-old-girl is a victory, merely because they succeeded in obtaining an 18 month probation sentence in the case.

    A wise investment of time and money? YOU DECIDE… 

  3. “The pertinent question now is: Who watches the watcher?” well DurableBrad, would that be US Attorney Kenneth Gonzales? If so, don’t expect anything to happen there but do expect it (democrats not prosecuting democrats) to be used against President Obama’s Presidential campaign.


  4. As of Thursday, July 19, 2012, Attorney General King is refusing to abide by a court order involving thousands of dollars of fines for failing to release details of staff salaries in August of 2010. An appeal filed by King in response to a ruling by State District Judge Beatrice Brickhouse, can only cost taxpayers more time and money, while serving to further delay proper disclosure of the requested information under provisions of the Inspection fof Public Records Act (IPRA). 

    Is this the type of action that the public should accept from the chief agent of New Mexico government, clearly assigned with the task of properly enforcing provisions of IPRA law? 

    Mr. King’s refusal to compel other government agencies (like those in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico) to produce public records in compliance with IPRA law, appears to indicate a distinct divergence from the information presented during Mr. King’s so-called “Attorney General’s Travelling Road-Show” presented by Assistant Attorney General Mary Smith. It would appear that the internal policies of Mr. King regarding his agency’s own compliance with lPRA law, may be subject to convenient new interpretations whenever political considerations threaten to damage his credilbility.
    Too late for damage control when the damage has already been done. The pertinent question now is: Who watches the watcher?       

  5. What exactly has Attorney General Gary King’s Government Accountability Division accomplished recently?

    It appears that eight months after being presented with irrefutable evidence of improper conduct on the part of multiple public officials in Sierra County, New Mexico (many with proven financial conflicts of interest), the staff of Mr. King’s agency refuse to enforce provisions of the New Mexico Governmental Conduct Act. 

    SEE HERE: 

    So, if Mr. King is not even willing to go after the little fish, then what might voters expect from Mr. King should he become the next Governor of New Mexico?    

  6. I have no idea where to begin with what is wrong with this particular bizarre theory…

    Welcome to our world

  7. King is finished – evidently, everyone knows it up him.  Good guy, good neighbor, but no guts and no leadership.  He should plan to return to Stanley or Moriarty at the end of 2014 and keep going with his wife on her European business trips.  Balderas would be a good D candidate for Governor, particularly since he used the senate primary to position himself for it.

  8. “I think Gary King thinks Mary Herrera will deliver Bernalillo County for him.”
    Um, what?  Seriously, did you just suggest that Gary King is hoping for assistance from someone under investigation by his own office and who currently holds no office?  I have no idea where to begin with what is wrong with this particular bizarre theory…

    Why should it be legal for him” [or prior DA Martinez] “to use his” [their] “office and the power of a prosecutor this way?”
    “When our prosecutors throw aside real justice to choose cases on what benefits their next election or their political party,” …[or favors I might add]
    “And who answers for this after irreparable harm has been foisted on his victim?”
    Answer:  It definitely is not the prosecutor for they have absolute and qualified immunity for their actions and do you expect another prosecutor to prosecute another prosecutor?  Example, is the justice department going to prosecute Eric Holder?  This is why we need to repeal all laws that grant immunity to public officials when they do wrong. In this example Martinez is no different than King.

  10. With all the big scandals of the Richardson administration that King ignored for 8 years, he leaps on the email issue of Governor Martinez. Then just days afterward, King announces he is running for Governor against her. As with all of his major decisions , his personal interjection into this issue involving Martinez is a serious conflict of interest. Like he has done with other political enemies, all he has to do is is announce he is investigating them, and maybe even get a ham sandwich of an indictment, to totally ruin her.
    And there is the rub. Why should it be legal for him to use his office and the power of a prosecutor this way? We need prosecutor reform badly in New Mexico, as many other states have done. When our prosecutors throw aside real justice to choose cases on what benefits their next election or their political party, And who answers for this after irreparable harm has been foisted on his victim?
    Like QuiTam, I am very disappointed that King’s fellow prosecutor Ken Gonzales has given Gary King a pass.
    Oh, and sorry to the first commenter, but Attorney General Gary King has indeed surrounded himself with a sorry, incompetent bunch of advisers. Their advice and his decisions has led to a toxic mess.

  11. Our party’s nominee needs to be bold, offer a vision of our state’s future, and offer a real agenda on both education and economic growth.   Hector Balderas would be our best choice, but others would be almost as good.  Lawrence Rael, Brian Colon, and Richard Romero come quickly to mind as good choices if Hector Balderas does not run. 

    But boldness, vision, excellence, high standards, honesty, intelligence, running a clean Administration — one can come up with a long list of leadership qualities where Gary King comes up short.  Thus King should not be actively considered by Democratic voters.


  12. “His office, in contrast to so many, is actually pretty well staffed and competent”
    frustratedvoter:  I believe a more accurate statement would of omitted “and competent”.  His staff competence is equal to the AG himself.  Very low.  Truth is hard to find in the AG’s office.  Phil Sisneros is a disgrace and brings more into question King’s competence for allowing Sisneros to remain employed!!

  13. After the Santa Fe New Mexican called for his resignation, I thought Gary King might have woken up. The political advertisements that will run against him and his record are all but infinite. This is the worst thing to happen to the Democrats since Mary Herrera. Has she been criminally charged yet? And what about Vigil-Giron’s five year trial or is that some sort of gift to the attorney’s salaries?

    US Attorney Kenneth Gonzales, are you seriously going to ignore Gary King’s campaign finance scandals?

  14. I could have voted for King for Governor a decade ago.  He’s smart, likeable, and I personal prefer the non-flashy, low-hype and sensation style.  But, given his inability to raise his head at all throughout the tenure of the most corrupt administration in the history of the state makes it impossible for me to consider doing so.  Sure, he’s apparently willing to go after the email scandal of the existing administration (and potentially future political opponent), but that just means he’s either more partisan or less courageous than I’d hoped and believed.  Too bad.  His office, in contrast  to so many, is actually pretty well staffed and competent.  It had to be choice.

    I guess this is the part where the promoter posts his thousand word Balderas infomercial…