The U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce on Friday endorsed New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez as the Republican candidate for vice president of the United States just a couple of days before the nation's first presidential contest in the Iowa caucus.
The announcement Friday comes a week after the nonpartisan chamber endorsed Julian Castro, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, as vice president on the Democratic side.
"Our endorsement of both Governor Martinez and Secretary Julian Castro is not an endorsement of a particular presidential candidate or party, but rather a firm recommendation to the future presidential nominee of each party," Javier Palomarez, CEO and president of the USHCC, said in a statement. "On the heels of yesterday’s Republican debate, we urge all participating candidates to seriously consider Governor Martinez as their running mate."
Martinez is New Mexico's first female governor and the first Hispanic female elected governor in the United States.
"She’s tirelessly advocated for job creation in New Mexico by supporting critical industries in her state," the statement read. "A principled and pragmatic leader, Governor Martinez easily won re-election in 2014, with 48 percent of the Hispanic vote in a state that leans Democrat."
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The endorsement by the chamber is just the latest political move made by the traditionally non-partisan organization. Under the leadership of Palomarez,the chamber has found its way into the political discussion during this election cycle much more than ever before.
The chamber has hosted 90-minute question-and-answer sessions with presidential candidates from both major parties, and Palomarez was involved in a much-publicized dispute with the leading GOP candidate, Donald Trump after the real estate magnate abruptly backed out of a commitment to appear at a chamber an event in October.
At the time, Palomarez said Trump's about-face "really spelled the end of his campaign."
Under his leadership, the chamber is becoming a political force representing not only 4.1 million Hispanic businesses, but for the Latino voter base as a whole. Palomarezhas said he feels that Latinos get little chance to hear at length from candidates during campaigns, especially early in election cycles.
The unusual endorsement last Saturdayof Castro as a vice president when no presidential nominee has been determined drew criticism from some conservative leaders and groups, among them Alfonso Aguilar, president of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles.
“You’re saying you’re an organization that represents Hispanic businesses across the country, many owned by Republicans and Independents and people without any political agenda,” Aguilar told Fox News Latino at the time. “It’s putting at risk the reputation of the organization. Would they endorse somebody like [New Mexico] Gov. Susana Martinez as a vice presidential candidate?”
Contacted again after the Martinez endorsement, Aguilar echoed that sentiment while explaining that he is supportive of Gov. Martinez.
"You have people [at the chamber] who are non-political, many are Republicans, and he took advantage of his position in a nonpartisan organization to advance his own political agenda," Aguilar told FNL on Friday.
He believes the endorsements send the wrong message.
"Endorsing candidates just because they are Hispanic, it’s insulting to Latino voters," Aguilar said. "Just being Hispanic is not a reason to support someone. It seems to me that is the standard for Palomarez."