FARMINGTON — Education took center stage as community members asked Gov. Susana Martinez questions during a campaign kick-off event Wednesday evening at the San Juan County Republican Party headquarters in Farmington.
The event was announced as a campaign kick-off on the county Republican Party's Facebook page.
Martinez will face Democratic challenger Gary King, who is currently the New Mexico attorney general, in the general election in November. King won Tuesday's primary election with about 35 percent of the vote. King could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
More than 60 people attended Wednesday's town hall-style meeting, which opened with a statement from Martinez and was followed by questions from the attendees. During the meeting, Martinez mostly touted what she called her administration's accomplishments in her first term as governor.
One resident said New Mexico Secretary of Education Hanna Skandera is not qualified for her post. Martinez appointed Skandera to the position in December 2010, and Skandera has yet to be confirmed by the state's Senate.
Martinez responded with a brief work history of Skandera, who has worked for state education systems in California and Florida before being appointed to her current post.
"She is very qualified," Martinez said.
Another topic broached at the meeting was the Common Core standards. One man, who didn't identify himself, said his grandson is excelling beyond the curriculum for his class, but teachers can't help him because of Common Core policies.
"That is incorrect," Martinez said.
She added Skandera has been meeting with educators from throughout the state to help them understand that Common Core standards can be used to help excelling students.
"Advancement is possible," she said.
Wednesday's event was organized to bring county Republicans back together after some campaigned against each other during the primary election, said Pat Cordell, the San Juan County Republican Party chairman, at the beginning of the event.
"Let's use this as a stepping stone to unify the county again," he said.
In her opening remarks, Martinez said she has balanced the state's budget and has had surpluses the past three years. Martinez said she achieved that by working with Democrats and Republicans in the state Legislature.
"We did it day-by-day, together, Republicans and Democrats," she said.
When it comes to energy, Martinez said the process to obtain drilling permits on state lands has been reduced to eight days, but she plans to continue working with the Bureau of Land Management to make the leasing process more efficient for companies that drill for oil or natural gas on federal public lands.
"We are trying really hard to work with them," she said.Erny Zah is The Daily Times business editor. He can be reached at 505-564-4638.and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @ernyzah on Twitter.