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Talking Politics and Playtime With Susanna Martinez

By Leslie Linthicum
Journal Staff Writer
          I scored the first, exclusive post-election interview with Susanna Martinez last week.
        I don't tell you this to brag about my journalistic prowess (oh, maybe just a little). But I figured, with the election over it would be good to sit down with Martinez and get to know her better.
        Her schedule was awfully full on Thursday, but she had an availability after dinner at 7. We met at her home, and there she was in the living room wearing comfy-looking pink plush pants and a tie-dyed T-shirt. She had her hair pulled back in a ponytail, and she was waving a handmade campaign sign. She was missing one front tooth.
    Martinez was still excited by Tuesday's election and also a little jazzed by the event she had just come from — tryouts for the Christmas play at her church. She snagged the part of an angel, with means she gets to sing and dance and wear a pretty white dress with wings.
        Our interview time was a little tight, which didn't surprise me. Martinez's bedtime is 8:30 p.m.
        A year ago, Susanna Martinez, 6, was just another whip-smart student at Coronado Elementary School and a girl with a fairly unusual first name. Then, that other Susana Martinez blew onto the statewide scene — the grown-up one who spells her first name with one "n" and who was just elected governor.
        Suddenly, 6-year-old Susanna Martinez was getting lots of attention in the halls of Coronado Elementary in Downtown Albuquerque. Attention like: "Susanna Martinez, we saw you on TV!" And "Susanna Martinez, you did great in that debate!" And "You've got my vote, Susanna Martinez!"
        And just as suddenly, Martinez was paying attention to politics, in a fashion.
        She and her younger brother, Daniel (who will play the part of a donkey in the Christmas play, by the way), started a campaign sign game on car trips: Spot a Susana Martinez sign and sing it out. Whoever counts the most, wins.
        She also started paying close attention to those TV ads, the ones the rest of us put on mute. It is great fun for people of any age to hear their name on TV.
        It was also great fun for her parents, Mario, 33, and Marteena, 31, to vote in an election that had their daughter's name on the ballot. And, yes, they voted for Martinez.
        When their daughter was born, the Martinezes were looking for a name that would be unusual when they settled on Susanna. "That was one reason that we named her that, because it was original and unique," Marteena said. Today, of course, it is a name on the lips of every New Mexican.
        Little Susanna has been thrilled with the attention she's been getting, but when I told her the governor's term lasts four whole years, she gasped and fell to the floor in giggles and mock exasperation.
        As we were sitting in her bedroom Thursday night looking over her reading homework and taking inventory of her family-size collection of stuffed animals, I asked Martinez whether she might ever be interested in politics as her own career.
        "Um, what is politics?" she asked me. When I told her, she said she didn't think so because she wouldn't want to have to raise all that money.
        And then she outlined her career goals at this moment. "Be a gymnastics teacher, a cheerleader teacher, a salon person — hair and makeup."
        Martinez will turn 7 the week after the inauguration in January, and I wouldn't count her out of a future in politics if she wants one.
        When I asked her what her favorite part of the campaign was, she looked me in the eye and said, "It's our state, and we're going to take it back."
        Just to cover my bases, I also put in a request for an interview with the grown-up, one "n" Susana Martinez. I am still waiting to hear back.
        UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Leslie Linthicum can be reached at 823-3914 or llinthicum@abqjournal.com.

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