Susana Martinez (born July 14, 1959) is an American politician and attorney who is the 31st Governor of New Mexico and was the chairwoman of the Republican Governors Association. A Republican, Martinez was elected governor on November 2, 2010, and sworn into office on January 1, 2011. She is the first woman to be elected governor of New Mexico, and the first Hispanic woman governor in the United States.
Born in El Paso, Texas, Martinez is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma College of Law. After graduating from college, and being admitted to the State Bar of New Mexico, she began her career as an assistant district attorney for New Mexico's 3rd Judicial District in Las Cruces in 1986. She was appointed deputy district attorney in 1992. She joined the Republican Party and ran for District Attorney for the 3rd Judicial District in Doña Ana County, New Mexico, in 1996, defeating her former boss. She served three terms as district attorney from 1997 to 2011.
After incumbent Governor Bill Richardson was term limited, Martinez declared her candidacy for the governorship. She won a five-candidate Republican primary and went on to defeat the former Lieutenant Governor of New Mexico Diane Denish with 53% of the vote in the general election. Four years later, she was re-elected in a landslide against Attorney General Gary King. She is the first woman to be elected governor of New Mexico and the first Hispanic female governor in the United States. In 2013, Martinez was named one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people in the world.
Early life, education, and early career
Susana Martinez was born on July 14, 1959, in El Paso, Texas. She was brought up in a middle-class family of Mexican descent. Her father, Jacobo Martinez, was a boxer for the U.S. Marines during the Korean War, and won three straight Golden Gloves titles in the 1950s. He served as a deputy sheriff for El Paso County.. Her mother, Paula Aguirre, worked in various offices. Susana Martinez has two siblings, a sister and a brother. Martinez is the legal guardian and caretaker of her older sister, Lettie, who has cerebral palsy and is developmentally disabled. Martinez is a great-granddaughter of Mexican Revolutionary General Toribio Ortega.
Martinez attended Riverside High School in El Paso, where she was student body president. An honors student, she graduated in 1977. She earned her bachelor's degree in criminal justice from the University of Texas at El Paso. While at UTEP, she worked for her father's security guard company. Martinez patrolled a parking lot of a Catholic bingo hall and has said she carried a Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum while on the job. In 1981, Martinez pursued her J.D. degree from the University of Oklahoma College of Law and graduated in 1986.
District Attorney's office
Assistant and deputy
Martinez was Assistant District Attorney for the 3rd Judicial District, serving Doña Ana County, New Mexico, from 1986 to 1992. As Assistant District Attorney, she developed a specialty in the office of working with sexually abused children and developing a multidisciplinary team (that included help for victims). She participated in seminars related to domestic violence and sexual offenses, rapes and women and children. The district attorney for whom she worked, Doug Driggers, promoted her to Deputy District Attorney.
Martinez was dismissed, but later returned, and was again appointed as Deputy District Attorney. She helped campaign for Driggers as he was running for a third term as District Attorney. Driggers lost the Democratic primary election to Gregory Valdez, a defense attorney. Martinez was fired by Valdez shortly after his victory in the general election. Valdez claims that he fired Martinez because of she had missed key timelines in a case. Martinez filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against Valdez and was awarded an out-of-court settlement of $100,000 to $120,000. She later twice defeated Valdez in the general election for District Attorney with approximate 18-point and 20-point wins, respectively.
Martinez was first elected district attorney in the 3rd Judicial District in 1996 with nearly 60% of the vote. She was re-elected three more times.
As a prosecutor, Martinez focused on cases involving public corruption and child abuse. She worked to pass legislation to expand Katie's Law to "require a DNA sample for all felony arrests." During her first term as governor, she signed the expansion bill into law in April 2011.
Governor of New Mexico (2011–present)
With 51% of the vote in a five-way contest, Martinez won the Republican nomination for governor of New Mexico in the primary election on June 1, 2010. Martinez defeated PR firm owner Doug Turner, State Representative Janice Arnold-Jones, Pete Domenici, Jr. (son of the former U.S. Senator Pete Domenici), and former Republican Party state chairman Allen Weh. During the primary campaign, Martinez was endorsed by former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.
With 53% of the vote, Martinez defeated Diane Denish, then lieutenant governor of New Mexico in the general election on November 2, 2010. One element of her platform was to secure the Mexico–United States border from illegal immigrants. Martinez defeated Denish by over 40,605 votes; she received 321,219 votes to Denish's 280,614 votes. The Martinez v. Denish race, and the simultaneous Mary Fallin v. Jari Askins race in Oklahoma, were the third and fourth cases of gubernatorial races in U.S. history in which two women were competitors (since the elections of Kay Orr in Nebraska in 1986 and Linda Lingle in Hawaii in 2002). Each of the victors was the Republican woman candidate.
On October 15, 2013, Martinez declared she would run for re-election. At the time of her announcement, she had already raised over $2.2 million in campaign contributions, nearly five times the amount of any of her challengers in the gubernatorial Democratic Primary.
Martinez faced no Republican primary opposition. On November 4, 2013, Gary King was the nominee chosen by voters in the Democratic primary to challenge Martinez; he received 35% in a five-way race. On November 4, 2014, Martinez defeated King in the election to win re-election with 57% of the vote.
When Martinez took office, she set out a budget proposal for fiscal year 2012 and 2013, as well as establishing a moratorium on all state vehicle purchases until 2012. She barred all state agencies from hiring former lobbyists.
On January 31, 2011, Martinez signed an executive order rescinding sanctuary status for illegal immigrants who commit crimes in New Mexico.
Martinez counts among her legislative victories: "the cap on film [tax] credits; a bill that would exempt locomotive fuel from state gross-receipts tax; and an expansion of Katie's Law, which will require law-enforcement officials to obtain DNA samples from all suspects booked on felony charges". She supported and signed a bill that will "assign schools the grades of A to F based on student achievement and other factors, such as high-school graduation rates. Martinez described her push for education reforms as 'a hard-fought battle against those who continued to defend the status quo'". In April 2011, Martinez signed the expansion bill on Katie's Law.
In 2011, the Supreme Court of New Mexico ruled twice against actions by Martinez. "In January, the court unanimously decided that Martinez acted improperly when she requested the state's records administrator delay publishing greenhouse-gas emissions rules that the state Environmental Improvement Board approved shortly before she took office." In addition, a unanimous court ruled on April 13, 2011, that "Gov. Susana Martinez lacked authority to arbitrarily remove two members of the state Public Employee Labor Relations Board."
During 2011, Martinez attended her first "Tribal-State Summit," as required by New Mexico, in which the governor meets annually with the 22 recognized tribes. The topics of discussion for 2011 were tribal economic development and infrastructure; health care; natural resources, water, and education.
Martinez has pushed for an increase in private investment to complete the US$212 million state-funded Spaceport America project. In order to drive the new effort, Gov. Martinez appointed an entirely new board of directors to oversee the Spaceport Authority. In 2012, Martinez sold the state's luxury jet, which she called "the ultimate symbol of waste and excess"; it sold for $2.51 million.
The 2012 Las Conchas Fire, the second largest wildfire in state history, required emergency actions. Martinez issued a state of emergency to control the use of fireworks. After the Las Conchas Fire burned to within miles of Los Alamos National Laboratory, Martinez made the removal of radioactive waste a top priority. The fire destroyed trees and vegetation that normally absorb waters; in their absence, the state was subject to flooding, and Martinez asked the Obama administration for federal relief funding.
In 2012 the chief medical officer for the New Mexico Department of Health and the deputy secretary both resigned. The individuals allege that Martinez ordered their termination for promoting birth control to the public. Martinez and the New Mexico Department of Health denied any connection between the resignations and an interview concerning condom use.
Many Republicans speculated as to whether Martinez would be the vice presidential nominee on the Republican ticket in 2012 and 2016, but she said numerous times that she would not run.
On May 15, 2012, as a result of the Whitewater-Baldy Complex Fire, Martinez declared the entire state of New Mexico to be in a drought. Martinez issued the formal drought declaration to enable farmers, ranchers, and others secure federal drought funding. Martinez stated that "As a result of this fire, small businesses are unquestionably feeling the impact." She encouraged them to apply for SBA loans. On June 8, Martinez declared Catron County, New Mexico, to be in a state of emergency. The declaration made funds available for both state and local response to the fire, and for community needs.
At the 2012 Tribal-State Summit, Martinez discussed water rights, natural resources, education, and tribal economic development and infrastructure. In the presence of Navajo President Ben Shelly, as well as several members of the Navajo Nation Council, Martinez announced that Central Consolidated School District will remain intact.
On March 29, Governor Martinez vetoed a raise in the state minimum wage, citing that the raise was higher than neighboring states.
As of May 2014, job losses in New Mexico had accelerated during the previous 12 months, making it one of two states in the nation to lose jobs. For the 12 months ending in April 2014, the state reported a net loss of 4,400 jobs, according to the state's Department of Workforce Solutions. The state has been affected by the reduction in spending and employment by the federal government. The sector lost 1,100 jobs during the period. New Mexico has been 50th in job growth since Martinez took office. Martinez has said that tax cuts enacted during her tenure make the state more competitive in attracting manufacturing jobs. The state was among the finalists for a new Tesla battery plant. She also says that infrastructure investments at the entry port of Santa Teresa will generate transportation and manufacturing jobs.
On November 7, 2015, The Santa Fe New Mexican revealed that the FBI was conducting an investigation into Martinez’s fundraising activities, going back to her first run for governor. The investigation was focused on activities of Martinez's chief political consultant Jay McCleskey. Four months later, in March 2016, the investigation was terminated and no charges were ever filed.
On December 13, 2015, staff at the El Dorado Hotel in Santa Fe, New Mexico, called police concerning a noisy party on the 4th floor of the hotel, where guests were throwing bottles off the balcony. They said they already had warned the guests after complaints from other hotel guests about the noise. Governor Martinez, members of her family, and some of her staff were attending the party. The Santa Fe police released a 911 tape, on which Governor Martinez is heard repeatedly asking who made the complaint, and telling the police dispatcher that the investigation of the noise complaint should be, "called off," saying that officers were not needed. News outlets, politicians, hotel security, and police raised questions about the governor's sobriety during the incident. A responding Santa Fe Police officer had a belt recording that captured both police and hotel security referring to the governor as "inebriated."
Using a provision of Obamacare requiring the freeze of Medicaid payments to healthcare providers when a credible allegation of fraud exists, the New Mexico Human Services Department suspended payments to 15 behavioral health organizations after Attorney General Gary King accepted the Departments referrals. The subsequent investigations, completed years later by Attorney General Hector Balderas uncovered record keeping discrepancies at each organization, but did not find "an intentional pattern of fraud." Some of the organizations shut down because they were not able to sustain operations without Medicaid funds and were replaced by La Frontera, an Arizona-based company.
Polling and opinion
In an April 2012 edition of the Washington Post, Martinez was named 8th most-popular governor in the United States. According to a Public Opinion Strategies survey conducted in 2013 for Martinez's campaign, Martinez had one of the highest approval ratings among US governors.
In May 2013, Martinez had an approval rating of 66%. More than 44% of New Mexico's Democrats say they approve of her.
A January 2014 poll conducted by Research and Polling Inc., an Albuquerque-based pollster, on behalf of Common Cause New Mexico, ranked Martinez's approval rating at 55 percent.
An October 2016 poll showed a strong drop in approval ratings to 39%, with a disapproval rating of 49%.
Martinez had grown up as a Democrat, but switched to the Republican Party in 1995.
On August 29, 2012, Martinez gave a speech to the Republican National Convention, and described her decision to switch parties. She said that Republican friends had taken her to lunch to try to persuade her to switch parties. She had attended to be polite, but by the end of the luncheon, which her husband also attended, she had changed her mind. She told the convention, "When we left that lunch, we got in the car, and I looked over at Chuck and said, 'I'll be damned – we're Republicans.'"
Martinez supports a balanced budget and lower government spending. She favors putting taxpayer money into a rainy day fund, and refunding taxpayers to attempt to stimulate growth. Martinez is pro-life and is opposed to elective abortion. Martinez is personally opposed to same-sex marriage, but she accepted the New Mexico Supreme Court's opinion in Griego v. Oliver, which legalized same-sex marriage in New Mexico. She has no record on civil unions.
Martinez opposes New Mexico's medical marijuana program, but has indicated that repealing the existing law is not a priority. Martinez opposes portions of the Affordable Care Act, such as the individual mandate, but does not support repeal of the law in its entirety. She supported expansion of Medicaid in her state as part of health care reform. She also supports Common Core education standards.
In November 2015, Martinez said she opposed the Obama administration's plans to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees to the U.S. until development of procedures for background-checking and resettlement of the refugees.
Martinez met her first husband in Norman, Oklahoma, where they were both attending law school. The couple moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico, in the mid-1980s, but divorced three years later. She met her current husband, Chuck Franco, in Las Cruces, where they both worked in law enforcement. He has been a law enforcement officer for more than 30 years and served as the Doña Ana County Undersheriff. Martinez has one stepson, Carlo, who served in the U.S. Navy with United States Naval Special Operations.
On September 9, 2011, Martinez said she knew that her paternal grandparents, Adolfo Martinez and Francisca Ortega, had immigrated to the United States from Mexico "without documents." They appeared to have followed the rules at the time.
Awards and honors
- 2010 – State Bar of New Mexico named Martinez "Prosecutor of the Year"
- 2013 – Time magazine named Martinez to their 100 most influential people in the world list
|New Mexico gubernatorial election, 2014
Majority: 73,913 (14.68%)
|New Mexico gubernatorial primary election, 2014||Republican
Majority: 67,127 (100%)
|New Mexico gubernatorial election, 2010
|Republican win (gain)
Majority: 40,605 (6%)
|New Mexico gubernatorial primary election, 2010
Majority: 28,279 (23%)
|Pete Domenici, Jr.||Republican||8,630||7%|
|3rd Judicial District General Election, 2008||Republican hold
Majority: 45,098 (100%)
|3rd Judicial District General Election, 2004
Majority: 9,225 (20%)
|3rd Judicial District General Election, 2000
Majority: 1972 (4%)
|Kent E. Yalkut||Democratic||13,871||48%|
|3rd Judicial District General Election, 1996
|Republican win (gain)
Majority: 7,505 (18%)