FARMINGTON — Democratic candidate for governor of New Mexico Gary King made a Friday evening appearance in Farmington to lend a hand to a group of women and discuss education and the economy.

Members of the San Juan County Democrats held the event for the state Attorney General King in the back room of Chef Bernie's Fine Foods on West Main Street, where about 50 county residents waited to hear his stance on a number of issues.

King and his running mate Deb Haaland are running against Republican Governor Susana Martinez and Lt. Governor John Sanchez in the November general election.

King said he has traveling across the state forming groups called "Women for King/Haaland" and trying to build membership.

Gordon Glass Jr. meets and talks with Bob Culpepper, of Farmington, on Friday during a "Women for King" candidate meet and greet at Chef
Gordon Glass Jr. meets and talks with Bob Culpepper, of Farmington, on Friday during a "Women for King" candidate meet and greet at Chef Bernie's Fine Foods in Farmington. (Alexa Rogals The Daily Times)

"We recognize how important women are in the election process," King said. "We're trying to build an organization that has thousands of women talking and supporting Gary King and Deb Haaland."

King's speech focused on education and how he believes education reform in the state could lead to job growth and an improved economy.

"I think (school districts) are struggling with the load placed on them with the standardized testing regime that is being forced on them," King said.

"If we have a good education system in New Mexico, it'll drive a better economy, it'll give young people more job opportunities when they graduate," King said.

King said it was really important for him to change the direction of education in the state.

King said he would not include students' performance on Standards Based Grading tests in the state evaluation system for teachers, as the Martinez administration has done, and he said he would find a replacement for Hanna Skandera, secretary-designate of the New Mexico Public Education Department.

Chris Sanchez, spokesman for Governor Martinez's reelection campaign, said in an email that it was ironic King would host a campaign event focused on women when a link to an article shared on King's campaign Facebook page Friday contained an image of Martinez's head Photoshopped onto the image of the "Wicked Witch of the West" from the film "The Wizard of Oz."

The article, shared from the website dailyloco.com, was titled "We MUST Fight: 4 More Reasons NOT To Vote For Susana Martinez."

King said he was unaware of the post and would talk to his staff after leaving the meeting about it.

Resident MP Schildmeyer said she was eager to see how King came across in person and how he would respond to questions about the lawsuit filed against him by female employees of the attorney general's office charging pay discrimination. However, there was no public question and answer period. King gave his speech and then had private conversations with the people at the meeting.

Two members of lawsuit settled out of court in 2012 and plaintiff Lesley Lowe's case was dismissed in April by a federal judge.

J Spotted Eagle said she wanted to know about his views on the environment and issues facing women and children.

"I want clean water and clean air," Spotted Eagle said. "I have great-grandchildren I want to see survive."

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 and jkellogg@daily-times.com. Follow him @jkelloggdt on Twitter.