After President Donald Trump replaced Damon Martinez as New Mexico’s U.S. attorney along with 45 others around the country in March 2017, Martinez said he did some soul searching about what to do next.
At 51, he had cultivated a successful career in government and law, having previously served in the Washington offices of Sen. Jeff Bingman and then-Rep. Tom Udall. He also was nearly 15 years into a rewarding second career as an officer in the U.S. Army Reserve, which he enlisted in after the Sept. 11 attacks.
“I just kept coming back to unfinished business,” Martinez said. “So many of the things I’ve been working on my entire career caused me to actually think about running. In addition to my differences with President Trump and his administration on policy and many things, I’m running to protect those institutions we hold dear to actually uphold democracy itself, whether it’s the free press, the courts, Congress, funding the EPA or the State Department.”
Martinez, 52, said his career experience gives him unique insight into the challenges facing New Mexico’s Albuquerque-based 1st Congressional District.
“I have the background in which to do something and make a meaningful change,” Martinez said.
Born in Albuquerque with family roots that span 10 generations in the state, Martinez attended the University of New Mexico and earned a bachelor’s degree, a Master of Business Administration and a law degree. After a stint as an assistant district attorney in Bernalillo County, Martinez moved to Washington, D.C., in the mid-1990s to work as a legislative assistant for Bingaman and later served as legislative director in Udall’s House office. In 2000, he returned to New Mexico and launched a career as a federal prosecutor in Las Cruces. He was named U.S. attorney for New Mexico in 2014 by then President Barack Obama.
If elected to Congress, Martinez said he would focus heavily on legislation that could improve the health care system, protect civil rights and the environment and encourage clean energy sources that he says can create jobs for New Mexicans.
“When I was U.S. attorney, we did a first-of-its-kind investigation at the University of New Mexico concerning sexual assault, and what we found was a system that benefited the perpetrator at the expense of the victims, so we changed the system there,” Martinez said, adding that U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos “wants to reverse that. Civil rights is absolutely crucial to me. I prosecuted a sheriff for civil rights violations, and he was held accountable for what he did.”
Martinez was referring to the conviction and 10-year prison sentence handed down to former Rio Arriba County Sheriff Tommy Rodella.
Martinez noted the opioid crisis ravaging New Mexico families and said it has also affected a “close family member” of his own.
“By being personally affected by this issue, I realize we can’t prosecute our way out of it,” he said. “I’m going to Washington to hold the big pharmaceutical companies accountable for devastating an entire generation of Americans with this opioid epidemic.”
Martinez also vowed to continue work by New Mexico’s congressional delegation to spur technology transfer from the Department of Energy and military research institutions in the state.
“I want to continue that process and get technology out to entrepreneurs who can grow our industries here,” he said. “We’re 48th in the nation in developing our renewable technology, and we should be No. 1. If we can create businesses from the technology we have we can expand our economy to include more than just federal money.”
As an active member of the military, Martinez also said he would be well-positioned to protect Kirtland Air Force Base in the event of another Base Realignment and Closure round in Congress.
“We can’t afford to have it closed, and I’m in a unique position to defend it,” he said.
“We have a duty to provide a better life than we inherited from our parents, and so that’s how I’m going forward in this race,” he added.
Martinez has been endorsed by Bingaman, former Ambassador to Spain Ed Romero and the military supporting organizations VoteVets and With Honor.