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Governor Susana Martinez

Governor of New Mexico (2011-2018)

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The first Hispanic female governor in American history, Susana Martinez has an inspiring personal story that proves the power and promise of the American Dream.  As Martinez strongly believes, “En America, todo es posible!”

Growing up along the nation’s southern border in a law enforcement family, Martinez became her county’s top criminal prosecutor, where she specialized throughout her career in prosecuting child abuse, child homicide and sexual abuse cases.  Martinez was twice elected governor in New Mexico by wide margins in a blue, majority-minority state – the first woman to hold the position.  A hard-charging education reformer and budget hawk, Martinez is an optimistic leader who worked with Republicans and Democrats alike to put the state’s fiscal house in order and usher in a true economic turnaround in New Mexico.

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In Their Own Words: Susana Martinez


In 2010, Susana Martinez was elected governor of the State of New Mexico. She became New Mexico’s first female governor and the first Hispanic female governor in the history of the United States. Prior to being elected governor, Martinez was a prosecutor for 25 years along the nation’s southern border and served as Doña Ana County’s elected district attorney for over half that time. As her county’s top criminal prosecutor, she specialized throughout her career in child abuse and sexual abuse cases.

A hard-charging education reformer and budget hawk, Martinez is an optimistic conservative leader who worked with Republicans and Democrats alike to put the state’s fiscal house in order, raise academic standards and graduation rates, and usher in a true economic turnaround in New Mexico. As governor, she prioritized keeping New Mexico’s communities safe, ensuring all students receive a high-quality education, and diversifying and growing the state’s economy.

In 2014, Governor Martinez won re-election in New Mexico by the largest margin of any Republican gubernatorial candidate in modern history, earning substantial support from Democratic and Independent voters in rural and urban areas alike. She served alongside a Democratically-controlled Legislature throughout her time in office, with the exception of a two-year period of Republican control of one chamber.

She has been named to Time Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential People in the World and served as a Chairman and long-time executive committee member of the Republican Governors Association (RGA). During her chairmanship, she broke RGA fundraising records and, at the conclusion of her term, Republicans held the greatest number of gubernatorial offices in U.S. history.

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During her time in office, Susana Martinez’s legislative chambers were controlled by the other party, except for a two year period of one chamber. Every bill she has ever signed into law has been bipartisan. She focused on the priorities that made her state a better place to live, work, and raise a family – like growing the economy, strengthening school performance, and prioritizing public safety. Working in a bipartisan manner is the key to enacting good policy. Drawing on her experience as a two-term, Hispanic governor of a majority-minority state, Susana Martinez shares her unique perspective on America’s future. A former Democrat who once famously remarked to her husband, “I’ll be damned, we’re Republicans!”, Susana comfortably channels the aspirations and frustrations of the American people in calling for an elevated and results-oriented discourse on the topics that so easily divide our country today. Rejecting tribalism and political labels, Susana urges a renewed, bipartisan focus on the issues that have, for decades, been emblematic of American excellence and leadership in the world: a dynamic and innovative economy, a strong well-trained military, an unbending commitment to democratic values and human rights, and an opportunity for every child to receive a quality education and live the same American Dream that she has been blessed to experience.

A budget hawk with no patience for government excess, Susana Martinez turned a record-setting budget deficit into a record-setting surplus as New Mexico’s governor – cutting taxes and fees more than 60 times, vetoing a billion dollars in tax increases, cutting wasteful spending, and restraining government growth. Susana shares the budget-making philosophy that helped her energy-rich state weather a crash in energy prices, contributed to a more welcoming business environment, and set New Mexico on a course toward greater economic diversification. The only A+ rated governor on the Cato Institute’s Fiscal Report Card in 2018, Susana explains how strong fiscal leadership is necessary to drive innovation in government, limit corruption, and re-focus priorities.


As a 25-year criminal prosecutor along New Mexico’s southern border and a Hispanic governor who collaborated with the leaders of Mexican states to plan and begin building a cross-border binational community, Susana Martinez is uniquely suited to speak to the American possibilities and responsibilities in our relationship with Mexico. She brings a sense of reason, nuance, and context when discussing the ever-polarizing subject of immigration, arguing with great conviction that properly securing the border does not conflict with – and, in fact, helps facilitate – an increasingly vital economic partnership with countries south of the border and a more welcoming and fair immigration system for all. Whether it’s working with Chihuahua’s governor to find and extradite two accused child killers from New Mexico who were hiding in Mexico, fighting a years-long battle to end the practice of issuing a standard New Mexico driver’s license to those in the country illegally, or driving New Mexico’s export growth through the southern border to record highs, Susana Martinez has a grounded and important perspective to share about what the future holds on one of the most important policy frontiers of our time.

For Susana Martinez, the American Dream is the story of her life. A little girl who grew up along the southern border and packed a Smith & Wesson 357 Magnum as a security guard at the age of 18 for her parent’s small business, Susana went to law school, became a well-known prosecutor and advocate for abused children and sexual abuse survivors, and was later elected New Mexico’s first female governor and the first Hispanic female governor in our nation’s history. She passionately defends the notion that the promise of America must always be the possibility of a better life and brighter tomorrow – and discusses threats to this promise that we must confront today. Due in part to her youthful sass, Susana was dubbed “la abogadita” or “little lawyer” by her grandmother – foretelling her successful career in law enforcement as an elected district attorney. Her father served in the Marine Corps and was a Golden Gloves boxing champion, and her great grandfather served as a general under Pancho Villa and fired the first shots of the Mexican Revolution. Courage and determination is in her blood, and serving others has been her life’s calling. Hear her inspiring story and moving perspective on how to ensure that every child has the opportunity to live their own American Dream.

As a former prosecutor for over 25 years who specialized in prosecuting child abuse, sexual assault and child homicide cases, Governor Martinez made fighting crime a top priority. From increasing pay for law enforcement officers and corrections officers to cracking down on DWI to strong reforms targeting child abuse, Governor Martinez passed a wide array of crime-fighting measures. These initiatives include: Prosecuting  Katie Sepich’s killer and fighting as District Attorney for the original Katie’s Law.  As Governor, Martinez expanded Katie’s Law to require DNA samples from those arrested for all felonies, which has matched DNA to over 1400 cases, helping to capture criminals including murderers and rapists.  Signed Racheal’s Law, legislation that protects victims of sexual assault from their abusers by allowing courts to grant permanent restraining orders against convicted sexual predators and  fought for and secured $1.2 million in the FY17 budget to begin clearing the backlog of over 5,000 evidence kits from sexual assaults and cracked down on repeat offenders. Governor Martinez fights to close the revolving door for repeat offenders and strengthen the criteria for those released after arrest to protect communities from repeat offenders and ensure appearances of those accused.

Governor Martinez believes education is the key to every child being able to chase his or her dreams. She believes every child can learn and that reforms must focus on improving student achievement in the classroom.  Governor Martinez implemented bold education reforms to raise academic standards, improve student learning and school performance, and close persistent achievement gaps. On her watch, New Mexico’s graduation rate increased 10 percentage points – to an all-time high of 74 percent, fewer graduating students needed to take remedial courses in college, she expanded advanced placement opportunities to an all-time high, expanded early college high schools, and the four-year college graduation rate at the state’s flagship university doubled. Governor Martinez strongly supports vocational education as an alternative. Governor Martinez raised the salaries of starting teachers, significantly increased funding for – and participation in – Pre-K programs and other early childhood education initiatives, expanded literacy programs and tutoring for at-risk students, and launched new teacher and principal mentoring programs that improved classroom instruction and student performance.