POLITICS

Martínez Becomes First Latina Governor Ever

Susana Martínez, the hard-line Republican prosecutor who downplayed race during the campaign, was elected governor of New Mexico -- making her the first Latina ever to be voted in as chief executive of a state.

"Thank you for the confidence and trust you have placed in me," said a letter to Martínez's supporters on her Web site. "I will work every day to make a difference and deliver bold change to New Mexico."

Martínez's convincing victory over Democrat Diane Denish, the state's lieutenant governor, capped a long and bitter battle. Denish, who tried to shake off ties to outgoing Gov. Bill Richardson's scandal-plagued governorship, conceded a short time later.

"Susana Martínez and I have not yet spoken, but I congratulate you on your victory," Denish said, according to a transcript

"This has been a hard-fought election but starting [Tuesday night] the rancor must end as well pull together for the good of the state," Denish said, according to her Web site. "

Martínez rode a wave of anti-incumbency to victory. Her campaign ads linked Denish to Richardson's controversies during the last eight years.

Despite being Hispanic, Martínez walked a fine line with the 900,000 Latinos of the state, 59 percent of whom were eligible voters. She is anti-immigration, and has vowed to repeal a law that allows undocumented immigrants to obtain driver's licenses.

"As governor, my focus will be on those who cross our borders to commit crimes," Martínez said in the prepared statement. "With respect to immigration reform, the federal government has failed to to address this issue and I support a comprehensive immigration reform plan that does not provide amnesty, but does allow for a fair and legal immigration process."

Martínez also shied away from campaigning on her Hispanic roots. In interviews, she often placed more focus on her prosecutorial experience than her Latina background. 

“I am honored at the possibility,” Martínez said in a statement last week of becoming the nation's first Latina governor. “But my focus is turning New Mexico around by creating a positive environment where small businesses can create jobs, eliminating corruption, getting our financial house in order and reforming education.”

She added that being the first Latina governor would “not define” her.

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