SANTA FE, N.M. — A testy and guarded relationship between Donald Trump and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez shows little sign of change as she and other GOP delegates make their way to the Republican National Convention next week in Cleveland.
Martinez was withholding her endorsement of Trump as of Friday even as she leads her state’s 24-member delegation to the convention, where — shy of a rebellion and last-minute rule changes — she and the others are obligated by New Mexico’s primary election results to cast their first-round ballots for Trump.
In declining to endorse Trump, Martinez also will stay clear of the speaker’s podium and the full public spotlight of the convention. That won’t stop Martinez from working the aisles and backrooms in her role as a second-term governor and chairwoman of the Republican Governors Association, a major fundraising arm dedicated to the election of GOP governors across the country.
Martinez spokesman Chris Sanchez indicated in an email that the governor will be busy offstage touting recent reforms to New Mexico and holding a series of meetings with other governors and leaders.
Relations between Trump and the nation’s only Latina governor hit rock bottom in late May when Martinez skipped a rally for the presumptive Republican nominee in Albuquerque — and Trump responded with a scathing critique of her in front of thousands of people.
A truce of sorts emerged after Trump called a New Mexico journalist last month to say that he respects Martinez and hoped for her endorsement. Martinez expressed an interest in meeting with Trump to discuss issues that matter to New Mexico, such as funding for the state’s military bases and weapons laboratories.
By every available indication, that meeting is still pending.
In the meantime, Martinez briefly set aside her political differences with President Barack Obama to meet him as he took his family on an early summer vacation to Carlsbad Caverns National Park in southeastern New Mexico. Eager to draw attention to the underground caverns as a tourist destination, Martinez welcomed Obama with a handshake and a souvenir.
Martinez is just one in a long list of Republican politicians from politically moderate states that are caught in an awkward bind by the political ascendance of the brash New York businessman, Albuquerque pollster Brian Sanderoff said.
“Many of their voters have an unfavorable impression of Donald Trump, and yet many of the Republicans within these moderate states like Donald Trump,” he said. “So Gov. Martinez has to walk a political tightrope.”
Last year, Martinez took exception to Trump’s assertions that Mexican immigrants bring drugs and crime and are rapists. More recently, she joined a chorus of Republican leaders in criticizing Trump for his claim that a federal judge wasn’t qualified to preside over a case because of his Mexican heritage.
Many New Mexico delegates to the GOP convention said this week that they have been left to guess about whether Martinez wants Trump in the Oval Office.
“I know that I’m backing Trump all the way. I don’t know what she’s doing,” said Cecilia C de Baca, 69, of Albuquerque, a convention delegate along with her husband, Fernando C de Baca.
Martinez cannot run again in 2018 for governor and has brushed aside talk of running for higher office. Her role atop the Republican Governors Association has taken Martinez to state GOP conventions, fundraisers and policy talks across the country.
In New Mexico, the governor’s GOP allies are campaigning to hold onto a majority in the state House of Representatives and reverse a Democratic Senate majority.
Martinez offered praise Friday for Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as Trump’s vice presidential running mate, describing his commitment to “pro-growth policies and successful governance.”