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Gov. Susana Martinez to endorse Marco Rubio

Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks to the media before he speaks to a crowd at Mount Paran Christian School, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016, in Kennesaw, Ga. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks to the media before he speaks to a crowd at Mount Paran Christian School, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016, in Kennesaw, Ga. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

Gov. Susana Martinez has taken sides in this year’s rough-and-tumble GOP presidential nomination battle — and Marco Rubio is her pick.

Martinez, the chairwoman of the Republican Governors Association, announced this morning she will endorse Rubio, opting to side with the Florida senator over Republican frontrunner Donald Trump.

She also plans to hit the campaign trail with Rubio in the coming days — in Kansas tomorrow and in Florida on Saturday.

“Marco Rubio is a compelling leader who can unite the country around conservative principles that will improve the lives of all Americans,” Martinez said in a statement obtained by the Journal.

“The stakes for our great country are too high — and the differences between the candidates too great — for me to remain neutral in this race,” Martinez added. “I wholeheartedly trust Marco to keep us safe and ensure a better tomorrow, and I look forward to campaigning with him later this week.”

Martinez, who is also the nation’s first elected Hispanic female governor, had sidestepped questions in recent days about whether she would vote for Trump, but she has criticized some of his immigration-related comments in the past.

It’s unclear how big of a boost Rubio might get from the governor’s endorsement, as Rubio is third among GOP presidential in delegates won so far — behind Trump and Ted Cruz — and has won just one of the 15 states that have caucuses or primaries to date.

But the endorsement from Martinez could bolster Rubio’s viability. While New Mexico’s primary election does not take place until June 7, contests are on tap this month in Kansas, Florida, Arizona and Utah, among others.

Both Martinez and Rubio have Hispanic roots; Martinez grew up in El Paso and is the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants, while Rubio is a Cuban American from Miami.

The two have worked together in the past, including in 2012 to secure the release of U.S. Marine Jon Hammar from a Mexican jail.

“I have known Marco for several years and he has gone out of his way to reach out to me to discuss how important issues impact New Mexico long before he ever entered the race for president,” Martinez said in a statement to the Journal.

“He’s a sincere and strong leader and I’m certain he’ll be a great president for all Americans and someone New Mexicans can trust.”

Meanwhile, Martinez’s decision to endorse Rubio is also likely to ignite questions about the RGA’s relationship with Trump, should the New York billionaire businessman win the party’s nomination.

In a statement today, Democratic Governors Association spokesman Jared Leopold called it “unprecedented” for the head of the RGA to refuse to back the Republican Party’s presidential nominee.

“Gov. Martinez’s endorsement of Marco Rubio is nothing more than a smokescreen to duck talking about Donald Trump,” Leopold said.

Martinez’s endorsement decision was first reported by Politico.

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