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          Front Page  news  state

National Noise Starts Early for N.M.'s Martinez

By John Robertson
Of the Journal
          So, the talk has started already: Susana Martinez, Republican vice presidential prospect, 2012.
        And note the date: Less than a month after she was elected on Nov. 2 to become New Mexico's first female governor and just over a month before she's inaugurated and officially moves into the Roundhouse.
        The first national speculation registering with me was from columnist Matt Lewis on the Politics Daily website, at politicsdaily.com on Nov. 29. The headline was "Why the next Republican VP nominee will likely be Hispanic."
        Lewis cited the growing percentage of Hispanic voters and Republicans having "a new generation of qualified Hispanic leaders." For the 2012 vice presidential nomination, he wrote, "The two most obvious picks would be Florida Sen.-elect Marco Rubio and New Mexico Gov.-elect Susana Martinez."
        Other pundits had called her a rising star, but Lewis took more aim. "My very premature prediction is that Rubio and Martinez are already on the short list for vice presidential picks in 2012," he wrote.
        A lot of New Mexicans probably saw it coming.
        In a country with a fast-growing Hispanic population, growing antagonism toward government size and voters always fearful of crime, here comes 51-year-old Susana Martinez, who at 17 was packing a pistol as a guard for her father's security firm in El Paso, who developed a reputation as a tough criminal prosecutor over a 20-year career in Las Cruces and then talked about reining in state spending as a Republican candidate for governor. Many voters are suspicious of veteran politicians, even of their governing experience. Martinez is a fresh face in politics outside of Doña Ana County and has a winning smile to boot.
        Sound familiar? Martinez might seem made to order, a Republican political mentor's dream. But two other experiences quickly come to mind: Bill Richardson and Sarah Palin.
        New Mexicans didn't make a fuss when Richardson announced shortly after his second-term election as governor in 2006 that he would seek the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008. In fact, most of us seemed proud to have someone from New Mexico running on the national political scene. Nor did there seem to be much dissent while Richardson spent most of 2007 out of the state, on the campaign trail.
        But would New Mexicans go for it again with Martinez, especially two years into a term with a tougher-than-ever fiscal outlook?
        Palin was criticized for resigning her Alaska governorship just over two years into her first term. But the former Wasilla, Alaska, city councilor and mayor weathered questions about her experience and qualifications as Sen. John McCain's vice presidential running mate in 2008.
        Neither Palin, a female governor, nor Richardson, then a rising-star Hispanic, succeeded in their first bids for national office.
        Our governor-elect was naming only her second Cabinet pick on Tuesday, and the next presidential election seemed distant, but the Washington noise was mounting even before she got to Santa Fe.

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