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Governor finds a high-powered fan

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Gov. Susana Martinez – up for re-election in November – has said she has no interest in running for president or even vice president in 2016 but, if she changes her mind, she’ll have a high-powered backer in her corner.

Tom Ridge, the nation’s first secretary of Homeland Security and former Republican governor of Pennsylvania, told me last week in Washington that he’d like to see Martinez run for president, or at least be on a presidential ticket.

“I’m a huge fan,” said Ridge, who now runs a security consulting firm in Washington. “I think she ought to be on the national ticket. I think she is a very, very attractive candidate.”

A moderate Republican who recently dropped his opposition to gay marriage, Ridge has been spending time over the past year trying to convince fellow Republicans that the party has become too extreme and needs to move back to the middle of the political spectrum to win elections.

Ridge is no fan of President Obama, but he is not enthused about Republican Sens. Rand Paul or Ted Cruz, either, although both are generating a fair amount of excitement as potential presidential candidates in certain wings of the Republican Party.

“I’m done with a senator in the White House,” Ridge said. “They don’t know how to make executive decisions, grow anything, lead anything or transform anything. I think our party needs to get away from some of the wackadoodles over there in the Senate and get back to people who make real tough and important decisions.”

Ridge knows a few things about presidential and vice presidential politics. He was on short lists as a possible running mate for both George W. Bush in 2000 and Sen. John McCain in 2008.

In 2008, many Republicans also urged him to run for president himself. Ridge served in the U.S. House from 1983 until 1995, when he left to serve two terms as governor. He’s never lost an election.

Asked what he finds so appealing about Martinez, Ridge cited her commitment to her current job.

“A lot of these governors get Potomac fever from the state capitols and spend a lot of time moving in and out (of Washington) and position themselves, like (New Jersey Gov. Chris) Christy, (Wisconsin Gov. Scott) Walker and (Ohio Gov. John) Kasich,” he said. “That’s predictable but she has not done that.

“She has taken her responsibilities as governor … and that’s where her primary focus has been,” Ridge continued. “I really commend that. She’s not running around trying to create a national image. But I think she could create one very easily because she’s been a very effective governor and I think she’s a breath of fresh air for our party.”

Finally, Ridge said if Martinez decides she wants to seek the biggest political promotion possible – assuming she is re-elected later this year – he’d be happy to lend her his extensive network of GOP power brokers and fundraisers.

“If she wants to move, I’d be happy to escort her,” Ridge said. “I think she’s a very talented lady.”

• • •

Speaking of promotions, Damon Martinez’s nomination to become New Mexico’s next U.S. attorney got a big boost last week when the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to send his name to the full Senate for consideration.

Martinez has served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney since 2001. His professional experience is most concentrated in national security and anti-terrorism, immigration and narcotics cases.

U.S. Attorneys serve as the nation’s principal litigators under the direction of the U.S. Attorney General. They are appointed by, and serve at the discretion of, the president.

Martinez would replace Kenneth Gonzales, who left the position last year to assume a federal judgeship. Martinez began his career as a federal prosecutor in the Las Cruces branch of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and transferred to Albuquerque in 2005. Prior to joining the U.S. Attorney’s office, he served as an Assistant New Mexico Attorney General.

Martinez is an Albuquerque native and graduate of St. Pius X High School. He holds two Bachelor of Arts degrees, a Juris Doctor and Master of Business Administration from the University of New Mexico. He was also a Judge Advocate in the U.S. Army Reserve until 2009, when he transferred to the New Mexico National Guard. He recently returned from a deployment to Sinai, Egypt.

Martinez also knows his way around Capitol Hill. He has served as a legislative assistant to former Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., and legislative director for current Sen. Tom Udall, also a Democrat.

Email: mcoleman@abqjournal.com. Go to abqjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.

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