Susana Martinez Biography

U.S. Governor (1959–)
Republican New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez is best known for her role as the nation's first female Hispanic governor.


Susana Martinez was born on July 14, 1959 in El Paso, Texas, and was raised in a middle-class family. She went on to study law and became a district attorney in New Mexico. In 2010, she ran for and became New Mexico's first female governor, as well as the nation's first female Hispanic governor. There was speculation that Martinez would be chosen as a the Republican vice-presidential candidate to run alongside Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election, but Martinez said she would refuse the position and was not selected in the end.

Early Life

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez was born on July 14, 1959 in El Paso, Texas. Her father was an amateur boxer who won three Golden Gloves titled in the 1950s. He also served as a deputy sheriff for El Paso County, Texas.

When she graduated from Riverside High School in El Paso in 1977, Martinez was among the top students in her class. She went on to earn her bachelor's degree from the University of Texas at El Paso in 1981, and her Juris Doctor degree from the University of Oklahoma College of Law in 1986.

In the mid-1980s, Martinez moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico, and served as an assistant district attorney for the 3rd Judicial District in Doña Ana County, New Mexico, from 1986 to 1992—the year she was fired as a result of a potential conflict of interest. She was in a relationship with Chuck Franco, a Doña Ana County undersheriff who would later become her husband. Then-District Attorney Greg Valdez claimed that Martinez brought into the office a case that Franco was working on and fired her. In 1997, when Martinez became the district attorney and Franco was a magistrate judge, the two said that there would be no conflict of interest, as Franco would recuse himself from all cases involving the D.A.'s office. She has been re-elected to the position three times since 1997.

Political Career

Martinez was a Democrat until 1995, when she changed membership and joined the Republican Party. She won the Republican nomination for governor of New Mexico in the June 1, 2010 primary election, with 51 percent of the vote in a five-way contest: She defeated State Representative Janice Arnold-Jones, former Republican Party State Chairman Allen Weh, Pete Domenici Jr. (son of former New Mexico U.S. Senator Pete Domenici) and Doug Turner, owner of a public relations firm. She was also endorsed by former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

In the general election in November 2010, Martinez faced Diane Denish, who had been the state's lieutenant governor. Among elements of Martinez's platform was securing the United States-Mexico border from illegal immigrants. In September 2011, Martinez said that she did not know whether her paternal grandparents had immigrated from Mexico illegally. Further research revealed that they had followed the rules of entry at that time, and that Martinez is the great-granddaughter of Mexican Revolutionary General Toribio Ortega.

The Martinez-Denish race was the third case in United States history in which two women vied for the same gubernatorial seat. Martinez's victory made her the first female governor of New Mexico, and the first female Hispanic governor in the country.

In 2012, as the United States presidential race began to heat up, there was speculation as to whether Martinez would be Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's pick for vice president. The governor had stated several times, however, that she would not run. In a May 2012 Newsweek article, author Andrew Romano said that Martinez "may be the boldest, savviest vice-presidential pick Mitt Romney could make."

Romano goes on to say, "To thrive in the years ahead, Republicans must do a better job of appealing to three kinds of people: women, Latinos, Westerners. Simply put, the GOP needs to become less of a Mitt Romney party and more of a Susana Martinez party."

Even Martinez sort of agreed with the sentiment that Romney is somewhat out of touch, criticizing his immigration strategy and saying that she has "no doubt Hispanics have been alienated during this campaign." But Martinez's reason for continually saying "no" to the possibility of running on the Republican vice-presidential ticket is convincing. She told the Albuquerque Journal in April 2012 that her responsibility as a guardian for her developmentally disabled sister, Lettie, in Las Cruces is one that she can't bring to the nation's capital, "regardless of who calls." Family, she said, has to be a consideration. "I just couldn't do it," she said of separating her sister from the family in New Mexico.

Despite rumors about Martinez's potential vice-presidential nod, Romney announced U.S. Republican Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate for vice president in August 2012.

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