GOP sees rising star in New Mexico

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (R) is becoming a fundraising force, the latest sign of her rising importance within the Republican Party.

Martinez hauled in $220,000 for her reelection campaign at a Washington, D.C., fundraiser on Tuesday that was attended by many powerful GOP donors — as well as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus.

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The governor raised the money even though she appears ready to stroll to reelection in 2014. Martinez sports some of the best poll numbers in the country despite holding office in a Democratic-leaning state, with two thirds of New Mexico voters approving of the job she’s doing in a recent SurveyUSA poll.

Martinez brings some rare assets to the GOP.

She’s the nation’s only female Hispanic governor, two demographics Republicans have struggled with in recent presidential elections. She also has an appealing personal story as a former Democrat with a law enforcement background.

All that’s made her an emerging party leader despite New Mexico’s low profile.

“What appeals to me about Susana is she doesn't posture, doesn't engage in harsh rhetoric, she just says what she's going to do and does it,” said technology executive Bobbie Kilberg, who along with her husband hosted the fundraising event.

Kilberg, an early Martinez backer who was co-chairman of Mitt Romney’s national finance committee, has been a major party fundraiser for years. She said that during Martinez’s first campaign it was nearly impossible to convince out-of-state donors to back her — but that things have changed.

“Raising that money was easy lifting,” Kilberg said in reference to the $220,000 haul. “People that contribute money to candidates are sick and tired of people just pontificating and going at each other. We want people who can actually govern and get things done.”

The governor has spent relatively little time on the national circuit, though her speech at last year’s Republican National Convention was well received.

But there are signs she’s moving to raise her profile.

The Washington trip comes after a recent fundraising swing to Texas, and she’s slated to give the keynote speech at the Ohio Republican Party’s annual dinner in June.

Martinez has repeatedly ruled out a bid for president, however. She told Fox News’s Greta Van Susteren on Tuesday that she had “zero” interest in running, and has previously said her responsibility as legal guardian of her developmentally disabled sister precludes her from considering a move to D.C.

“The governor has been very clear about this — she feels she's been entrusted by the people of New Mexico with a charge to enact reform and she has committed to fulfilling the promises she's made to the electorate,” said a top Martinez adviser. “She's seeking reelection in 2014 and intends to fulfill her term should she be fortunate enough to serve as governor of the state.”

New Mexico Attorney General Gary King (D) and state Sen. Linda Lopez (D) have announced challenges to Martinez.

Some Republicans are hoping Martinez will reconsider — or at least be willing to listen to potential entreaties from the eventual nominee in 2016 about sharing the ticket.

“She's the future of the GOP. I know she’s said no to 2016 but she should keep her options open, the party really needs her. She's the type of candidate who can bring the whole party together,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell. “She plugs every hole we've got as a party, and she's got a record to match.”

Those close to Martinez say her lack of interest in the White House is real. But that doesn’t mean the buzz about a national bid won’t continue.

“To a person, even in just very private meetings, all they're focused on is winning reelection next year in New Mexico and focused on governing New Mexico right now,” said Washington-based consultant and lobbyist Lee Cowen, who’s on her national finance committee. “Will other people talk about her for potential higher office? Absolutely … she's getting talked about more and more.”