By The Hill Staff - 10/24/12 09:00 AM EDT
GOV. SUSANA MARTINEZ
GOP GOVERNOR OF NEW MEXICO
As the nation’s first female Hispanic governor, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (R) has the potential to help her party with two populations it’s long struggled with.
She’s also a popular conservative governor in a liberal-leaning state, a talented retail politician and a former Democrat with a strong appeal to independent voters.
Martinez’s potential — and her easy charm — was on full display at this year’s Republican National Convention, at which she was given the coveted slot of introducing vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan. She delivered, with a well-received speech interweaving her personal story of conversion to the GOP with attacks on President Obama’s record.
She’s just as popular at home, where multiple polls show her approval rating greater than 60 percent in a state where the Republican brand is unpopular. Martinez was on many Republicans’ shortlist for vice presidential nominee, but she insisted she’d turn down the job because she needs to stay in New Mexico to take care of her mentally disabled sister.
Martinez grew up in a lower-middle-class Democratic household in El Paso, Texas, and became a Republican in 1995 before her first run for office. She’s a social and fiscal conservative and big supporter of gun rights, but the governor has shown a fierce independent streak.
In recent months she has criticized GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney for his comments on immigrant self-deportation, warned that the party had alienated Hispanics during its primary, and chided the White House hopeful for his “47 percent” remark. But she has nonetheless campaigned for Romney, most recently appearing in Nevada.
Martinez insists she’s not interested in running for higher office. But she’s respected by her party’s conservatives and loved by Republicans worried about the party’s Hispanic problem — and her star will likely continue to rise within the GOP.
— Cameron Joseph